There are lots of matches called derbies in Japan these days, but today at Level-5 stadium is a derby in the true sense of the word as fellow Fukuoka prefecture team Giravanz Kitakyushu make the short trip south to Fukuoka.
This will be the 5th ever Fukuoka derby as Giravanz only joined the J-League 3 years ago and we were in J1 for one of those seasons. It will be the first time I’m expecting a real derby atmosphere; in the first season Giravanz were not seem as real competition and we got wins home and away, in the2012 meeting we squeezed out an uncomfortable win at home to maintain the 100% record but then got embarrassed 3-2 away to suffer out first ever loss to Kitakyushu.
I’ve heard lots of people talking about that loss, and with Pusnik winding the players up I expect a performance which feels like a real derby.
Kitakyushu had a season way above their expectations last season, but then lost their manager and a lot of the team to Tokyo Verdy. Their results haven’t been as good this season, but if there is one game they will be able to raise their game it’s this one.
The Avispa team has chopped and changed a lot in recent weeks, and I think we just need a bit of stability to help a new team playing in a new formation, and with new tactics to settle.
Things have been close to what we need to go on a run of wins, but just lacking the final product in terms of goals. I’d like to see the wide players a little more willing to drop into a 451 when we don’t have the ball, or are building from deep as the big problems seems to be connecting to attack, and in a derby match they should be conscious of giving too much time and space in midfield.
After the Gainare game Pusnik very clearly said some players were unable to follow what they had practiced in training on the pitch. I expect there to be changes to the team, and they may give an indication as to who he was referring to in that.
Koga was back for Gainare, but didn’t look fully up to ‘pace’. He will probably stay in the team next to Kazuki and hopefully have a better game; he nearly cost us 2 goals through mistakes last week.
I think the team is still being unbalanced by trying to squeeze Okada in somewhere. We have better players for every position on the pitch, but he mat continue to try and find somewhere for his Captain. The one position he hasn’t tried yet is the midfield anchor/quarterback. He wouldn’t offer the same diagonal balls out that Nakahara can but may be stronger in defence. Nakahara was playing for Kitakyushu last season.
I’d play Funayama and Kanakubo in front of him.
In attack I think Sakata is the obvious option. He is struggling for goals, but when he gets started he may then be able to score us back up towards the play-offs. He is still running for everything, and some of his hold-up play is the best option we have.
My prediction :
Avispa 3 – 0 Giravanz Kitakyushu
I’m still staying horribly optimistic about this season even though it means my predictions are all being wrong.
Kitakyushu have been conceding early goals so far this season. If we can get one and make Giravanz start to open up space we could get the clear win we so badly need.