After 7 points in the last week (which should have been 9, from a derby and 2 away games) Avispa should be in high spirits.
They seem to have now settled into the new game plan of a hard, high press with a defence and midfield who try to get the ball forward quickly to runners.
This plan requires high levels of fitness and commitment, and perhaps it has taken 7-8 games (and the intensity of a derby) to show how it can work, but the players now seem to understand.
Today they welcome a team in Matsumoto Yamaga who had their game cancelled last weekend due to snow (the first time this has ever happened in the J-League apparently). They had lost their previous 2 games (against Gamba and Gifu) so haven’t won a game in 3 weeks.
They are a young team playing only their 2nd season in J2, but have already established themselves as a decent team with excellent support.
Having been sent off against Tokoyo Verdy Avispa will be playing without Pusnik on the side-lines, but I’m not hugely convinced it will make a big difference. His work is mostly being done on the training ground and pre-match/half-time when he will still be able to talk to the players.
Avispa have recently been using Jogo in midfield at home which is something I hope they continue with, and who alongside the returning Kanakubo Jun gives us a clever midfield 2 who will be aiming to get into the box.
Behine them Nakahara seems to be a favorite of Pusnik and is likely to stay in his ‘quarter-back’ role meaning 1 of Okada will drop to the bench to sit alongside Funayama hoping to play against his younger brother.
I hope to see Min Je back at left-back to give another attacking threat at home, and Sakata should be the main striker with Kanemori and Ishizu each side of him.
Last season Jogo scored his wonder-goal from the half-way line against them and I’d love to see him at least try it again just to get in their heads a bit.
Matsumoto should be eager to play having had their game cancelled last week and may have the upper hand in fitness having not had the schedule we did last week.
What sort of training they have managed in the last week may be a factor as presumably they’ve been inside a lot after their game was cancelled for snow.
They play a fairly standard 442 formation with 2 banks of 4 and a little-large striker combination trying to disturb the central 2. The little part of this pairing being Funeyama’s younger brother which may provide an interesting side-plot to the game if Yuji Funeyama gets on the pitch in the 2nd half.
My Prediction : Avispa 2 – 0 Matsumoto
Sakata has been looking better and better, and been taking shots on. I’d like to see him score here and for Kanakubo to get one from long range.