If the league had had more foresight they would have scheduled this game next week because all the orange and green splattered on the field is going to look like a St. Patricks Day get together. Last year's opening encounter between the two squads was a bit of a yawner. Hideki Nagai was the hero of that encounter, notching a goal and becoming the oldest man to ever leave the league, return and score or some such nonsense that no one really cares about.
This year's clash features a revamped Verdy squad who has more firepower than a year ago. Ehime brought a ton of youth in from Urawa, Sanfrecce, and Jubilo but still relies on its core from a season ago.
Last week saw a minor disaster for Ehime as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Tokushima Vortis. the lone bright spot for the squad was substitue midfielder Go Nakamura, who notched Ehime's lone goal.
Verdy will again be without the services of Kazuki Hiramoto who (according to el Golazo) has an injury.
Ehime Lineup (Prediction)
FW Toshiya Tanaka Susumu Oki
MF Yoshihiro Uchimura Hideto Inoue
Go Nakamura Shuichi Arai
DF Kohei Matsushita Yuzo Minami
Tomoya Kanamori Ryota Moriwaki
GK Yusuke Kawakita
Keys to the game
1. Get Hulk the ball- With the lack of ball handling skill in the midfield, the number one priority is to get the ball to the one real playmaker on the team. Verdy was at its most potent when the talented young striker had control of the ball.
2. Shut down Toshiya Tanaka- Ehime has one major goal scoring threat and Tanaka is it. If the duo of Tsuchiya and Tanaka can mark Tanaka out of the game, then the pressure will be on for the rest of Ehime to score. While there is potential from other players, the main gun is Tanaka. No Tanaka, not much chance.
3. Improved wing play- If last year was any indication, Ehime is a slogging bunch who likes to tighten up on D and scratch for 1 goal decisions. It is incumbent upon messrs Ono and Diego to step up their game this week and not make sloppy turnovers. Ball control and speed should be the mantra of this pair. It might not be an awful idea to have Nozomi Hiroyama as one of the MF subs this week as well.
4. Production from Bikkuri Donkey- Yuzo Funakoshi had an amazing goal last week. Amazing. Now do it again. the one thing the big man has is size, and he needs to use it to wear down the central mids of Ehime. Considering the slight build of both central D's, (72 kg versus 88kg for Funakoshi) it might not be a bad thing to use the big man as a battering ram for 60 minutes and go with the speed of Inoue. The big man needs to do something, even if it results in no goals.
This game will be tougher than it appears but if Verdy claws and fights, they will get a result.