After two crushing defeats to 2006 relegation victims Avispa Fukuoka and Kyoto Sanga FC, Verdy finds itself staring straight at the well rested and very physical squad from Hiratsuka, Shonan Bellmare.
Shonan was expected to make a push towards promotion after adding some quality back line players. Anchoring the middle of the Shonan defense are two veterans from J1 wars, career Shimizu man Toshihide Saito and former FC Tokyo anchor Jean Carlo Witte. Both have been as good as advertised as Shonan has seen an early season improvement from last years sievelike defense.
The problem with Bellmare this year has been on the offensive side. Last year's big gun, Adiel, has been efficient in setting up the offense but there has been a dearth of targets for the shifty midfielder to get the ball to. Currently Adiel is the only real threat to consistently score for the Sea Kings.
Bellmare seems to be a better offensive squad at home. They've notched all 5 of their goals at Hiratsuka. Verdy meanwhile seems to be less effective defensively on the road, letting up goals in every road contest they've appeared in.
GK Kim Young
DF Murayama Saito Jean Omata
MF Nakamachi Sakamoto
FW Ishihara Hara
DF Fukuda Tsuchiya Togawa Hattori
MF Nanami Ze Luis
FW Iio Hulk
I gotta admit I'm not excited about seeing this lineup at all tomorrow. I don't understand the thinking behind it, I don't know what Rui hopes to accomplish with this lineup. Actually it looks like he did a pre-season version of Weekly Soccer Magazines best 11 and slotted the guys in. I'm gonna take a different approach to today's preview.
What will Shonan do?
1. Bully Hulk- by now, the league is aware that the best way to stop Hulk is to hit him with the biggest central defender you can find. Because Verdy has gone with 2 small forwards in Iio and Inoue, opposition does not have to stay honest with the second striker. they can cheat with a mid or wingback and not pay for it. Jean and Saito will take turns using their physicallity and veteran guile on the mercurial striker and hope he blows a gasket resulting in a red card. If I'm Shonan, I put him on the ground every chance I get.
2. Exploit the wings- El Golazo had a humourous look comparing Kashiwa Diego to the Diego of today. They, like me, questioned his physical condition and his position on the wing. If I'm Shonan, I get Adiel and Kato to attack the sides. Make Tsuchiya and Togawa come all the way out and counterpunch. Ono came back and had a nice game for Verdy offensively. Defensively, the team was punished by the attacking midfielder Taakaki Tokushige who ran roughshod over the wings. For Avispa, Alex had the dangerous runs. the key for Shonan is to get the ball to Adiel and let him use his skill to exploit the wings.
3. Get Takagi moving- Wednesday was a rough game for for the Verdy keeper as he let in 3 goals against an opportunistic Kyoto side. The normally reliable spine of Verdy broke down on a couple of occasions to get the lanky keeper trapped in isolation plays. If Shonan can get some quality shots on goal, they can use the MF to clean up long rebounds and deflections.
What will Verdy do?
1. Try and free up Hulk- If Verdy decides to go with the small second forward, it will be imperative for the two attacking midfielders to clog up the middle. Diego needs to do most of the heavy lifting on this one by taking up space and putting pressure on Saito or Jean to cover him. He also is going to need to be the big target in the middle that is lacking without Funakoshi.
2. Nanami and Ze Luis need to control the middle- The best way to make sure the opposition doesn't score is to not let them have the ball. Ze Luis and Nanami have to make sure they are making good passes and covering the sides when Shonan try to exploit the lack of speed on the middle.
3. Togawa and Fukuda have to be flawless- Shonan would love this to be a 1-0 game. An early mistake by either of the back line juniors and Shona will do all they can to take the air out of the ball. Togawa and Fukuda have to play clean games with no mental breakdowns.
4. Clean up the rebounds- Both sides, get the ball and score on deflections and bounces.
It's very important that Verdy gets the offense back on track tomorrow. Consadole awaits and they don't let up points easily. I will be attending the game and I don't want to see inept play after a 2 hour train trek. Sack up!