Two of the J Leagues foreign born born legends match up against each other for the first time as Pierre Littbarski leads the Fukuoka squad against Rui Ramos and Verdy in a clash down south. The teams have not met in over 6 years, when a consistently bad Fukuoka squad finally took the drop to J2 in 2001. Touted as one of the early season favorites to regain promotiuon to J1, Fukuoka has shown an ability to beat up on weaker foes (Sagan 5-0, Mito 4-1) while falling just short against stronger opposition (Kyoto 1-2, Vegalta 1-2).
Fukuoka is led by Brazilian attacker Alex, who finds himself trailing only Hulk in the scoring race. Unlike Verdy, Avispa spreads their offense around, with no fewer than 6 players putting thier names in the books. MF Kiyokazu Kudo and Alex both have been impressive in setting up the offense, both have 3 assists on the season.
Avispa has taken on a bit of the injury bug lately. MF starter Tatsunori Hisanaga is out after scoring in his Avispa debut.
Potential Avispa lineup 4-4-1-1
Yamagata Kawashima Miyamoto Ceccoli
Keys to the match
1. Exploit Ceccoli and Yamagata- If you believe the reports, the best bet for Verdy would be to attack on the sides. It looks like Ceccoli, the Australian Midfielder playing out of position, and Yamagata give up alot of space.
2. Use the size advantage- Except for Kawashima (who stands at 188 cm), the back line is undersized. If Fukunishi can wear down the big man, Hulk and the midfield should be able to muscle their way to getting some points. This is a game that Diego needs to come through in. His big frame should be used to force a chance or two. Avispa has one of the weaker keepers in the league in Ryuchi Kamiyama.......pressure him and he will crack.
3. Control possesion- It could be a long day for Verdy if Kudo and Alex get extended looks at the ball. Everything thrives on these two. Shut down one or both and force guys like Lincoln to become playmakers. The center 4 (Tsuchiya, Togawa, Ze Luis, and Nanami) have been the strength of Verdy so far and if they stay in form it should be allright. If I'm Littbarski, i tell my squad to go after Togawa.......He really needs to step up this game.
4. Feel free to use the bench liberally- Last week, Rui did the right thing in taking out the big man and putting in the speed team. I'm still pushing for another attacker like Hiroyama on the bench instead of Ono but the formula has been working so I can't complain too much. About 60 minutes in, the speed of Inoue will be too much for a softer defense.
5. Control Tempo- Don't get into a running game with these guys. Avispa probably will come out on fire after dropping a heartbreaker to Kyoto. Weather the storm early and let them punch themselves out. Early on it seems that Avispa won't stay in it mentally for 90 minutes. Don't believe me? 5 of Avispa's 6 goals allowed have been given up in the second half including 2 late ones to Vegalta and Kyoto which led to losses.
Verdy has played well enough to get wins at home against muck-it-up squads. Now they face a team that wants to attack. This is a test and Verdy needs to answer it.