Friday, October 3, 2008

All eyes on Chiba

An enthusiastic fan
All eyes will be on Chiba for the 28th round of the J. League as JEF United welcome Urawa Reds to the Fukuda Denshi Arena.

A month ago JEF United looked certainties for relegation, but Alex Miller's men have launched a late bid for salvation as the Chiba Dogs chase their fifth straight win in this match.

United have seen off Tokyo Verdy, Consadole Sapporo, Nagoya Grampus and Kyoto Sanga during that run of good form, and another win here could be enough to lift them out of the relegation/promotion playoff place.

They'll have a determined Urawa Reds standing in the way, and after drawing 2-2 at home to Kyoto Sanga in a rescheduled Round 26 fixture in midweek, the Reds will be looking to keep the pressure on league leaders Kashima Antlers when they travel to a sold-out 'Fukuari' for this blockbuster Sunday-afternoon encounter.

Relegation worries will be thick in the air on Sunday, with second-from-bottom Jubilo Iwata also desperate to take all three points off bottom club Consadole Sapporo at what should be a packed Yamaha Stadium in Iwata.

Tokyo Verdy travel to second placed Nagoya Grampus, meanwhile, fresh off a 3-1 home defeat to Gamba Osaka. Thousands of free tickets were handed out for that clash at Ajinomoto Stadium, but the quizzical newcomers amongst the 30,517 fans who turned out are unlikely to return after an insipid display from the home team saw them drop to within a point of the relegation/promotion playoff place.

Tokyo Verdy are struggling on and off the pitch
In the pick of the Saturday fixtures FC Tokyo host Shimizu S-Pulse in what is always a keenly-contested affair, with the capital club still harbouring ambitions of claiming a first ever J. League title. Hiroshi Jofuku's men are in sixth place in the table - just four points behind current league leaders Kashima.

Fifth placed Kawasaki Frontale will look to make up ground when they welcome second placed Oita Trinita to Todoroki Stadium, with Oita coach Pericles serving a touchline ban after being sent to the stands by referee Nobutsugu Murakami in Oita's most recent 1-0 defeat to Yokohama F. Marinos.

Elsewhere Gamba Osaka take on Kashima Antlers at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka with both teams having recorded victories in rescheduled fixtures in midweek, while strugglers Omiya Ardija and Kashiwa Reysol face off at Omiya Park in a match that could also have implications on the relegation race at the foot of the table.

In J2 Sanfrecce Hiroshima have already been crowned champions, with Shonan Bellmare currently occupying the other automatic relegation place on goal difference from Montedio Yamagata, while Vegalta Sendai and Sagan Tosu sit a point further back, as the J2 promotion battle looks set to go down to the wire.

AFC Champions League

After Kashima Antlers were knocked out of the AFC Champions League by A-League outfit Adelaide United, defending Asian champions Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka have been left to fly the flag for Japan.

The two will meet each other in one semi-final, with Adelaide United facing off with Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan in the other semi-final.

Security is likely to be tight for both legs of the Urawa - Gamba final four showdown, after serious crowd disturbances marred the league fixture between the Reds and Gamba at Saitama Stadium earlier this season.

The semi-final first legs will take place on October 8, with the return legs scheduled for October 22.

Japan name squad for World Cup qualifier

Takeshi Okada has named his squad for Japan's upcoming World Cup qualifier with Uzbekistan at Saitama Stadium on October 15.

Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura joins VfL Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe and Eintracht Frankfurt man Junichi Inamoto as a trio of European-based players called up, while youngster Shinji Kagawa of J2 outfit Cerezo Osaka has also been named.

Young strikers Shinji Okazaki of Shimizu S-Pulse, Shinzo Koroki of Kashima Antlers and Oita Trinita target man Yasuhito Morishima have also been called up, and they will be looking to take advantage of the Blue Samurai's well-documented problems in front of goal when they join fellow Beijing Olympics team-mate Masato Morishige in the squad.

Japan will take on the United Arab Emirates in a friendly at Big Swan Stadium in Niigata on October 9 in preparation for their final round World Cup qualifier with the Uzbeks.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

No comments: