Monday, November 2, 2009

League Cup final a local affair

J-League
All the colour of the Japanese Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup final will descend upon the National Stadium in Tokyo on November 3, with this year's showpiece event set to be an all-local affair.

FC Tokyo have reached their first League Cup final since 2004, with Hiroshi Jofuku's team winning through on the back of some impressive displays.

The capital club topped their group from 2008 finalists Shimizu S-Pulse, before confidently dispatching Nagoya Grampus in the quarter-finals.

Their final four tie saw them pitted against cup specialists Shimizu, where a 3-2 aggregate win over the two legs propelled them into a final played in their home city.

If FC Tokyo figured they would command the lion's share of support at a jam-packed Kokuritsu Kyogijo, their hopes were dashed when neighbours Kawasaki Frontale also won through to the final.

The Kanagawa outfit took a different route to the Culture Day showdown, parachuting into the League Cup at the quarter-final stage due to their participation in the 2009 AFC Champions League.

Takashi Sekizuka's side signalled their intent with an aggregate 3-1 quarter-final win over Kashima Antlers, before beating local rivals Yokohama F. Marinos by the same scoreline in the semi-finals.

With the city of Kawasaki located just twenty kilometres from downtown Tokyo, thousands of Frontale fans will make the short trip to the capital, as they look to put the memories of their 2007 final defeat to Gamba Osaka behind them.

Sekizuka's free-scoring outfit could be forgiven for having their minds on other matters, with Kawasaki currently leading the J. League table by a point from defending champions Kashima Antlers.

However, Kawasaki arguably have the upper hand going into this League Cup final clash, with FC Tokyo's talismanic midfielder Naohiro Ishikawa set to miss the rest of the season through a serious knee injury.

Ishikawa had rattled home fifteen league goals prior to his shock injury, whilst Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo is also racing against the clock to prove his fitness for this clash, as FC Tokyo brace themselves for the potential absence of their two most dynamic personnel.

They'll nevertheless be desperate to add to their solitary trophy, after FC Tokyo claimed the 2004 League Cup crown by beating Urawa Reds on penalties.

Kawasaki Frontale are equally determined to lift some silverware, with the Kanagawa side still waiting for a maiden major trophy.

Higher stakes than usual for this Tamagawa Clasico then, as two of the most popular clubs in the region do battle for the 2009 League Cup at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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