Just as it was last season, the traditional season opening Fuji Xerox Super Cup will be contested by two J. League sides that have plenty of experience standing on the winner's podium.
Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka will go head-to-head for the second consecutive year in the Super Cup, with Kashima looking for a repeat of their dominant 3-0 win last season.
Oswaldo de Oliveira's all-conquering side have won three J. League titles in a row, but the wily Brazilian tactician has brushed aside suggestions that his team will lack motivation in 2010.
The Ibaraki giants have strengthened their squad with the additions of former Kyoto Sanga stopper Lee Jung-Soo and burly Brazilian full-back Gilton from Albirex Niigata, and the pair are expected to slot straight into the side to face Gamba.
The Osakans ended last season by lifting the Emperor's Cup trophy at the National Stadium in Tokyo, and Akira Nishino's experienced outfit will hope to taste similar success on another brisk afternoon in the capital.
The Kansai side will have to do it the hard way, with Satoshi Yamaguchi, Tomokazu Myojin and Sota Nakazawa all struggling with injury following Gamba's bruising 0-0 draw away at K-League giants Suwon Bluewings in the Asian Champions League in midweek.
Kashima were also active in the Champions League in midweek, but they had an easier time of things at home to Chinese side Changchun Yatai, where a goal from Koji Nakata separated the two sides.
Former FC Basel man Nakata adds plenty of experience to Kashima's star-studded squad, but the undoubted jewel in the crown is scheming playmaker Mitsuo Ogasawara.
The veteran midfielder looked unstoppable on his way to being crowned the 2009 J. League Player Of The Year, and Kashima's mercurial captain will be desperate to showcase his talent in this marquee Super Cup match-up.
It may be considered little more than a glorified friendly by some, but with upwards of 35,000 fans expected to pile into the National Stadium to watch two of Japan's most successful clubs do battle, there could be fireworks on show as the new J. League campaign kicks off.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com
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