With J1 being off for their well earned (?) summer holiday and with certain teams tossing it off against “Europe’s elite” (you can probably tell I’m not really a fan of these summer exhibition games) it is once again time for J2 to step into the spotlight.
(AS USUAL, PLEASE DON’T USE THESE AS A BETTING GUIDE!)
Nagoya Grampus vs Montedio Yamagata – This is almost a must win game for Yahiro Kazama. Grampus have lost five of their last six and could fall well down the table should they lose. On the flip side, Montedio have lost their last four (three league, one cup) and are shipping goals like no-one’s business – sixteen in those four defeats. I don’t think this game will be pretty, but I think Grampus will do just enough to quell the natives for at least one more week.
Zweigen Kanazawa vs Fagiano Okayama
both teams lost in Emperor’s Cup action in midweek, although Fagiano’s exit at the hands of J3 side Nagano Parceiro doesn’t look too good next to Kanazawa’s impressive performance in their defeat against J1 side Vissel Kobe. Kanazawa, in league terms, are bang in form having won their last four and their last win was a highly impressive win at Avispa Fukuoka. They are now scoring goals and I think they’ll continue their good form against Okayama.
Tokushima Vortis vs Kyoto Sanga
Ricardo Rodriguez’s men won at Toyota Stadium last weekend to make it four wins from their last four and thus moving up into third. They should have too much for a Kyoto side which looked slow in its 2-3 defeat at FC Gifu last weekend. Kyoto look like a team that plays old style, long ball/direct (delete as appropriate) football despite having good technical players like Koyamatsu & Sergio Escudero. Vortis play a neat passing game with the emphasis on getting the ball to their playmakers Taro Sugimoto, Yatsunori Shimaya & Daiki Watari.
Shonan Bellmare vs Tokyo Verdy – Shonan were walloped by Jubilo Iwata in midweek, but I don’t expect that to impact their excellent league form – 14 points from the last possible 18. Defensively excellent, the team are marshaled by the current J2 MVP Yota Akimoto in goal and the superb Andre Bahia in central defence. Goals have been a problem, but Cho’s team seem to do just enough to get by in games. Verdy, still in 5th place, will look to get back on track after two disappointing results in the last two weeks – the bad defeat in Kumamoto & a home draw against Okayama. On their day, they can be very potent going forward so I expect them to test Bellmare’s resilient defence through the likes of Douglas Vieira, Yoshiaki Takagi & Alan Pinheiro so it will be an interesting battle.
Yokohama FC vs FC Gifu
YFC had the midweek off, while Gifu played their full strength team in their Emperor’s Cup defeat against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Yokohama won the corresponding game in Gifu earlier on this year through a display of strength & physicality and I expect more of the same today. Having said that, YFC are in really rough patch having lost their last four games, and so it will be interesting to see how they react should they go behind. Gifu won their first league game since early May last week at home to Kyoto and will be looking to build on that. Gifu’s MO is pass & move with a high degree of technical skill. It is great to watch, but I feel it might get overpowered by the brute strength of Yokohama.
Ehime FC vs Oita Trinita
Ehime went the distance in their Emperor’s Cup defeat against Omiya Ardija on Wednesday night, eventually losing to a 123rd minute strike. They’ll be tired, and that isn’t a situation you want to be in when you face Oita, a team that will pressure & press you at every given opportunity. Oita also lost in midweek, but I’m backing them to add further to Ehime’s recent run of bad results. Ehime have lost their last three and could struggle in this game as well.
ThepsaKusatsu Gunma vs Avispa Fukuoka
After a highly embarrassing lost against Tsukuba University in midweek, expect Avispa’s big defenders to come back into the side for the trip to Gunma. Avispa are suffering a little bit of a wobble given that their defeat in the Emperor’s Cup came after a home defeat by Kanazawa, but the remedy to this wobble should be a game against Gunma. Thespa have lost their last six without scoring a goal. It would be a major surprise if they were to stop Avispa from taking three points from this game.
Kamatamare Sanuki vs Renofa Yamaguchi
Two strugglers with Renofa in slightly better form. Sanuki are decimated by suspensions after last week’s epic 4-3 defeat at JEF United. Carlos Mayor could get a real statement win with this one, but Kamatamare know that defeat here will spell major problems for them. A draw could well end up being the call here.
Machida Zelvia vs Mito Hollyhock – Mito’s surprisingly good early season form has dipped a little in the last couple of weeks but they will still present a test for a rapidly improving Machida Zelvia that were on the slide up until they notched back-to-back wins against Yamagata & Gunma.
V-Varen Nagasaki vs Matsumoto Yamaga
Juanma vs Masaaki Iida: a battle between two old school battlers that should be great to watch. Yamaga will be on a high after beating Sagan Tosu in midweek but Nagasaki is no mean place to get a result at.
Roasso Kumamoto vs JEF United
Simply because I don’t like predicting JEF. They should win this game and with Koki Kiyotake heading back to Kumamoto he should have extra motivation. But Roasso turned in an outstanding performance to thrash Tokyo Verdy in their last home game and showed they are capable of matching good sides. Ultimately, you predict JEF at your own peril.