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Monday, 22 February 2010

Kansai Roundup: What can we expect from our teams?


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The new season is fast approaching, kicking off on March 6th. What can we expect of our local teams in Kansai/Kinki, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka, Kyoto Sanga, Vissel Kobe and Tokushima Vortis? Read on for a red-eyed summary. :-)


For a detailed review of all the teams in J1, see Ken Matsushima's 2010 Preseason Summary over at the Rising Sun News. (Now happily clear of Gremlins it seems.)


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Gamba Osaka

The blue brigade will again be the best of our local teams, and we can expect them to be a serious contender for the league title again. However, they have not really strengthened the squad in the off season and their hectic early schedule with its ACL group games will likely take its toll. (This is also true of current champions Kashima, and makes both teams a bit more vulnerable than it appears.) As the season progresses, their slick passing game will once again see them rise above the fading challengers. Another top four finish should certainly be within their reach, but I cannot quite see them grasping the title itself.


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Cerezo Osaka

Over in the cherry pink half of Osaka, all eyes will be on the talented Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui. If manager Levir Culpi's charges can thread their scintillating passes together in J1, they will be one of the most attractive teams to watch, and could surprise many people by rising into the top half of the table. However, the team's lack of height and physical presence could see them falter badly if they cannot string their passes together.


The experience and class of new arrivals such as Bando and Moniwa should ensure that it is the happier outcome that prevails.


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Kyoto Sanga

Kyoto look set for another struggle to maintain their J1 status for another year. As was the case last year, they have marginally improved their squad and should once again prove good enough to secure a mid-table finish. Unfortunately, I cannot see them being very attractive in doing so.


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Vissel Kobe

The scarlet bulls could find themselves marooned on a sinking ship if they are not careful. Although J2 goal phenom Tokura should be a good foil to the wily Yoshito Okubo, and can only be an improvement on the arthritic Marcel, he is unproven in J1. This will be of little help though if the temperamental and injury-prone Yoshito is missing from the lineup. The fiery forward is doubtful for the opening games, as are defender Kondo and midfield maestro Botti. A poor start to the season could well see Vissel struggle to avoid the drop. They desperately need a fit and motivated Okubo leading them forwards. Otherwise they could find their place in J1 going across the Inland Sea to Tokushima.


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Tokushima Vortis

The Naruto based Vortis surprised many last year with a solid mid-table finish in J2. They have succeeded in retaining the core of that team and have added the extra talent and depth needed to mount a challenge for a promotion place. However, the battle for a top three finish in J2 will be fierce this year, and Vortis will need to be lucky with avoiding injuries to key players if they are to succeed in their ambition of joining the top flight.


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