It's now pushing a month since the last home game down at the 'Daira, and personally speaking, I can't bloody wait to settle down in the sunshine tomorrow with a six pack! Now the humid hell of the Shizuoka summer is behind us, tomorrow is set to be a balmy 23 degrees in a breezy Suruga Bay. With the hottest months now behind us, it's back to the earlier kicks offs, and a 3pm start on a Saturday will feel just like being back in the UK!
It's probably a combination of the good forecast, S-Pulse's better form of late (four wins from five - only defeated away at Kashima), and the fact Kawasaki are in with a decent shout of the title that tomorrow won't be far off last season's near-capacity crowd of 19k. It's a measure of how open this season is that even a team with a real shot at the championship have only won twice in their last five games. Many people's tips at the start of the season, Frontale have come through a couple of dodgy patches and are still up there, so good luck to them. I'm expecting a big travelling following tomorrow.
There's a maximum of 18 points to play for, and it's still amazingly tight at the top. Out of the five (and at a stretch, seven!) teams in with a shout, first time champions would be Oita, Kawasaki or Nagoya. Since the turn of the century there's been five different winners of the league (six if any first-timers prevail this year), six different winners of the Emperor's Cup, and, after the final next month, seven different winners of the Nabisco Cup. I should also mention that the only teams to have won the league twice this millennium are now both fighting for their J1 lives! Japanese football is incredibly open, and it's one of the reasons I am so consistently enthralled by it.
With the prospect of title glory, Kawasaki will be coming to Shimizu with nothing less than all three points in their sights, but with S-Pulse fresh off the back of a 5-1 demolition job of (outside) title hopefuls FC Tokyo, it should be a hell of an encounter. Okazaki and Kazumichi will be back from their national team exploits, and I can't see much being changed from the team that took Tokyo to school.
So, 8th with six games to go... hardly ideal, but after our wretchedly inconsistent first half of the season, it's a far sight more healthy looking than a couple of months ago! There's been a handful of games me and Fuz came away from feeling pretty hard done by this year, but we also rode our luck a few times, so our current nearly-but-not-quite position is entirely fair. We have to set our sights on cup glory and then the derby the following Saturday. Before all that though, a 3-0 victory tomorrow would be wonderfully appropriate! Why? Well...
Yours truly turned 30 last Saturday, hence my preference for the 3-0 scoreline! Drinks will be taken after the game, but if anyone wants to reward me for staying alive three decades, feel free to present me with a can of beer at any stage during the match. :) I'm the bloke standing next to Palchan in the pic on the right (yeah, I know, I know. I don't look a day over 21). "Beer" is the stuff in cans with "Asahi" or "Kirin" written on the side, and "present me with", well, I'm sure you can figure that bit out. ^^y
BARRY WRITES... I really should have thought of doing this as soon as highlights became available officially on YouTube a while back. Be...