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Mid-Week cup game, exactly what’s needed for struggling Sanfrecce

Tuesday 14th March 2017
One point from their last three games isn't exactly the form that Sanfrecce Hiroshima fans are used to. It's also far from the wanted form given it's the 25th Anniversary of the club too. The team are out of sorts, but their upcoming cup game will give them insight on how to tackle the league.

We're three match-days into the new J.League season and the Violet Kingdom has looked somewhat overthrown; a monarchy out of touch with its football realm. The team's one winning position came on an opening day three weeks ago when they went ahead of Albirex Niigata, but soon gave that away and eventually conceded a goal, and ultimately drew the game.
February 2017
Highlights from the 1-1 score draw against Albirex.

Their next two games were even worse. They welcomed Shimizu S-Pulse; and were altogether not clinical. Giving away a penalty was a dark moment for the club; as Tae-Se Jong converted from the spot. They did try to mount a comeback, but Kudo was off-target and the team lost 1-0.

Last weekend they travelled to the Saga prefecture, where they played Sagan Tosu. This was their first away the day of the whole campaign, but the result was still the same. Hiroshima was down on the stroke of half-time – due to a spectacular free kick from Harakawa. The second half was arguably more upsetting, losing Marutani due to a controversial second bookable offence, which literally had the Japanese commentators ‘umming and arring' for quite a while whilst they pondered the complexities of the decision. Sanfrecce did, however, seem buoyed by the controversy and managed to get forward a lot more. Although still lacked the end product and couldn't find a goal.

Given the team's inability to score makes you wonder why they took the decision to loan out Peter Utaka who finished as the league's top scorer last campaign. Hajime Moriyasu seems to have replaced him with Masato Kudo; who was brought in from Vancouver Whitecaps. Although he's looked fairly tame after his opening day goal. Often shooting wide or mistiming runs which have resulted in the team not profiting. Even if Utaka is 33, he still had a knack for goal and was embedded within the team. Kudo has got to re-establish himself into the J.League after an unsuccessful season in Major League Soccer.

Credit where credit is due, Mihael Mikić, has looked really good for the side. Playing on the right wing, he's often cut into attacking positions and delivered good balls for his colleagues. Sadly, the rest of the side haven't been quite as good as him.

A post shared by Mika mm14 (@mikamm14) on Feb 25, 2017 at 3:07am PST

 Mikić on the first day of the new season.

All the problems aside; their game on Wednesday offers the opportunity to right these wrongs. It's a Levain Cup game, which is a popular brand of savoury biscuit in Japan. The cup is the equivalent of the EFL Cup; except it's exclusive to the top-tier and the format is a little different. Yet prestige wise it's the same, great to win – not too bad to lose; it won't really define a season either way.

Given the importance of the league, Moriyasu would be wise to use this upcoming game as an experimental match. Try to find the problems which are causing them to concede at the back and be less than fruitful going forward. Whether that means changing the formation, personnel or team talk – it's evident that something needs to change so the season doesn't become a write-off. It'll serve as a great launching pad; re-energise some of the players with a fresh approach. Should they get a win under their belts then that will only breed a positive mentality going forward.

Their opposition for the said game is Ventforet Kofu, who have a similar set of problems. They too drew on the opening day of the season and since lost two on the spin. The advantage for Sanfrecce is that they are at home and are classically the bigger club.

A win will be great, but it's the problem solving that is more important. They most find the faults and eradicate them from their game. There's no better time to do just that in this non-league, lowly opposed game and go on to challenge for silverware again.

This mid-week game kicks off at 10 am on Wednesday, UK time.
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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