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The J.League Cup Preview

Saturday 3rd September 2016
The quarter-finals of the J.League Cup (for sponsorship reasons, known as the Nabisco cup), are underway as the first leg ties were played mid-week. No team one by more than one goal, so all of the aggregates are tightly poised for the second legs which will be played at the weekend.

The competition is regarded as the secondary cup contest in Japan's football system and is open to all eighteen J1 clubs. All four of the teams participating in the AFC Champions League, are given a bye to the second round. The other fourteen teams compete in a group stage; out of the group stage, the best two teams from each group (only two groups) will advance to the knock-out stage. The winner of the cup not only keeps the glory of the trophy itself but since 2007 also qualifies for the Suruga Bank Championship.

All games set to be played on September 4th.

Gamba Osaka vs. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (1-1)

These two teams meet up again, in what could be considered the ‘El Clasico' of Japanese football. The two teams certainly have had their fair share of encounters and mostly entertaining ones. Sanfrecce were 1-0 up for most of the game by the virtue of a Kosei Shibasaki goal. Yet the game was evenly contested throughout at the Big Arch, with the possession split 52-48 and the teams having the same amount of shots on target. As a result, the young substitute, Hiroto Goya, scored the eighty-sixth minute equaliser, making it a real showdown at the Suita City stadium. Sanfrecce Hiroshima will have a real mental block in this game as they've failed to beat their adversaries in seven months, their last triumph being in the super cup back in February. An important note about this competition is that away goals are not observed, so Gamba Osaka still need to win their game at home to progress or face extra-time and/or penalties.

Avispa Fukuoka vs. F.C. Tokyo (1-1)

Avispa Fukuoka is having a simply torrid time in the league and welcome an interruption to the main competition, to use as a stepping stone to gather some form. The home side here could even use the game as an experiment; to try to turn their season around as they currently rock-bottom in the league and seemingly destined for relegation to J2. The side from the capital haven't set the world alight, but have enjoyed a steady season – this cup run could be just what they need to bring some life to fans and put some excitement back into their matches. F.C. Tokyo was seconds away from bringing an advantage into the game, yet conceded in dying embers of the game which levelled the tie.

Urawa Red Diamonds vs. Vissel Kobe (2-1)

This game settles a trio of consecutive matches that the teams have contested, having played each other in the league than the first leg and now the second. Urawa Red Diamonds approached the first game of the tie much like the second stage of J.League season, abrasive and head-on. The Saitama Stadium will be rocking as the fans are in good voice and the home side have a 2-1 advantage. Goals from Takagi and the Slovenian, Ljubijankič, settled the result in Kobe. Whilst this competition isn't as prestigious as the J.League title itself or even the Emperor's Cup, Urawa Red Diamonds are a proud club and will want to collect all the silverware on offer. Given their superiority in the league and advantage, there's no reason why they can't advance to the semi-final here. To mid-table Vissel Kobe's credit, they did defeat their opponents in the league meeting just one week ago. Could they do it again and upset the bigger team here?

Yokohama FM vs. Omiya Ardija (1-2)

Yokohama FM was a bright spark in the early stages of the second stage, yet have seemingly fallen away from the title contention after a set of bad results. The side are still in contention for this cup, although have work to do progress to the semi-final. The first leg at the NACK5 stadium went the favour of Omiya Ardija as they scored the winning goal in the eighty-seventh minute. Yokohama's top goalscorer, Manabu Saito, will be called upon to make the difference here at home to overcome the deficit.
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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