As the start of the new season of J. League is approaching very near, I want to briefly summarize the team’s preseason activities in this post.
GK: Shu Mogi (Toko Gakuen High School), Kentaro Kakoi (FC Tokyo)
DF: Kakeru Funaki (Cerezo Osaka U-18), Reiya Morishita (Cerezo Osaka U-18), Matej Jonjic (Incheon United)
MF: Musashi Oyama (Sapporo Otani High School), Toshiki Onozawa (Cerezo Osaka U-18), Hirofumi Yamauchi (Waseda University), Takaki Fukumitsu (Renofa Yamaguchi FC), Kota Mizunuma (FC Tokyo, loan), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Sevilla FC)
FW: Towa Yamane (Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth)
GK: Hiroyuki Takeda (Tokyo Verdy, loan), Takashi Kitano
DF: Yuki Kotani (Roasso Kumamoto), Sota Nakazawa (retired), Jurato Ikeda (Bangkok Glass FC, loan)
MF: Daiki Kogure (Ehime FC), Hideo Hashimoto (Tokyo Verdy), Kai Hirano (Army United)
FW: Besart Abdurahimi, Yuzo Tashiro, Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Rei Yonezawa (Renofa Yamaguchi FC, loan), Taiga Maekawa (Tokushima Vortis, loan)
Without a doubt, the biggest signing they made this winter is Hiroshi Kiyotake. Manager Yoon Jong-Hwan believes he is “a quality player” who “will probably have a big impact on the team.” Kiyotake has received so much attention from the press since he returned to Japan that we can say at least 60% or 70% of media coverage about Cerezo had featured him. But unfortunately, he is unlikely to be available in the season’s opening game against Jubilo Iwata due to a recurrence of his old injury.
Other notable signings include Kota Mizunuma who had played under the new manager at Sagan Tosu and Matej Jonjic who had been selected in K-League Best XI twice. Promising young players have also joined the club and among them, left back Kakeru Funaki, known as a very attacking fullback who scored 10 goals in the U-18 league last year, may be given some playing opportunities for the first team although the U-23 team will be his main playground.
Cerezo played 9 training matches against 5 teams during their preseason campaign. The results are as follows.
Jan 28: Bangkok Glass FC 0-0 Cerezo Osaka
Feb 04: Cerezo Osaka 1-1 All Japan University Selections
Feb 04: Cerezo Osaka 1-0 All Japan University Selections
Feb 08: Cerezo Osaka 2-1 Yokohama FC
Feb 08: Cerezo Osaka 0-0 Yokohama FC
Feb 11: Cerezo Osaka 0-0 Avispa Fukuoka
Feb 11: Cerezo Osaka 1-1 Avispa Fukuoka
Feb 18: Cerezo Osaka 2-0 Incheon United FC
Feb 19: Cerezo Osaka 3-0 Incheon United FC
It was good that they didn’t lose any single match during the preseason while the results are not actually what counts in this kind of games, but clearly we can’t be very pleased with them. With new manager Yoon, who has been reputed as a manager putting an importance on defense as well as running, their way of defending seems to have been getting better as they allowed few goals in these games. But at the same time, they also scored few goals until they beat Jonjic’s former club Incheon United last weekend. Yoon also seems to have concerns about that point as he reportedly told the players his disappointment during their training session.
Possible starting lineup
Basically, Yoon has employed the 4-4-2 formation in the preseason matches. Considering from them and reports published so far, the starting lineup against Jubilo Iwata is likely to be like this.
As I wrote above, Kiyotake won’t be available this weekend so who will replace him is a point of discussion. Kiyotake didn’t appear in the last training matches against Incheon United too and in that game, Kunimitsu Sekiguchi was chosen as a replacement. So we may reasonably be able to think that he is the leading candidate, but Mitsuru Maruoka must also have impressed the manager when he marked an assist and scored 2 goals in the first and second game against Incheon. Therefore, in my opinion, either of these two players is likely to stand on the pitch of Yanmar Stadium Nagai this weekend. Shohei Kiyohara and new signing Takaki Fukumitsu can also fill in Kiyotake’s position but they had consistently been used in “B team” squad so far.
Defensive midfielder is another position which may make my prediction wrong. I can say with confidence that Hotaru Yamaguchi will take one of the two spots. Although Souza is likely to take another one, Kazuya Yamamura is a strong contender especially after he showed an impressive performance against Incheon United with 3 assists.