Nagoya Grampus-Shimizu S-Pulse
I spoke about the offensive potential of Nagoya on opening day ......Gamba Osaka were easily the best J-League team last season and completed the domestic treble despite being in the relegation zone after 14 rounds. Knowing that, it will not surprise you to know that they, with 39 points, were the best team over the second half of the campaign , followed by Kashiwa Reysol with 36 and Kashima Antlers with 33, they were the only three teams to break the 30 point barrier, although special mention goes to Nagoya Grampus with 29, which was far and away the best of the teams who finished in the bottom half of the table and I see them as a big potential improver.
Akira Nishino is in his second year in charge there and his ideas were clearly getting across to the players and having an influence in the second half of last season, he was wildly successful at Gamba Osaka for a decade, winning numerous trophies and two coach of the year awards. He took a while to start winning things at Gamba and Nagoya are clearly prepared to give him time and to back his judgement, the signings of Kengo Kawamata from Albirex Niigata and Leandro Domingues from Kashiwa Reysol last summer worked out well, with Kensuke Nagai thriving alongside them with 9 goals and three assists over the last 17 games and the club averaging almost two goals per game. They have now added veteran Slovenian striker Milivoje Novakovic from Shimizu S-Pulse, who's record of scoring 16 goals and contributing 4 assists in 38 league and cup appearances for a team battling relegation was awesome, as was the fact he was available for every single game and only missed 23 minutes of league action, at pushing 35 years of age. Really see a big season for them if they can all gel and hit the ground running. They open against one the promoted teams and you are never quite sure what you will get with them, but I would suggest that given up the bigger handicap on Nagoya, who were champions in 2010 and runners up in 2011, might be the way to go.
They scored three that day and have actually averaged 2.0 per game across eight competitive matches, scoring three in half of them. SSP have not kept a clean sheet in six and have conceded at least twice in five of those, they did manage to score twice against Gamba Osaka last week, but to be honest, they owed more to the opposition goalkeeper who made two howlers, than any real offensive prowess in that game. The second goal was reported as thus ....."Then, in the 63rd minute Higashiguchi took a cross comfortably and all seemed well. As the defence cleared out and the attacking team returned to their positions the Gamba keeper dropped the ball to the floor, ready to punt it out. He hadn't checked behind though. where Genki Omae was lurking. The diminutive S-Pulse forward pounced on the free ball and tucked it into the net gratefully. 2-2, leaving Higashiguchi red-faced ! " That was not the first error(s) that Higashiguchi has made recently btw and his form has put me off backing Gamba this round.
Anyway , I have not seen an awful lot of them this season, but SSP feel they have played a little better than recent results suggest, however, it seems hard to see how they are going to keep Nagoya out for long and this could easily and quickly develop into a shootout, which is what this "local" game ( SSP are calling this their derby fixture again this season, with the continued absence of Jubilo Iwata from the top flight) usually develops into, with the last seven h2h meetings going "over" at an average of 4.43 goals per game, the visitors have scored at least twice in 6 of 10 visits. Nagoya have score four first half goals in their last two home starts and SSP have conceded at least twice in the second half in their last three away games, so the goals will surely come sooner or later for Grampus.
1.25 Nagoya Grampus -0.75 ball 2.17 asian line/Sportmarket.
1.25 units "over" 3 goals 2.21 asian line/Sportmarket Pro......alternative is the more standard 2.75 goal line at circa 1.90.