Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the reigning champions, may have pipped Emperor’s Cup holders Yokohama F. Marinos to the title on the final day of the 2013 league campaign, but the Purple Arrows will be hungry for revenge when the two sides meet on Saturday in the Fuji Xerox Super Cup, the curtain-raiser for the new J.League season.
Hiroshima lost twice in league action to Yokohama last season and Hajime Moriyasu’s side was denied a league and cup double on New Year’s Day when they were beaten 2-0 in the Emperor’s Cup final at National Stadium, the venue for Saturday’s match.
In fact, Hiroshima has not beaten Yokohama in two years, losing four matches against one draw with two goals scored against nine conceded, a record that Moriyasu was keen to put behind him.
“I’ve never won against Marinos since I have been manager,” said Moriyasu, who has won the league in both of his first two seasons in charge. “They are a very good team and although we respect them, we want to give them a game, play our style and win the title.”
“We’re in this game because we are the champions and that makes me very happy,” he added. “We have worked hard in training and I want the players to show the result of that tomorrow. We want to win this title to get us off to a good start.”
Hiroshima have seen Japan reserve goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa leave to join Urawa Reds in the close season and has welcomed Takuto Hayashi back between the sticks following his transfer from Vegalta Sendai.
Midfielder Yoshifumi Kashiwa, signed from Ventforet Kofu, is injured, but 2012 J.League Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Hisato Sato is fit, as are other key men Yojiro Takahagi and Toshihiro Aoyama.
The Super Cup will be the final one at the existing National Stadium before it is demolished and rebuilt for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“For me personally and for the team, the National Stadium has a lot of memories,” said Moriyasu. “This is the last Super Cup at this stadium and we want to be the team that wins the title.”
Yokohama imploded during the final few weeks of the league campaign last year and finished runner-up behind Hiroshima.
Veteran striker Marquinhos has left to join Vissel Kobe, but Yasuhiro Higuchi’s side will be a threat from set pieces from the likes of 2013 J.League Player of the Year Shunsuke Nakamura and new signing Jungo Fujimoto.
The league champions have won the last five Super Cup titles but Higuchi is hoping his side can reverse that trend.
“It’s been nine years since Marinos played in this game so we want to take the opportunity to win the title and get the season off to a good start,” he said.
The match will also serve as a warm-up for both teams ahead of the Asian Champions League. Hiroshima takes on China’s Beijing Guoan on Tuesday in Group F, and Yokohama is away to South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors in its Group G opener on Wednesday.
Hiroshima kicks off its J.League campaign away to Diego Forlan’s Cerezo Osaka on March 1 and Yokohama is at home to Omiya Ardija the following day.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5