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Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006

Missing Japan stars cause headaches for Buchwald, Nishino

Gamba Osaka manager Akira Nishino and Urawa Reds counterpart Guido Buchwald have admitted that the absence of their Japan stars has hampered preparations for the 2006 season and both are expected to field weakened teams for Saturday's Xerox Super Cup clash in Tokyo.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and Shinji Ono are among a handful of players available but unlikely to play in the league season's curtain-raiser between the J. League champions and Emperor's Cup winners as they leave the same night for Germany for Japan's upcoming friendly with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Of course we want to show everyone a good game and we have prepared properly but not having our Japan players around has definitely been a minus," said Buchwald. "If they are in good condition then maybe I will use them, maybe not. We'll see tomorrow."

Midfielder Ono, who recently rejoined the Reds from Dutch side Feyenoord, Alessandro Santos, Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Tsuboi and goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki have been mainly with the Japan squad preparing for this summer's World Cup since the end of January.

All except Tsuzuki and Tsuboi played in Japan's 6-0 demolition of India in their opening Group A qualifier for the 2007 Asian Cup on Wednesday.

"Maybe only in Japan and South Korea it is possible in the preseason that you don't have your best players," said Buchwald, who guided Urawa to victory in the Emperor's Cup and a runnerup finish behind Gamba in the league last season.

"I have missed five players and this is a big problem. But that is the only problem. They are all good players and I hope it is not too much of a problem in the season because they know our game and they know the way I work," he said.

Buchwald has bolstered his squad by signing former Brazil striker Washington and midfielder Takahito Soma from Tokyo Verdy, and onetime Japan forward Teruaki Kurobe from Cerezo Osaka.

Nishino, meanwhile, has admitted that Gamba's preparations have suffered because of Miyamoto, Yasuhito Endo and new signing Akira Kaji's national team commitments.

The departure of Japan striker Masashi Oguro and J. League Player of the Year Araujo, whose combined total of 49 goals, helped Gamba win their first league title last year, has not helped.

"We have not had much time together and the absence of our Japan players and strikers Oguro and Araujo leaving means we are not ready yet," said Nishino, who is hoping new acquisitions Magno Alves and Ryuji Bando can successfully fill the voids left up front.

"It's harder with the changes up front than it is with the players behind them and we also have new players that haven't even pulled on a Gamba shirt. In that sense I'm a bit concerned. Hopefully I won't have to use the Japan players tomorrow," he added.

Saturday's match will be a dress rehearsal for the opening game of the season, when Gamba welcome Urawa to Expo Stadium on March 4.



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