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Thursday, March 1, 2007

J. LEAGUE 2007


Vissel Kobe

Staff writer

Last season: Promoted from J2 via playoff

Manager: Hiroshi Matsuda

Prospects: They'll stay up -- where, though, is a mystery

News photo
Yoshito Okubo (right), signed from Cerezo Osaka, is the player promoted Vissel Kobe will look to for goals. KYODO PHOTO

One to watch: Yoshito Okubo, striker who did little during a spell in Spain and even less after coming back, but still has time on his side.

Vissel Kobe has been the busiest of any J1 side since clinching promotion after a tight promotion playoff with Avispa Fukuoka, bringing in a whole new squad's-worth of players and getting rid of a fair few, too.

The most significant signings are forward Okubo from Cerezo Osaka and 'keeper Tatsuya Enomoto from Marinos.

Brazilian midfielder Boti also has arrived on a loan deal, while last season's top scorer, Atsuhiro Miura (with 15), stays. Yusuke Kondo, who scored 10 last year, has had his loan period from FC Tokyo extended.

Matsuda hasn't been in the job long after taking over from Stuart Baxter last year and will have his hands full making sure all the new faces settle. It may take a while.

Another big factor in whether Vissel sinks or swims is how interested in the club is backer Hiroshi Mikitani, the Internet mogul who owns the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. If Vissel gets mired in a relegation fight early on, it will be interesting to see whether Mikitani loosens the purse strings to refresh the team in midseason. It could be the difference between consolidating a position in J1 or yo-yoing between the top league and J2. Mikitani knows that a club with the potential of Vissel shouldn't be in the latter category.

See related stories:
Osim Jr. feels the pressure
Captain Sato wants 3rd cup triumph
S-Pulse's Fujimoto eyes national team
Manager Oliveira places faith in forwards
Vissel Kobe coach Matsuda welcomes changing of the guard
German Osieck embraces Reds challenge
Sef tips Grampus young guns

Urawa Reds Kawasaki Frontale Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse Jubilo Iwata Kashima Antlers
Nagoya Grampus Eight Oita Trinita Yokohama F. Marinos
Sanfrecce Hiroshima JEF United Chiba Omiya Ardija
FC Tokyo Albirex Niigata Ventforet Kofu
Yokohama FC Kashiwa Reysol Vissel Kobe

J. League Schedule J. League Soccer

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