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Saturday, March 8, 2008
J. LEAGUE 2008
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: sixth
Albirex has been punching above their weight in recent seasons, but the loss of striker Edmilson is a huge blow.
The Brazilian's move to Urawa Reds leaves a gaping hole in terms of goals and all-around playmaking ability, and much more will be expected of Kisho Yano, whose tally of seven goals last season was a poor return for an international striker.
The influential Silvinho has also left the club, and fellow Brazilians Davi and Alessandro have been drafted in to try to emulate their countrymen's success.
Powerful youngster Kazuhiko Chiba is also building a reputation for himself in midfield, and the fantastic crowds the club continues to attract should make Niigata a difficult place for teams to visit.
But while Albirex should be solid enough, it is difficult to see any real progress on the horizon without the club signing one or two players of the caliber it has not been able to attract as yet.
A good cup run could be on the cards, but a repeat of last season's sixth-place finish looks unlikely.