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Saturday, March 8, 2008

J. LEAGUE 2008


Kashiwa Reysol

Staff writer

Last season: eighth

Reysol exceeded expectations when coming up from J2 last season to storm into the early pack of leaders.

The Chiba club held its own for a good part of the season before slipping into midtable respectability, but a repeat performance this year looks a tall order.

Young starlets Tadanari Ri and Minoru Suganuma made the headlines with a barrage of early goals, but a combined end-of-season return of 16 needs to be improved upon if they are to live up to the hype.

The loss of midfield destroyer Alceu will also take its toll, new signing Popo is an unknown quantity, and the club also starts the season with a serious backlog in the treatment room.

But the continued presence of the jewel in Kashiwa's crown, striker Franca, means Reysol has a chance against any team.

The former Bayer Leverkusen man is currently injured, often looks disinterested if things are going against him, and is also the wrong side of 30.

But the Brazilian is a sight to behold when on top of his game, loping through defenses with a devastating feline grace that is both elusive and ruthlessly clinical.

Kashiwa still has the quality to keep its place in the J. League's upper-middle class, but much will depend on Franca.

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