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Saturday, March 8, 2008

J. LEAGUE 2008


Tokyo Verdy

Staff writer

Last season: second in J2

The former giant of the J. League is back in the top flight after a two-year absence, but the two-time winner has a fight on its hands to stay there.

Ruy Ramos has taken a backroom position after claiming he could take the club no further as head coach, but the legendary ex-player was not the bumbling clown some have made him out to be during his time in charge.

Behind the famous smile lies a shrewd eye for a player, and hard-as-nails defender Yukio Tsuchiya took care of business at the back while strikers Hulk and Diego piled up the goals that secured promotion last season.

Goalkeeper Yoichi Doi appears to be another crafty buy, and much more can be expected of midfielder Takashi Fukunishi — a World Cup player only a year-and-a-half ago — than he produced for FC Tokyo last season.

But Hulk will be sorely missed now that he has returned to Kawasaki Frontale, and the average age of the squad also does not inspire much confidence.

The return of the Tokyo derby will add spice to Verdy's season, but survival is the No. 1 priority.

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