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Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011

Grampus, Antlers renew rivalry in Xerox Super Cup

Staff writer

Nagoya Grampus manager Dragan Stojkovic is happy to lose Saturday's Xerox Super Cup clash against Kashima Antlers as long as his side goes on to defend its J. League crown over the coming season.

News photo
Back in action: Nagoya Grampus manager Dragan Stojkovic (left) and Kashima Antlers manager Oswaldo Oliveira guide their teams into the season-opening Xerox Super Cup on Saturday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Nagoya won its first-ever championship last year but came off badly bruised from three head-to-head encounters with Kashima, losing both league matches and an Emperor's Cup quarterfinal despite winning the J. League by a record 10 points.

Stojkovic is determined to scratch that particular itch by beating the cup winner in the traditional season curtain-raiser at Nissan Stadium, but insists it will not be the end of the world if he fails.

"I prefer the same scenario again this year, losing all the games against Kashima and winning the title," he said in Tokyo on Friday.

"Of course Kashima is always a big rival for us. Both teams always play a good game and tomorrow is an opportunity to take some small revenge. We will do everything to win the game and start well."

Nagoya's success last season came at Kashima's expense, with the Ibaraki side's reign as champion coming to an end after three straight years at the top. Stojkovic is in no mood to loosen his grip on the trophy he spent so long coveting, however, and is determined to retain the title when the J. League season gets under way next weekend.

"I don't want to take a step back," he said. "We want to continue with our work and continue the same success from last year, and one of the targets is to be champions again.

"But we are not crazy enough to think that it will be easy. There are a few teams who will be chasing us, but I believe in my team, I believe in my philosophy and I believe we can get the title again."

Foremost in the chasing pack is likely to be Kashima, which is taking part in the Xerox Super Cup for the fourth time in as many years after beating Shimizu S-Pulse in the Emperor's Cup final on New Year's Day. Manager Oswaldo Oliveira may have had Nagoya's number last season, but the Brazilian knows he can take nothing for granted on Saturday.

"It is the fourth time I've been involved in this game, and it is always a tough match," he said. "Grampus have an excellent team and play excellent football, so one thing I can promise is that this will be a great game to watch."

Stojkovic also believes the outcome will be too close to call, but insists he will be satisfied if the work his side has put in over the winter shows signs of bearing fruit.

"I think that both teams know each other very well so there will be no big surprises, but we will try to deliver good football," he said. "Of course we have expectations to play well and win, but it will be difficult because Kashima is a strong team. Who will win I don't really know.

"Like always we work very hard to prepare ourselves for the challenge of this year. I hope that the players work very well and I'm sure they are ready to play. We won't change our policy. We will continue to play attacking football, interesting football, and we are waiting for the results."

Beckham back in L.A.

CARSON , Calif. (AP) David Beckham reported Thursday to the Los Angeles Galaxy's training camp, two weeks late following an extended stay to train with Tottenham.

Following an injury-riddled year, which saw him miss the World Cup and a majority of the MLS campaign because of a torn left Achilles' tendon, Beckham was clear about his desire to go somewhere this offseason where he could work on his fitness.

Beckham received the blessings of Galaxy chief executive Tim Leiweke and coach Bruce Arena to join Tottenham.

Unable to secure a loan with the club, Beckham was prevented from suiting up for games and relegated to strictly practice.

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