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Saturday, March 3, 2012
Nelsinho, Popovic guide clubs into new season
Kashiwa Reysol manager Nelsinho is determined to carry last season's J. League title-winning form into Saturday's Xerox Super Cup match against FC Tokyo, but the Brazilian has warned not to expect too much from his ring-rusty side.
Kashiwa, last season's surprise champion, takes on Emperor's Cup winner FC Tokyo in the traditional season curtain-raiser at National Stadium, having pulled off the unprecedented achievement of winning the second- and first-division titles in successive years.
Last season's triumph qualified Reysol for a place in December's Club World Cup — where they made it through to a semifinal against Brazil's Santos — and although a well-deserved break has since blunted his players' edge, Nelsinho is keen to sharpen it back up with victory over Tokyo.
"The most important thing is that we keep building on what we have achieved," the Brazilian said on Friday. "We had our training camp in Guam, where we planned the season and the players put in a lot of effort. We aren't up to match-fitness yet, but we are working toward that aim.
"Tomorrow's game begins our season, and we want to get it off to a winning start. As much as possible, we want to show what we can do, and hopefully this will help us to get into the right condition for the start of the league season."
Veteran striker Hideaki Kitajima enjoyed the second-most prolific campaign of his 15-year career with nine goals last season, and the 33-year-old is looking for more of the same this time around.
"We have had success under this manager, and we want to carry on from what we did last year," he said. "As for me, as a striker I want to get on the scoresheet."
Tokyo beat Kyoto Sanga 4-2 on New Year's Day to win the Emperor's Cup for the first time, and Serbian manager Ranko Popovic has his sights set on more silverware on Saturday.
"It's a game with a title at stake, and we'll do all we can to win it," said Popovic, who took over from previous manager Kiyoshi Okuma after the Emperor's Cup triumph.
He added: "There is no way we are going to be perfect, but I want to see the players concentrated and determined to win the game."
Tokyo won the second division last season at the first time of asking, having been relegated from the top flight in 2010 despite beginning the campaign with realistic aims of claiming the title. Only time will tell if the capital city club can come anywhere close to emulating Kashiwa's success when the league season begins next weekend, but defender Masato Morishige is hoping to lay down a marker on Saturday.
"We're looking to play aggressive, attacking football, and hopefully we can score a few goals," the 24-year-old said. "It should be a good game."