Déjà vu for Dragan

Japan Soccer News

"It's Groundhog Day!"

There's no sign of Punxsutawney Phil, but Nagoya Grampus coach Dragan Stojkovic must be checking his calendar in disbelief as the Aichi-based side prepare to face FC Tokyo at Ajinomoto Stadium for the second time in three days.

Naohiro Ishikawa looks set to play the Ned Ryerson role to the Serbian coach's Phil Connors, with Ishikawa causing opponents plenty of irritation with some career-best form.

The diminutive winger was the catalyst for FC Tokyo's 3-0 thrashing of Nagoya at Ajinomoto Stadium in the J. League last weekend, scoring his 10th goal of the campaign and taking himself level with Davi and Edmilson at the top of the goalscoring charts.

The two sides meet up to do it all over again on Wednesday night, only this time they're not battling for league points. Instead it's the quarter-finals of the League Cup that take centre stage, with FC Tokyo looking to add to their solitary piece of silverware - the 2004 League Cup crown.

The capital club are in a bullish mood after a stunning rejuvenation under former Japan youth coach Hiroshi Jofuku, with FC Tokyo turning around a poor first half to the season to become the most eye-catching team in the league.

Much of their success is down to the stellar performances of Ishikawa, whose outstanding form has lead to calls for the two-time Japan international to be restored to the national team.

"I don't know how he feels about me, but what I have to do on the pitch is pretty clear," Ishikawa told The Daily Yomiuri after Japan coach Takeshi Okada watched him tear Nagoya apart.

"If I do my job the way I'm expected to, then the opportunities will naturally open up."

How Dragan Stojkovic must wish he had a player like Ishikawa on his books, with the tempestuous Serb railing at his players in the wake of their latest league defeat.

"If I start to analyse player by player, I'm scared the results will be very bad," Stojkovic snarled to The Daily Yomiuri.

"And definitely I have to make some changes for the next game. Some players will be on the bench."

One of those changes is unlikely to be Australian international Josh Kennedy, with the 1.94 metre striker not expected to make his Nagoya debut until the J. League clash against Kyoto Sanga at Toyota Stadium on July 18.

The pressure on former Karlsruher SC striker Kennedy to perform was ramped up a notch last week, with Nagoya announcing that top-scorer Davi is set to depart for Qatari outfit Umm Salal.

Nagoya are well off the pace in the J. League, but the Toyota-backed side face Kawasaki Frontale in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League in September.

The remaining League Cup quarter-final, first leg fixtures sees Kashima Antlers host Kawasaki Frontale at Kashima Stadium, Gamba Osaka welcome Yokohama F. Marinos to Expo '70 Stadium, while Urawa Reds take on Shimizu S-Pulse at Saitama Stadium.

Copyright© Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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