It isn't for the first time in this series, but the previous episode of Giant Killing left us with a possibly injury to Sera as its cliff-hanger, and it really couldn't have come at a worse time for the young striker with his goal-scoring form proving to be far from noteworthy while Natsuki is ready and raring to go having recovered from an injury of his own.
Thankfully, the long-term news is good for Sera - Although he's substituted in the current game (which goes on to end 0-0), it turns out that the only damage he's done is a mild sprain which should recover after a week's rest. However, this is hardly comforting news for Sera himself, who feels destined to lose his place in the team to Natsuki now as he continues to sulk somewhat about the whole thing. Of all people, it's Sakai who pulls him out of this funk, albeit in a rather tsundere manner by berating him for eating crisps before admitting that he understand's Sera's decision-making on the field before urging him not to give up in his own unique way.
So, it's a slightly more upbeat Sera that sits in the stands to watch ETU's next game at home to Urawa Red Stars, a side that they have lost to three years on the trot. We join the game in the second half at 0-0, and with Tatsumi looking to shake things up by introducing Natsuki to the proceedings in a tearful reintroduction to the game that I can only describe as some kind of reverse Gazza effect. This substitution certainly does turn the game.... in Urawa's favour, as they score a bit of a long-rang cracker on the counter-attack to go ahead. Ironically, this actually gives Natsuki even more of a chance to shine, which he does via a top-drawer goal of his own, finding the top corner from outside the box to equalise. So, with a final score from 1-1 everyone seems pretty satisfied by the result - Everyone, that is, bar Tatsumi...
I suppose if there's one negative about this particular episode of Giant Killing is that it's perhaps the first time that this series has been entirely predictable - It seemed rather obvious that Sera's injury would give Natsuki his chance, and that he'd score a notable goal on his return. Then again, sometimes football does pan out as though it's been written by script-writers, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, and Natsuki's comical behaviour in particular lightened the tone for a while to stop us getting too bogged down in the football itself. This current story arc certainly doesn't match the tension and excitement of the big game against Nagoya, but then again that's just like football itself, which is rarely balls-to-the-wall excitement every week. As Sera himself notes, the real battle hasn't even begun, and it could well be the next instalment which brings the jostling for position between Sakai, Sera and Natsuki to a head.