If you thought the Nagoya Grand Palace game was nerve-racking, then you might want to take a deep breath as we look set to enter another match of mammoth importance for East Tokyo United, this time against an even more fearsome opponent - Unbeaten Osaka Gunners, who enjoy a brand of "total football" which makes use of four forward players and which saw them run out 8-0 winners in their last game.
Against such tough, offensive opposition, you might expect Tatsumi to look towards an even more defensive formation that usual, but in fact the exact opposite would be true, with the manager unveiling his tactics to a stunned squad. Although we aren't afforded the exact details at this point, it's clear that this will be a more attacking ETU than the one we've been used to so far this season, although as Tatsumi points out their opponents have four attacking players and ETU will be sticking with a traditional back four, so they aren't short of numbers at the back on paper.
Now that the players have been appraised of the side's game plan, the rest of the episode concentrates with building up to this big match, taking in every element of the pre-game atmosphere from the fans entering the stadium, a handful of supporters spotting the Japanese national coach making his way into the ground (which offers up a club versus country argument of its own, with ETU supporters wishing they had a national player in their side while Gunners fans bemoan losing so many of their stars to international duty on a regular basis), and a meeting between the two opposing coaches as they try to feel one another out regarding their confidence and plans for the game via a few mind games hidden beneath their seemingly polite conversation. Come the end of the instalment we see the fans cheering each ETU player as the squad is revealed on the big screen, only to witness the shock of the fans as they realise that the team's normal 4-5-1 formation has been switched for a more attacking 4-4-2.
While I'm in a state of nervous tension waiting to get down to the actual football and for this big match to start, there was as always plenty to intrigue and fascinate here. From the little things like that aforementioned club versus country argument, there's also a whole plethora of things to consider from a tactical point of view that I could go on about at length but won't here - needless to say it could make for a nail-biting but entertaining spectacle when it comes to the game itself. However, arguably topping the bill this episode was the brief but oddly intense pre-match exchange between Tatsumi and Dulfer - we're all used to seeing the mind games of football managers in the press and before, during and after games while those individuals are in the spotlight, but what happens when those managers meet behind closed doors? It's something I've often wondered about, and I can't help but feel that it's probably a little less dramatic and laced in importance than Giant Killing would like to imagine, but it certainly makes for a continuation of this show's intriguing nature, and I can't gripe about that.