Injury blow for Japanese trio
J.League champions Kashima Antlers, Emperor's Cup holders Gamba Osaka, and Kawasaki Frontale have all been hit with injury blows ahead of the AFC Champions League, which starts later this month.
Kashima midfielder Masashi Motoyama has been diagnosed with a slipped disk and under went surgery yesterday. The 30-year-old played out the end of last season with chronic back pain and will be out of action for three months.
Meanwhile, Gamba defender Satoshi Yamaguchi has picked up a knee injury during his team's training camp in Guam and will be sidelined for between six and eight weeks.
Finally, Kawasaki's Brazilian forward Juninho sustained a thigh injury during his side's training camp late last month and will likely be out for another for two weeks.
In their opening AFC Champions League games on 23 and 24 February, Kashima host Chinese club Changchun Yatai, Gamba travel to Suwon Bluewings and Kawasaki will also visit Korea Republic when they face Seongnam Ilhwa.
The continental competition kicks-off ahead of the new J.League season, which is scheduled to begin on 6 March. Kashima and Gamba will also contest the 2010 season curtain-raiser, the Xerox Super Cup, in Tokyo on 27 February.