By Gary Anderson

February 20 - Olympic champion Kaori Matsumoto is set to return to action in Düsseldorf this weekend ©AFP/Getty ImagesJapanese Olympic champion Kaori Matsumoto will make her long-awaited return to tatami action at this weekend's Düsseldorf Judo Grand Prix where she will be attempting to deny home favourite Miryam Roper of a first gold medal in the event.

Matsumoto took an extended break after clinching the under 57 kilogram gold at London 2012, but is now set to make a comeback at the Mitsubishi Electric Halle.

World Championship bronze medallist Roper will have the backing of the home crowd, however, as she is likely to have to overcome the Japanese athlete if she is to secure a first win of her career in Düsseldorf in the weight class.

Germany will also be expecting at least a couple of medals in the women's under 70kg category, with no less than four potential winners in the form of World Championship silver and bronze medallists Laura Vargas Koch and Heide Wollert respectively, junior world bronze medallist Szaundra Diedrich and world number 13 Iljana Marzok.

Israeli world champion Yarden Gerbi will be looking to bounce back from a surprise early exit at the Paris Grand Slam earlier this month in the under 63kg class, where last year's runner-up Abe Kana of Japan will prove a tough obstacle to overcome.

Officials conduct the draw today at the Nikko Hotel ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix ©IJFOfficials conduct the draw today at the Nikko Hotel ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix ©IJF

The over 78kg category could prove to be one of the highlights of the three days, as Olympic and world champion Idalys Ortiz of Cuba will be up against reigning European champion Lucija Polavder of Slovenia, Paris Grand Slam silver medallist Émilie Andéol of France and two-time world bronze medallist Megumi Tachimoto of Japan.

On the men's side, hopes of a German win lie mainly with world number six Sven Maresch and Karl-Richard Frey, who are top seeds in their respective categories, while Marc Odenthal will be looking to build on his career-best bronze medal taken in Paris two weeks ago.

Mongolia will be looking to world number one Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj and Paris Grand Slam winner Boldbaatar Ganbat to secure gold medals in the under 66kg and under 60kg categories respectively, with the latter expected to face stiff competition from compatriot and last year's Qingdao Grand Prix silver medallist Kherlen Ganbold.

Sven Maresch (right) will be looking to impress home fans in Düsseldorf ©AFP/Getty ImagesSven Maresch (right) will be looking to impress home fans in Düsseldorf ©AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the battle for gold in the under 73kg class looks set to be a classic as Georgia's Olympic champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili will take on London 2012 runner-up Miklós Ungvári of Hungary, while reigning European champion Rok Drakšič of Slovenia will also likely be in the medal shake-up.

The draw for the Düsseldorf Grand Prix, which will see 370 judoka from 55 countries competing across 14 different weight categories, took place at the Nikko Hotel.

International Judo Federation (IJF) sports director Vladimir Barta and referees director Jan Snijders were joined at the draw by Peter Frese, President of the German Judo Federation,  who welcomed the event to Düsseldorf.

"I wish you all well in the competition and I hope to see you again next year when the event is part of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification period," he added.

The event is due to underway tomorrow and concludes on Sunday (February 23).

Watch the latest action on Judo TV here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
February 2014: Another two gold medals ensure Japanese dominance at Paris Judo Grand Slam
February 2014: 
Japan lead the medal table after day one of Judo Grand Slam in Paris
February 2014: Judo Grand Slam season gets underway with opening event in Paris
February 2013: France enjoy hat-trick of gold medals at Düsseldorf Grand Prix
February 2013: Adapted rules under spotlight again at Düsseldorf Grand Prix