Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez expects a battle to finish on the podium in the Japanese MotoGP at Motegi.

The reigning premier class world champion qualified third fastest but was 0.426 seconds off the pace of pole man Jorge Lorenzo and is riding with a broken finger sustained in a mountain bike accident after Aragon.

Marquez expects Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone - fourth and fifth fastest respectively - and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa to be in the podium mix on Sunday.

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Along with Pedrosa, the 22-year-old has been struggling to find a compromise with the set-up of the RC213V and has admitted the best he can hope for is to finish third.

"Especially yesterday we suffered a lot to find the correct set-up and this morning also I was struggling a lot. This afternoon we did a positive step and I was much closer, especially to Valentino [Rossi]," said Marquez.

"I think Jorge [Lorenzo] is one step in front of us about the rhythm; on the best lap time Valentino is close but on the rhythm I am closer to Valentino but still not enough, so tomorrow we will try to improve and manage well the situation and we will try to do our race.

"But it will be tough to be on the podium because like Valentino says, both Ducatis and also my team-mate [Dani Pedrosa] are really strong too; we will be fighting for third place."

Marquez admitted that prior to his arrival at Motegi, he anticipated the Twin Ring circuit would prove problematic for the RC213V.

"We already expect that before we came here we will struggle a little bit, especially because it is a track like Le Mans - more or less - with a lot of stop and go-type corners," he said.

"It looked like before this was the strongest point of Honda, but now we are losing a lot, especially on the acceleration. On the braking it looks like a struggle but we are braking very deep to try to recover this gap that we are losing on acceleration.

"We are trying to manage well but we know it will be a difficult track for us. When you start the weekend you start with the base [setting] of last year, more or less. We struggled a lot, especially yesterday, then we did a few steps and it is better than Le Mans but we are still losing too much.

"We are trying to find the time in the brake points so then we are taking more risks because we are pushing the front tyre," he added.

"I can be happy with the team especially because they are working really hard and I am happy with this. Of course, I would like to have better pace, more stability and more acceleration but it is like this... I'm happy because they give one hundred per-cent."

Marquez, who rode without painkillers in qualifying, said his injury was not affecting him too adversely on the bike.

"The finger is painful of course because it is broken but I can ride more or less well; we will see during all the race but I think it will not be a problem because today I ride without painkillers and tomorrow I will take the painkillers, so it will be much better," he said.

Honda have fitted a custom left grip to Marquez's RC213V to ease the discomfort of his broken finger.