Match to Watch
Two of the league’s top four teams square off this weekend as Sagan Tosu visit Nagoya Grampus in what will surely be a hotly contested match.
This battle will pit the league’s two premier defenses against one another, with Grampus having allowed just one goal all season and Sagan three. Mitch Langerak and Nagoya have kept clean sheets in nine consecutive matches, while Sagan have the lowest amount of goals allowed in the league besides them and Gamba Osaka, who have only played a handful of games.
With the impenetrable Langerak in goal for Nagoya and Park Il-Gyu between the sticks for Sagan, it’s not simply enough to break down a great defense, it takes excellent finishing to make it count. The question is whose approach to attacking is more dangerous in a match like this.
Grampus spread their goals around, but all through their attacking band. There’s no centerpoint to the attack, but merely a lot of interchanging and opportunistic play from their forwards and wingers, any of whom could find the goal they need. Sagan, meanwhile, lean on their striker as a focal point. Will attacking style determine who takes three points, or will it be a simple moment of magic against these phenomenal defenses?
Player to Watch
Keita Yamashita is the striker of note for Sagan Tosu. Their attack works around him, whether that’s him finding his way into the center of the box and drawing attention, making runs in behind or even dropping back then running at defenses. He attacks in a variety of ways, but however he does it, that is the sun around which the Sagan attack revolves.
With Yamashita at the center, Sagan have thrived. The forward has five goals of his own this season, good for fifth best in the league. But it’s not just his own scoring that impacts matches. His movement creates opportunities for others, and that’s why seven other Sagan players have scored goals this season.
If Yamashita is dangerous, Sagan are dangerous. How they do, or do not, break down the Grampus defense likely comes down to him.
Storyline to Watch
Urawa Reds are 10th in the table and they are just three points off of fourth place with a match in hand … how are they doing it?
Urawa have eight goals total this season from nine matches. The only teams with fewer goals are all sitting 16th through 20th in the table. For a team to be as successful as Urawa have been, they usually need to score more than a goal per game, or have an incredible defense. Urawa are doing neither.
Where Urawa have succeeded is by making their goals count. If they score, they’re getting results and probably winning. They haven’t lost a single game they’ve scored in and they’ve won their last three, all while getting shutouts. If Urawa score, they win. It’s as simple as that, even if the total season numbers don’t always stand out.