Match to Watch
The Yokohama Derby takes center stage this weekend as Yokohama FC heads to Nissan Stadium for a clash with Yokohama F·Marinos. The rivalry takes on added meaning with Yokohama FC, a club created by supporters who opposed a merger with Marinos. And when Yokohama FC were promoted to the top flight last season, marking just their second (and now third) campaign in J1, it really picked up - a first-division Yokohama battle.
Yokohama FC remain the upstarts against mighty Marinos, and it shows in the table. Yokohama FC are in last place, while Marinos have not lost since their season opener and are up to sixth place.
While this may prove to be a mismatch, it is still a very important game for both teams. Yokohama FC need to start picking up points if they want to stay in the top flight and set two Yokohama Derbies for next season, while Marinos have still not been able to crack the top four despite their strong run of form. Points are at a premium for both, and now we sprinkle some well-earned rivalry fire on top of it too at Nissan Stadium.
Player to Watch
Marinos have been in this excellent run of form because of Daizen Maeda’s seven goals up front, plus a true team effort that has seen them defend at a high level and dictate play through the middle. One thing they have not gotten a lot of is terrific production from Élber, who has played his part, but not at his very best yet. That may be changing, though.
Élber got on the scoresheet last week in one of his brighter performances of the season as he contributed a lot of creative play and chance creation to go with his goal. Marinos planned on a big season from the Brazilian, who could be a real difference maker in just about every match he plays.
If Élber is really about to find his form, which looks possible, watch out. Marinos are already among the league’s best teams, so adding a red hot Élber will only put this team into a super drive.
Storyline to Watch
The goalkeeping across the league has been fantastic of late. As each week goes on, we see more and more goalkeepers pulling off jaw dropping saves that leave forwards in awestruck.
Having a goalkeeper who can bail out a defense and turn a match with one, two or three saves to earn a team points even on their bad days is so crucial. That could be the difference between making the top four or not, between being relegated or not.
Nagoya Grampus’ Mitchell Langerak has staked his claim as arguably the league’s best goalkeeper, but Park Il-Gyu has played magnificently for Sagan Tosu too, and Avispa Fukuoka’s Masaaki Murakami has been especially good of late. Keep an eye on the guys with the gloves, as they’re turning matches right now.