Match to Watch
Vissel Kobe suffered their first loss of the season in Matchweek 4, but even then did not put in a bad shift. They were simply stymied by the Nagoya Grampus defense, which is common for teams that come up against Massimo Ficcadenti’s side. Otherwise, there has been a lot to like about Vissel’s campaign, with Douglas providing a centerpoint of their attack and a smart, cohesive unit behind him.
But how good are Vissel Kobe? We’re about to find out.
Nothing tests a team in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE like a clash with Kawasaki Frontale, and that’s what the Ushi have. The champions showed some flaws over the weekend, struggling to create chances for the first time all season and Vissel definitely have the defensive chops to bring the same frustrations to Frontale. If they do that, and they can capitalize on the chance or two they will get, it’s possible Vissel will pull a shock result, knocking Frontale from their perch atop the league and making a big statement in the process.
Player to Watch
Yoshito Okubo has been rightfully getting plaudits for his fast start to the season, but he’s not all alone as the league’s top scorer. Daizen Maeda is right there with him, having notched five goals too.
The striker has not scored mind blowing goals. There are not rapped strikes from 25 yards or brilliant, mazy runs. He’s simply been exceedingly smart and efficient, roaming the box for space and making no mistakes with his finishes. And as Maeda has surged, so have Yokohama F·Marinos. The team lost their opening match of the season, but have taken results ever since and it’s been led by a deadly attack that has picked up three goals in each contest.
Right now, there is no more dangerous attack than Marinos’ and no more dangerous attacker than Maeda. Tokushima Vortis are visiting Yokohama on Wednesday and you know their tactics will center on stopping Maeda, but that may not matter because he’s looking unstoppable right now.
Storyline to Watch
It’s still early in the season, but we’re already seeing Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus make clear they are going to be at or near the top of the table. Anyone who makes a list of teams set to compete for those top four will start with those two, but what about after them?
Sagan Tosu have looked good, but haven’t played any other top teams yet. Marinos are running red hot and now making a charge. Cerezo are a goal machine, but also conceding plenty as well, while Vissel Kobe have been strong and Sanfrecce Hiroshima are without a loss.
The group of teams competing for the top four spots is deep and talented, but it’s unclear how many of them are going to stay in the fight all season and whether there are any other teams who might establish themselves as a clear favorite for one of those Champions League places. Every week is an opportunity to get a little more clarity, though.