The big question coming into the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE season was whether anybody would be able to challenge the defending champions Kawasaki Frontale for the title. As we head into Matchweek 22, it appears as if the answer might be yes if Yokohama F·Marinos can continue their incredible form.

Marinos lost their season opener to Frontale but have lost just one match since. They’ve been victorious in five straight in the league now, including a sensational win over Kashiwa Reysol last weekend after going down to 10 men. So, while it looked like Frontale might run away with the title, Marinos now find themselves just 12 points back with two matches in hand and the champions set to play in Yokohama on the last day of the season.

To put it concisely: the league is very much in play for Marinos.

To make this title challenge happen, the Yokohama side need to take advantage of their two matches in hand, the first of which comes this weekend when Avispa Fukuoka visit.

Avispa are in a very different situation from Marinos. While Marinos are in their best form of the season and moving up the table, Avispa have lost three straight and have fallen from fifth place to 10th. They’ve conceded two goals in every match during the losing streak and it’s been nearly two months since they’ve kept a clean sheet in the league.

Despite bad results and scorelines that have not been especially competitive, Avispa have not been without promise, though. They’ve played well for stretches in these matches, but have been let down in key moments. If they can tighten up some of the details and not make those untimely mistakes, they can very easily be back to the dependable team that flew all the way up to fifth place.

For Avispa to succeed against Marinos, it will be about limiting the space for Daizen Maeda and Ado Onaiwu to operate—an exceptionally tall task considering the two forwards have combined for 21 goals this season.

Will Avispa be able to slow down the Marinos machine, or will the home side continue their attack on the top of the table? Find out this weekend in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.