On Wednesday, Kawasaki Frontale sealed their third Meiji Yasuda J1 League title after thumping Gamba Osaka at home. With five match-days remaining, contention scorches for the ticket to the 2021 AFC Champions League (ACL). It is likely to be fogged until the final date for several are competing for the coveted spots.
After a bitter weekday defeat at Kawasaki, second-placed Gamba Osaka host Sagan Tosu. Recovery in both mentality and physicality is the key for Gamba, having conceded five-goal on Wednesday to the league giant. Tosu, likewise, suffered weekday defeat to Vegalta Sendai, causing their undefeated streak of eight. As their high-pressing game has been effective recently, it will be down to the forwards to break their silence.
On Saturday, Nagoya Grampus, sitting a rank below Gamba, will call Oita Trinita home. For Grampus, the current mood of two consecutive wins is an encouragement, while the rest on Wednesday is a plus. The Brazilian forward, Mateus, has netted in the last two outings and is likely to be pivotal again. On the other hand, Oita’s similar feat of winning streak came to a halt when they were edged out by Cerezo Osaka this week. As both outfits boast congealed defence, the pacey wingers will be the ones to make the difference.
Causing the melancholy at Oita, Cerezo invite Yokohama FC at home. This week, the Osakan outfit have finally paused their winless run of four matches with a positive signal of defensive improvement. The ex- Sevilla FC midfielder, Hiroshi Kiyotake will be assigned to spearhead the Cerezo return on Sunday. Yokohama, however, lost to Shimizu S-Pulse the same day. The 48-year-old manager Takahiro Shimotaira will need a different approach to the game after conceding two early goals in their previous outing.
With only a few match-days down on the calendar, fifth-placed Kashima Antlers are in trouble. The weekday fixture was mired by a miserable loss to Kashiwa Reysol and the defensive amendment will be the foremost priority after conceding four to Kashiwa – the highest concession of the season. Meanwhile, away side Urawa Red Diamonds were rested on Wednesday. Despite virtually bidding farewell to their ACL chances after a narrow defeat to Gamba last week, they seek to reward their ever-supportive fans with a win ahead of the 2021 season.
Undefeated for seven games, Sanfrecce Hiroshima house Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. Unlike the glorified run of streak sounds, they have been sharing the spoils for most of it – failing to find the net even to staggering Shonan Bellmare. Only goals would rectify their insignificant glory and the forwards are in dire need of a breakthrough. Or they could learn it the hard way from the visitors who walk in after thumping Shimizu with a 5-1 victory. New signing Hugo Vieira will add an extra edge to Hokkaido’s already fiery arsenals in Jay Bothroyd and Anderson Lopes.
After a shameful away defeat to Sapporo, Shimizu were quick to amend their mistakes on Wednesday (they defeated Yokohama). The change of manager has had a clear impact on their play with particular improvement in the attack, as they bagged ten goals in the last four matches. They will be eager to end the season on a better sitting on the ladder as they face Shonan who are winless for the past two games. Manager Bin Ukishima is given the tough task to maintain their shaky performance amid the tight fixtures.