Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 30

Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 30

Marinos aim to maintain their lead at the top

Yokohama F·Marinos got a little breathing room on Wednesday, beating Kyoto Sanga while Kawasaki Frontale slumped to a draw against Nagoya Grampus. Now the Tricolor’s lead atop the Meiji Yasuda J1 League table stands at five points with only six matches to play.

While Marinos can afford to drop a game between now and the end of the season, they certainly don’t want to do so this weekend when Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo visit Yokohama.

The Tricolor have been led by the league's best attack all season and there’s no reason to think that will change on Sunday. Consa have given up more goals than all but one team in the league, giving ex-Sapporo striker Anderson Lopes, Léo Ceará and the rest of Kevin Muscat’s team a golden opportunity to punish the back of the net and move closer to the title.

Thiago Santana in pole position for Top Scorer

Thiago Santana missed the start of the season with a fractured foot and by the time he made his debut in mid-April, many of the league’s top goal scorers had already put a few in the back of the net. And yet despite the slow, injury-induced start, the Brazilian now leads the Meiji Yasuda J1 League in goals with 11.

The Shimizu S-Pulse striker has been stellar since the start of July, scoring in seven of 11 matches. With Santana’s blazing form has also come great form for S-Pulse, taking them clear of the drop zone and up to 12th place.

S-Pulse travel to Fukuoka this weekend for a clash with an Avispa team that is desperate for points as they aim to avoid relegation, but the visitors will have the Top Scorer leader on their side. Advantage, S-Pulse.

The battle for fourth place

Is there a big difference between finishing in third place and fourth place? Well, it could be the difference between qualifying for next season’s AFC Champions League and not.

If the Emperor’s Cup winner finishes in the top three of the table, which automatically qualifies for the Champions League, then the fourth place finisher will also go to the Asian championship. With third-place Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Emperor’s Cup semi-finals, fourth place just might go on to the Champions League, so the battle for fourth place has plenty on the line.

Cerezo Osaka qualified for the continental championship this way in the 2020 season and currently hold fourth with 47 points, but Kashima Antlers are a single point back and Kashiwa Reysol are in the fight too with 44 points.

As the season counts down to its final days and attention is focused on the title race and relegation fight, don’t forget to watch the battle for fourth place. It could prove to be massive and it’s sure to be heated.