Two of the four Meiji Yasuda J.League sides playing for continental supremacy booked their spots in the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League before the final matchday of the group stage. Urawa Reds and Vissel Kobe are guaranteed to advance in the competition, while Yokohama F·Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale are in position to join them in their group-stage finales.
Urawa won big in their Matchday 5 contest, blistering Singapore’s Lion City Sailors, 6-0. Yusuke Matsuo scored two goals to lead the way for the Reds, who are joint-top of Group F with Republic of Korea side Daegu FC. The Sailors are still in play to advance as a top-two team, along with Daegu, but match-ups and tiebreakers have guaranteed Urawa at least a second-place finish in the group and one high enough to book their spot in the knockout stages.
Vissel did not play on Matchday 5, but they are top of Group J still and assured of finishing there or as a top runner-up.
Marinos had a crucial win of their own, topping Vietnam’s Hoàng Anh Gia Lai FC, 2-0. Marcos Júnior scored early and Shinnosuke Hatanaka added one late to deliver the Tricolor the victory. Marinos are now top of Group F, one point ahead of K League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
While those two teams are assured of finishing as the top two teams in their groups, the Tricolor may not advance as a second place team if they lose against Jeonbuk on Matchday 6. That puts the pressure on Marinos to secure a result, or they may be at the mercy of others in the competition.
Frontale fell to Republic of Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, 3-2, on Matchday 5 despite a brace from Leandro Damião, leaving themselves with work to do in the group stage finale. They are in third place in Group I, two points off Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim FC and Ulsan, who are joint top. Crucially, JDT and Ulsan play on the final matchday, giving Frontale a great chance to advance with a win in their contest.