The AFC Champions League resumes with Matchday 2 of the group stage this week and the pressure is on Yokohama F·Marinos, who need a big result.
The Tricolor have been struggling in the league and cup of late, including a 4-2 home loss to South Korea’s Incheon United in the opening group stage contest. Now they head to China to play Shandong Taishan knowing that if they don’t turn things around, it will be a steep uphill climb to get into the knockout stages.
The good news for Marinos is their vaunted attack has started to find its legs again. If they can score like they have for most of this year, they will feel good about their chances, but Shandong will be a tough test because they’ve been playing well and sit second in the Chinese Super League.
The Meiji Yasuda J.League’s three other Champions League participants are under less pressure after each of them got results in their group stage openers.
Second division Ventforet Kofu went down to Australia and managed a very good draw with Melbourne City. They went toe-to-toe with the A-League’s best and very nearly won, proving that they are up for this Asian challenge. Now they welcome Thailand’s Buriram United to Japanese shores for a match at the Japan National Stadium, giving Ventforet the big stage they’ve earned.
Reigning Asian champions Urawa Reds also drew in their opener, as they hit late to steal a point away to China’s Wuhan Three Towns. Now they return to Saitama, where they were so successful en route to the continental crown a year ago. With their outstanding defense leading the way and the experience of winning the tournament a year ago, Urawa are very confident and will expect nothing less than three points with Vietnam’s Hanoi FC visiting on Matchday 2.
Finally, Kawasaki Frontale get back in action after a very impressive 1-0 win away to Malaysia Johor Darul Ta’zim in their first match. The defense was especially good and the red hot Marcinho was all they needed to take full points. Now they return home, where a fervent crowd will be behind them and hope they can get past the class of the K League, Ulsan Hyundai. It’s a massive task for Frontale, but a win here would put them in full control of Group I so all eyes will be on Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium.