J1 Match of the Week: Nagoya, Antlers riding hot streaks ahead of National Stadium meeting

J1 Match of the Week: Nagoya, Antlers riding hot streaks ahead of National Stadium meeting

Kashima Antlers are winners of four in a row, giving them the longest winning streak in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League at the moment. Meanwhile, Nagoya Grampus have gone nine in a row without a loss, giving them the league’s longest unbeaten streak. That sets the stage for Sunday at 1:30 pm JST, when the two red hot sides will clash in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

Kashima’s terrific play of late has been keyed by an impenetrable defense. They have not allowed a goal in their winning streak, becoming the first team in J1 history to win four straight all via clean sheet.

It’s no surprise that Naomichi Ueda has been excellent at the heart of the Antlers defense, returning from Europe to rejoin Kashima and playing at the same top level he was at when he went abroad. What has transformed Antlers’ defense is the emergence of Ikuma Sekigawa, who has developed into a terrific player at just 22 years old and partners with Ueda for a fabulous center of defense.

Nagoya haven’t needed the same type of emergence from their back line. After all, they have sported one of the best defenses in the league for years and 2023 has been no different. No J1 side has allowed fewer goals than Grampus, who still have Mitchell Lengerak in goal with a back line anchored by the outstanding Shinnosuke Nakatani.

The question in this match is who will find a way through the great defenses. Yuma Suzuki has been spectacular for Kashima, scoring six goals, while Nagoya have leaned on Kasper Junker and his five goals. There is talent to make an impact going forward, but the back lines will make life tough on both sets of forwards.

With Nagoya sitting in third place, just three points off the top, and Kashima nipping at their heels in fifth place, this match has big implications for the table as well.

Phenomenal form, great teams from front to back and places at the top of the table at stake? You’re going to want to tune in for this one.