J1 Match of the Week: Sanfrecce try to keep pace in title race against dangerous Frontale

J1 Match of the Week: Sanfrecce try to keep pace in title race against dangerous Frontale

The race for the Meiji Yasuda J1 League title has been Vissel Kobe’s to lose in the early part of the season, with Yokohama F·Marinos lurking as champions in search of another crown and Nagoya Grampus’ excellent defense making them steady threats.

And then there’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

They’ve been quietly stalking the top three all season, with a five-match win streak in March and April catapulting them into the upper echelons of the league. The Viola enter Matchweek 16 just four points off first place and very much in the title race.

Pushing for the top spot requires racking up points each and every week, and this week that means winning at Kawasaki Frontale on Sunday at 7 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

It’s fitting that Sanfrecce’s journey to launch themselves fully in the fight for the summit takes them to Kawasaki. After all, Frontale have been the dominant club in J1 over the last six years, winning the title four times and playing some of the best football that the league has ever seen. Now, Sanfrecce have to beat them to take their crown.

Frontale are a conspicuous absence from the list of teams in the title race. They have simply fallen well short of the standard they set for years, with a league average attack and league average defense putting them fittingly right in the midtable.

There’s reason for optimism in Kawasaki, though. Leandro Damião is nearing a return from the injury that has kept him out all season and their retooled back line has been getting better.

Frontale are a team on the rise and are certain to be much better in the back half of the season than they were early on.

It is that team that stands between Sanfrecce and a massive three points. The team with title-winning experience on the up. But with Douglas Vieira continue to fire, be it starting or off the bench, the Viola know they can beat anyone.

Win in Kawasaki and the Viola’s title push is well and truly on.

Are they up to the task? Or will Frontale make clear that they are still here to make an impact on the race at the top?

Tune into the J.League International YouTube channel on Sunday and find out in another great J1 clash!