Andrés Iniesta’s time in the Meiji Yasuda J.League comes to a close this weekend as he pulls on the Vissel Kobe shirt for the final time on Saturday at 7 pm JST when the Ushi take on Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.
Iniesta joined Vissel in 2018 and had some spectacular moments, while also growing the sport throughout Japan and becoming an inspiration to so many. The Spanish legend also led the club to its first-ever major trophy in 2019, winning the Emperor’s Cup and booking their spot in the AFC Champions League for the first time as well. He followed that up with a second trophy in 2020, capturing the Super Cup.
Now, Vissel are aiming for even more. They are right in the mix for the J1 crown.
The Ushi enter the weekend second in the league and only three points back of leaders Yokohama F·Marinos with a match in hand. They are squarely in the heart of the title race and arguably favorites to win Japanese club football’s highest honor.
If Vissel are going to build upon the foundation that Iniesta helped build in Kobe and win the league, they need to make the most of every weekend and that includes taking three points at home against Sapporo.
Consa are the highest scoring team in J1, making them a very dangerous opponent. Yuya Asano and Takuro Kaneko have eight goals apiece, making Sapporo a team no defense wants to face, but Consa’s own back line is leaky and that’s why they’re sitting ninth in the league instead of near the top with Vissel.
It’s not as if Vissel struggle for goals themselves. Yuya Osako’s 12 goals puts him second in the league and Yoshinori Muto has a league-leading eight assists to go with eight goals of his own, but the Ushi pair a great attack with the best defense in J1. That’s what has them knocking on the door of the title.
A win over Consa would not only boost Vissel title hopes, but it’d be the perfect send off for Iniesta. He helped put the first silverware in the trophy case and put them on the world stage. Now, can they take another step towards the summit of Japanese football in his farewell match?
Tune in on Saturday and find out on the J.League International YouTube channel.