Vissel Kobe’s amazing season has brought them here - two points clear atop the Meiji Yasuda J1 League table with two matches to play. They are so close to capturing the very first title in club history, but they still have work to do if they want to bring that dream to life.
Their two-match run-in begins on Saturday at 2 pm JST when Nagoya Grampus visit Kobe in a contest that will be streamed live around the world on the J.League International YouTube channel.
When the final whistle goes, they could be celebrating a title; if second place Yokohama F·Marinos lose on Friday night, a Vissel victory would clinch the league and set off parties all over Kobe.
But while our eyes will be on the table and what Vissel can do, their focus will be squarely on Nagoya. Vissel control their own destiny and if they win out, they are the champions. They do not have to scoreboard-watch or keep their eyes on the table; they simply have to handle their business.
Nagoya will not make things easy on them. They sit fifth in the table and, as per usual, are led by a very good defense. With Mitchell Langerak in goal, Grampus have always been excellent in keeping teams out and this season is no different. If Vissel are going to capture those crucial three points, they’re going to have to find a way through the Nagoya defense.
Fortunately for Kobe, they have an absolutely deadly attack. Yuya Osako is top of the league with 22 goals on the campaign and Yoshinori Muto’s nine goals and 10 assists makes him one of the most well-rounded, threatening attackers in J1. With the two of them leading the way, Vissel walk into every match with full confidence, even if a good defense like Nagoya’s stands in front of them.
While attention has reasonably been focused up front for Vissel, their defense has also answered the call. They have conceded the second-fewest goals of any team in the league, helping keep clean sheets for the attack and round out this title-chasing unit.
Come Saturday afternoon, will Vissel be celebrating yet another win? And will it be a win that crowns them champions for the first time ever? Or will Nagoya spoil the party and guarantee the title is decided on a fervent final day?