J1 Match of the Week: Massive stakes as first place Vissel meet relegation fighting Bellmare

J1 Match of the Week: Massive stakes as first place Vissel meet relegation fighting Bellmare

Vissel Kobe are back on the pitch this weekend and, as has been the case for weeks now, the pressure is on the Ushi. They are still on top of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League and the first title in club history is in their sights. The stakes could not be higher and all eyes will be on Vissel this Saturday at 2 pm JST when they meet Shonan Bellmare in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

Thus far, Vissel have been completely unbothered by the spotlight that is fixed on the league leaders. They’ve dealt with the expectations laid upon them at a club that has never reached these heights before with aplomb. At every step, they have met the moment.

Of course, all of that is made much easier when you have unabashed stars leading the way like Yuya Osako and Yoshinori Muto. Osako’s 20 goals top the league and have him in pole position to claim J1 MVP honors, while no player in the top flight has been as much of a threat to score or create as Muto, who has nine goals and 10 assists.

While Osako and Muto have no doubt driven Vissel’s title push, they are hardly alone. At various points, different players have stepped up with massive performances that the Ushi needed.

Last week, Daiju Sasaki did the honors with a brace that proved to be the difference in a 3-1 win over Kashima Antlers. It took him up to seven goals on the season, production that is matched by the fine work that the midfielder is doing all over the pitch in a breakout campaign for the massively talented player.

While the focus is always on the league leaders, Bellmare are not short on attention or pressure right now either. They find themselves in the heart of the relegation battle, sitting just one point clear of the drop zone as they try to secure a club record seventh straight season in the top flight.

Shonan have found good form at the right time in their fight for survival, winning three of their last four to climb out of the J1 cellar. A suddenly impenetrable defense has been the key, allowing just two goals in their fine four-match stretch.

Nothing will test Bellmare’s good form like the league leaders, but if they can manage a result in this match, they’ll have made a big statement in addition to moving a step closer to safety.

Whether at the top of the table or the bottom, this result is going to be massive across the league. Will Vissel move one step closer to a historic title, or will Bellmare edge closer to another season in the top flight? Find out this weekend live on the J.League International YouTube channel.