J1 Match of the Week: Top two battle as Vissel, Marinos meet in mega clash

J1 Match of the Week: Top two battle as Vissel, Marinos meet in mega clash

Vissel Kobe and Yokohama F·Marinos have been the top two teams in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League for nearly the entire season. They’ve spent much of the year trading places atop the table, as Vissel try to win the first title in club history and Marinos aim to repeat as champions.

Now, the two teams meet in the biggest match of the whole season as No. 1 vs. No. 2 meet on Friday at 7 pm JST in a clash you will not want to miss on the J.League International YouTube channel.

It’s not hard to see why Vissel and Marinos have paced the league, with the Ushi leading J1 by a mere single point. The Ushi have the best goal difference in the league, ranking second in both goals scored and goals conceded. The Tricolor counter with J1’s top attack and all the guile and experience one would expect from a team that topped the league just last season.

Both teams also feature bonafide superstars up front who are waging a battle for J1 Top Scorer and MVP parallel to their clubs’ fights for the title.

The Ushi’s Yuya Osako has led the league in goals for several months, putting together a season for the ages that has him sitting on 19 goals with six matches still to play. Anderson Lopes has been on the Vissel man’s heels for much of the season, but two goals last week also put him on 19 goals and the two now sit tied atop the scoring chart.

Which of the teams’ two stars prevails in the battle for Top Scorer could decide who wins the league, with the two teams so close together that every goal can be the difference between lifting the silverware and rueing a great season gone by empty.

Osako and Anderson Lopes hardly play alone, though. Vissel have leaned upon Yoshinori Muto to assist Osako, quite literally. His nine assists rank second in the league, while Marinos have Yan Matheus on nine assists too, as well as Élber and Kota Mizunuma among J1’s top five assist men.

It is that type of star power and dynamic playmaking that has powered these two clubs to the top of the table, but now the question may be whose defense can rise to the challenge. Both will be tested to the very maximum this weekend and which holds up strongest may be what decides both the match and the title.

The Tricolor will have the advantage of their home crowd behind them, the confidence of having won the reverse fixture earlier this season and the comfort in these big, late season battle for the title, but Vissel are the league’s most balanced team with arguably the top player in the league. They are sure to put together a phenomenal effort with history beckoning them closer as they aim to bring Japanese football’s highest honor back to Kobe for the first time. Plus, they have that one-point advantage, which could very well be what separates these two excellent, evenly matched teams by the end of the season.

It’s going to be a night for the ages in Yokohama as the best of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League is on display, with the highest stakes imaginable. Nissan Stadium will be rocking, stars will take center stage and you can watch the show live on the J.League International YouTube channel.