J1 Match of the Week: Vissel put first place on the line against Urawa’s excellent defense

J1 Match of the Week: Vissel put first place on the line against Urawa’s excellent defense

Vissel Kobe are three weeks away from the Meiji Yasuda J1 League title and they hold their fate in their own hands. Sitting two points clear of the field, they know that three victories in their final three matches will deliver the first title in club history to Kobe. But there is still the pesky matter of those three matches, which begin on Sunday at 3 pm JST when they take on a very good Urawa Reds side in a contest that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

Fresh off the league taking a week off and likely aiding a Vissel team that has been surely stressed by the intensity of pushing for the title, this match up of top three teams should be an absolute treat.

Vissel, while featuring a very good defense, are an attack-first squad led by arguably the best duo anywhere in the J1. Yuya Osako is joint top of the league in goals with 21 and a favorite to win J1 MVP honors, while Yoshinori Muto’s nine goals and 10 assists make him one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league. That combination has led the Ushi all season long and because both players are both prolific and well-rounded enough to make an impact from all over the field, they are an absolute nightmare to defend.

If any team is going to keep the Osako and Muto duo in check, though, it is the league’s best defense. Urawa have conceded just 22 goals all season, five fewer than Vissel, who have the second-best mark in the league. Alexander Scholz and Marius Høibraten make up J1’s best central defense pairing and Shusaku Nishikawa has a claim to make the J1 Best XI in goal, giving the Reds everything they need to slow down even an attack as good as Vissel’s.

Urawa are not short on stakes either. They sit third in the table, six off of Marinos for second place and the automatic place in the AFC Champions League Elite that comes with it, while they still have to protect their current position, which would earn them a place in AFC Champions League 2.

On one hand, it’s a high flying offense and the chance to win a historic league title. On the other, it’s the reigning Asian champions trying to earn a place back in the continent’s top tournament with a defense that has been nearly impenetrable.

It’s a clash you won’t want to miss on the pitch, or for the impact it has on the table, and you don’t have to because Vissel vs. Urawa will come to you live on the J.League International YouTube channel.