Match to Watch
The start of the season has not gone as planned for Yokohama FC and Tokushima Vortis. Both teams find themselves in the relegation zone, but that just means when they meet on Sunday, they have a big opportunity to pick up three key points.
After a solid first top flight season in 2020, the Fulie hoped to get a little better in this campaign and establish themselves in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, but after five matches they are still without a point. The league’s worst defense is the biggest culprit, but they have to get better in the attack too.
Things have gone a little better for Vortis with two draws and a decent defense in their first season since getting promoted, but they are still without a win. The good news in Tokushima is the young Yuki Kakita is off to a good start with two goals, so they have someone to give them a spark up front.
Will Kakita be enough to deliver Vortis a long-awaited first victory of the campaign? Or will Yokohama FC find more of the form they showed a season ago and not just get their first point, but that first win? If these teams are going to be in the relegation fight to the end, how they perform against their fellow battlers might determine who stays in the top flight and who goes down.
Player to Watch
Ryotaro Araki may be the most exciting young player in the league this season. The 19-year-old has been spectacular on the outside of the Kashima Antlers midfield and already has four of the Ibaraki side’s five goals on the campaign—an outstanding output in just four matches, especially for a player withdrawn behind the frontline. Araki has also been influential in Kashima’s ball progression, possession retention, and solid defensive showing so far, turning himself into a cornerstone of this team’s play.
This weekend, Kashima take on Nagoya Grampus, who have won every match they’ve played in this young campaign and have only conceded once. To put it simply, this is going to be a very tall task for Kashima and if they are going to win, they’re going to need Araki to be excellent against Nagoya.
Storyline to Watch
It’s a given that the teams at the top of the table have been good. But a look at the top six and you’ll find teams who are all undefeated in their last three matches. There are only three draws in those 18 matches too, so the teams at the top aren’t just grinding out results - they’re racking up wins.
Of course, it’s still early and a good three matches can turn things very quickly. But keep an eye on those top six and see if they can stay hot and pull away from the field. Doing so could not only set up a dramatic fight for the title but also the top four race for AFC Champions League qualification.