J.League Match of the Week: Title-chasing Kashima square off against red-hot Verdy

J.League Match of the Week: Title-chasing Kashima square off against red-hot Verdy

No team has won more J1 titles than Kashima Antlers, but they haven’t added to their haul of eight since 2016. They think this could be the year that snaps that skid and after a terrific run that has seen them win three straight and four of their last five, they’re all the way up to third in the table.

The next challenge in Kashima’s bid to add a record ninth J1 crown comes on Sunday at 13:05 JST when they take on Tokyo Verdy in a match that will be shown live on JLeague.co and broadcasters around the world.

Antlers’ recent run has been led by a red hot attack that has scored multiple goals in each of their last four games. The ever-reliable Yuma Suzuki has two goals and three assists in the last three, while new signing Aleksandar Čavrić has been a force of late and added his fourth goal of the season to go along with an assist on Monday.

With Suzuki and Čavrić leading the way, Kashima have an attack that can put a scare into any defense, but they can also defend. Ikuma Sekigawa has continued to prove himself as one of the best center backs in the league at just 23 years old.

Sekigawa leads a terrific crop of youngsters that includes 23-year-old Kaishu Sano, who has already put himself in the Japan national team picture, and rising 22-year-old right back Kimito Nono.

With Kashima’s crop of #NextGenJLEAGUE stars thriving, along with the experienced Suzuki, Čavrić and Naomichi Ueda, and it’s no wonder that Antlers are looking like one of the league’s best teams.

Expectations aren’t quite as high at Verdy, even if they do have a proud history of their own that includes a pair of J.League crowns in the Kawasaki era. These days, it's more about J1 survival than supremacy but the newly-promoted side have impressed so far in their top-flight return.

Verdy are riding a nine-game unbeaten streak and have won their last two, taking them up to 10th in the table and just six points back of Kashima.

Young stars have been the driving force of Verdy’s success, with 23-year-old Yudai Kimura ranking sixth in J1 with five goals, followed by 22-year-old Itsuki Someno on four goals and 22-year-old Fuki Yamada on three.

For Verdy to make the leap to J1, lean on young players like they have and not just remain out of the relegation zone but shine in the mid-table is a phenomenal accomplishment for manager Hiroshi Jofuku and his team.

Now, the question is how far can Verdy go? If they can manage a result at Kashima and take their unbeaten streak to 10, there's no telling what this team is capable of.

Will they take that run to double digits? Or will Kashima take three crucial points in pursuit of a record ninth title?

Tune in anywhere in the world and find out in this must-watch J.League Match of the Week!