J.League Match Preview: Zelvia look to stay on top against Avispa

J.League Match Preview: Zelvia look to stay on top against Avispa

FC Machida Zelvia are the surprise package of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, sitting top of the table near the halfway point of their first-ever top-flight season. But the rest of the first division is now on the chase and would love nothing more than to take them down.

That includes Avispa Fukuoka, a team in the midst of a terrific season, who will look to upend Zelvia at Machida GION Stadium on Saturday at 15:00 JST in a match that will be live on JLeague.co and broadcasters around the world.

Zelvia have spent much of the season in first place, but they are only two points clear of Kashima Antlers at the moment. That puts them in a precarious position, as a single loss could drop them from the summit.

Machida's success is built upon outstanding balance; they are second in the league in goals scored and third in fewest goals conceded. Their attack features no singular star and their unique defensive structure demands commitment from all 11 players, beginning with the forwards.

Everyone contributes for Zelvia in every phase, and that is what has taken manager Go Kuroda's side to the top of the table.

Avispa have a defense nearly as good as Zelvia’s, having conceded just one more goal than their opponents, but their attack has lagged far behind. That has been the hurdle for Fukuoka in recent years, but the signing of Iranian striker Shahab Zahedi has aided their frontline and allowed them to take another step forward in 2024.

Avispa had never finished in the top half of the table until slotting into eighth place in 2021. Last season, they bettered that with a club record seventh-place finish.

Now, they are back in seventh, but level on points with sixth and a mere point back of fifth. Another club record finish is clearly on the table for this rapidly improving Fukuoka side.

To get there, Fukuoka will need to pull off some big results - and it could all start this weekend by taking down Zelvia. Will they secure the upset? Or will the league's top team continue to stand atop the J1 pack?

Find out live this weekend, wherever you are around the world.