J.League Match Preview: Antlers head to Sapporo looking to keep pace in title race

J.League Match Preview: Antlers head to Sapporo looking to keep pace in title race

Kashima Antlers’ push for a record ninth title continues on Saturday at 14:00 JST when they take on Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in a match that will be shown live on JLeague.co and broadcasters around the world.

Just three points off the top of the table in third, Kashima are very much in the title race, but tightening up the defense will be key to making up that gap. The Antlers have conceded 17 goals, six more than Vissel Kobe and FC Machida Zelvia just ahead of them, and Kashima know improvement in that regard is necessary if they want to end their eight-year title drought in 2024 with a ninth championship.

The good news for the Antlers is the attack is clicking; Yuma Suzuki is in terrific form and his seven goals have him tied for second in J1, while new signing Aleksandar Čavrić is finding his form and is up to five tallies.

Antlers’ excellence going forward makes them an awfully difficult opponent for Sapporo, who have struggled all season long at keeping the ball out of their net. Manager Mihailo Petrović has started to see improvement in recent weeks, with Consadole coasting to a clean sheet and home victory against Júbilo Iwata on May 15th, but they remain second from the bottom, with signs of a turnaround very far from confirmed.

If the Northern Owls can pull off an upset against the traveling Antlers, there may yet be hope for this team to turn a new leaf and escape the drop, but it won't be easy against a Kashima team that has championship number nine in their sights.