J.League Match Preview: Zelvia aiming to bounce back against FC Tokyo

J.League Match Preview: Zelvia aiming to bounce back against FC Tokyo

FC Machida Zelvia suffered their first major setback of the season last week, but they are still right in the heart of the title race. They’ll be looking to bounce back on Sunday at 15:00 JST when they take on FC Tokyo in a match that will be shown live on JLeague.co and broadcasters around the world.

Machida got off to a phenomenal start in their maiden Meiji Yasuda J1 League campaign, drawing their opener before rattling off four straight wins. They leapt to the top of the table, a position they held until falling to last year’s champions, Vissel Kobe, last week.

Zelvia’s early season success was not the product of an individual superstar but rather the impressive team play and ability to see out results that we have come to expect from manager Go Kuroda's sides.

While winger Yu Hirakawa was awarded the first Konami Monthly MVP of the season for his sterling play in February and March, it is equally the defense that has catapulted Zelvia into the J1 elite, with a trio of clean sheets already in 2024.

Even following last week's 2-1 loss to Vissel Kobe at the national stadium, Machida remain just two points off leaders Cerezo Osaka.

FC Tokyo are in a bit of a different place. They’re ninth in the table with an attack as good as any in the league, but a defense that has conceded more goals than any team in the top half.

FCT boss Peter Cklamovski will have some decisions to make this weekend when faced with the dynamism of Zelvia. He will need to shore up some of the gaps and individual defensive errors that plagued his team during the first half of last week's epic 2-2 draw with Tokyo Verdy and also figure out whether to start Keita Endo, who came off the bench to score a brace.

Most importantly, though, he will need to find his most balanced XI to compensate for the loss of Ryotaro Araki and Kuryu Matsuki, two of the J.League's best young outfield players who are away at the AFC U23 Asian Cup in Qatar.

Zelvia are used to staring up at FC Tokyo looming over them in the capital, but these days the relationship is a bit more complex; this weekend, it will be Machida with far more figured out and FCT with more questions to answer.

Tune in live to find out if they can answer them.