Nagoya Grampus seemed to be a competitor for the title race at the beginning of the past season, but gradually ran out of steam. The situation became so dramatic that they had to change manager Yahiro Kazama with Massimo Ficcadenti, who managed to avoid relegation. For this first full season under the Italian, Nagoya signed experienced players such as Hiroyuki Abe and Sho Inagaki. With a reinforced squad, they were mostly dominant against Vegalta Sendai in the opening match, but the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
While Mu Kanazaki returned from Sagan Tosu during the break, the 2018 J1 top scorer Jô left the club right before the restart. There were also some concerns over players’ conditions after Kanazaki and Langerak tested positive for COVID-19 — both have now recovered. In any case, Grampus can always count on speedy attack and solid defence built in the style of Ficcadenti.
Langerak is the undisputed regular goalkeeper of Nagoya since his arrival in 2018. The Australian international, capable of crucial saves, tested positive for COVID-19 while the league was on hold, but already recovered and returned to normal training.
Abe has three J1 titles under his belt, with Gamba Osaka in 2014 and with Kawasaki Frontale in 2017 and 2018. The Japanese attacker, who boasts powerful dribbling and accurate shots from long distance, already introduced himself to his new supporters with a goal in the first game of the season.