The J.League YBC Levain Cup is back in action this week as the Prime Stage kicks off a sprint to the finish. Four quarter-finals are on deck, with the first legs set for September 6 and the second legs four days later as eight teams battle for the coveted silverware.
Kashima Antlers have won a record six J.League Cup crowns and they’re hoping to make it seven this year. That will require getting past Nagoya Grampus in their quarter-final round, which is no small task considering the excellent form from Nagoya and the experience they earned en route to winning this competition two years ago.
The winner of that tie will face the winner of the tie between Avispa Fukuoka and F.C.Tokyo. The two sides just met over the weekend in league play, with Avi jumping out to an early lead and coasting to full points. If they can do that again against the capital club, they will be back in the semi-finals, having set a club record by making it that far in last year’s tournament.
Yokohama F·Marinos could be called the favorite to win the cup, seeing as they are sitting in second place, which is best of the eight sides left. The Tricolor are coming off consecutive disappointing losses, though, putting a lot of pressure on them to turn things around against a Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo team that is into the quarter-finals for the second season in a row.
The final tie sees Urawa Reds meet Gamba Osaka. The last time either made the final was back in 2016, when the Reds edged Gamba in penalties to win the competition. Now there’s a spot in the semi-finals on the line and the edge may reside with Urawa’s league-best defense.
This two legged quarter-final will determine the final four for October’s semi-finals, giving way to the November 4 final, when one team will add another piece of silverware to their trophy case.