Match of the Week: Crucial test for Iniesta and Vissel against Júbilo

Match of the Week: Crucial test for Iniesta and Vissel against Júbilo

There’s no way around it: It’s been a difficult start to the season for Vissel Kobe.

Bottom of the table after 14 games, Andrés Iniesta and his team are desperate for a way out of the relegation zone, particularly after a difficult 2-1 loss last weekend to Shonan Bellmare, who are fellow candidates for the drop.

Despite their troubles, Vissel are still a good team. They have proven top level players alongside Iniesta like Yoshinori Muto and Yuya Osako, are a year removed from a top three finish and even flashed excellence this season when they advanced to the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League.

But The Ushi need to demonstrate their quality domestically in 2022 and it needs to come soon. They are nearing the midway point of the season, with a massive hole they must climb out of to avoid the drop.

That hole could get deeper this week, starting on Wednesday with a visit from a team also treading water in Júbilo Iwata.

Iwata sit 15th in the table, the final fully safe place in J1, but only by a point. The difference for Júbilo is they are a newly promoted team who entered the season knowing that their fight would be to stay up. They’ve proven that to be the case in 14 games, but have given themselves reason to believe they can win that fight.

Despite selling Lukian, last season’s leading scorer in J2, Júbilo are the fifth highest scoring team in the league as Yuto Suzuki has paced a dangerous attack. They need to improve at the back, but they have a clear strength to lean upon up front.

Will that attack be able to break down Vissel? Or will the Ushi begin to move their way up the table?

Whenever two teams from the relegation fight meet, it is a massive match — even in May — and these points could be vital for retaining J1 status next season.