Kawasaki Frontale are just a point back of first place Yokohama F·Marinos, putting them in the mix for their fourth title in the last five years. That’s an astounding chase that would be arguably the greatest run in the history of the league, and that chase picks up against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on Saturday after a two-week break for international games.
It wasn’t long ago that Frontale were top of the league, but they lost their last two matches and fell out of first. While their defense has not been its typically excellent self of late, the much bigger issue is their attack, with the defending champions scoreless since May 18.
There is little reason to believe that drought will continue. Frontale simply have too many dynamic attacking players, including Japan’s recent goalscorer Miki Yamane and last season’s Top Scorer Leandro Damião. The Brazilian has only three goals this season, well off his usual pace, but he’s likely to find his goalscoring form before long.
Thai star Chanathip Songkrasin has also had a tough start to the campaign, but this weekend will provide extra meaning to kickstart his Frontale form. A force in the Consadole attack for many years, Songkrasin joined Kawasaki in the offseason in a blockbuster move that stole headlines across Asia but has taken some time to deliver results.
Consadole will be hoping those results don’t come this weekend, but it will take more than hope if they want to bat back the champs. It will be a mighty test for Sapporo’s defense, which has allowed more goals than any team in the league.
Amid all the struggles, it’s been an exciting week in Hokkaido, with the addition of new loanee Supachok Sarachat bringing increased media attention to Consa. While the Thai attacker will not be available this weekend, his arrival could be a lift to a club that has recently struggled and potentially faces a difficult task in stopping their former Thai star on Saturday.
Will Frontale’s attack find their groove again? Or will Consadole showcase an improved defense that sets them up for an excellent second half of the season? We’ll find out this weekend as the Meiji Yasuda J1 League returns.