Kawasaki Frontale’s 2023 campaign has not gotten off to the start they envisioned.
They’re already dropped five points, which didn’t happen until Matchweek 6 last year, or Matchweek 24 in 2021. Toss in a J.League YBC Levain Cup defeat and Frontale, who have won four of the last six titles, have just one win from four this season.
Nobody is pressing the panic button within the first month of the season, but expectations are very high in Kawasaki, where competing for titles is the goal every year. That means they need to find their form and start racking up points before the top teams put too much space between them.
Frontale’s quest to get on track takes them north this week as they visit Albirex Niigata, the newly-promoted side that has yet to take a defeat in 2023.
Albi have been terrific in their first three matches back in the top flight, scoring two goals in each contest. They’re the only club to score multiple goals in each game this season and they’ve done it with the whole team chipping in. Shunsuke Ota has scored twice, with four other players each adding a goal apiece.
The question for Frontale will be whether they can stem the Albi attack. There were concerns coming into the season about how they would replace departed captain Shogo Taniguchi and matters haven’t been helped by injuries and suspension, which have ravaged the Frontale back line. The result is three league matches and no clean sheets, plus three goals put on them in the cup.
The key to Frontale’s turnaround comes at the back and now is as good a time as any to find that sturdy defense that led them to so many trophies in recent years, but Albi will not make it easy.
With a win and two draws to start their season, excitement in Niigata is sky high and the Albi supporters are sure to make for a raucous atmosphere on Saturday. Will Frontale break through and restart their title push, or will Albi keep their unbeaten streak going in a dream promotion back to J1?
Tune in on Saturday at 2 pm JST on the J.League International YouTube channel and find out!