Match of the Week: Kashiwa, Kashima look to regain top form

Match of the Week: Kashiwa, Kashima look to regain top form

Kashima Antlers and Kashiwa Reysol have spent the entire season in the title race, with both getting off to fast starts and sitting near the top of the table throughout 2022. Now, the two of them will clash in Kashiwa on Saturday, with three crucial points on the line for a pair of clubs with championship ambitions.

Through 18 matches, Kashima are second in the table and Reysol are only four points back of them. With first-place Yokohama F·Marinos in excellent form, however, both will need to rack up wins and keep pace in the title race.

Reysol suffered a setback last week, dismantled by Marinos in Yokohama. It was a result that ended a three-match winning streak as their normally resolute defense was broken down. The back line remains one of the best in the league, though, and their home crowd should give them a massive boost as they resume their chase for the top three against Kashima.

The Antlers have also had challenges, enduring a rocky run of form as of late and winning just one of their last five. It's a difficult spell that has coincided with mounting injuries to some of their key players like Ryotaro Araki. The availability issues will get worse before they get better, with current J1 goals leader Ayase Ueda now off to Cercle Brugge in Belgium.

The true test of a top team, though, is how they bounce back from difficult times. Antlers and Reysol will both have to do it yet again this weekend in what should be a fierce contest with a lot on the line.