Match of the Week: Marinos, Kashima meet as title chasers

Match of the Week: Marinos, Kashima meet as title chasers

Yokohama F·Marinos are the title holders and Kashima Antlers are a very talented team with the richest history in the entirety of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. Before the season, they were two of the favorites to take the top flight crown, but, after four weeks, they are outside the top three and are now taking aim at the top instead of standing at the summit.

On Saturday, the two teams meet at Nissan Stadium in a big match that would catapult the winner straight into the title fight they spent the winter planning for.

Marinos looked the part of title frontrunner with two wins to start the season, but a draw and loss have followed and it’s become clear that they are still working through replacing some of the outstanding players who have departed in recent years.

Most notably, Marinos have struggled in transition without Tomoki Iwata. The 2022 J.League MVP’s absence was always going to be a challenge for the Tricolor and, while there is plenty of talent in the squad, sorting out exactly how they are going to play without Iwata remains a work in progress.

It’s only been four matches so none of this is especially concerning yet. It’s been more of an early bump in the road than anything else and they’ve gotten some good performances to buoy them through this early period.

Anderson Lopes has already notched two goals, while Élber has been his typically scintillating self, while Ryotaro Tsunoda’s outstanding form has landed the young player his first call up to the Japan national team.

It’s only a matter of time before Marinos get the train moving at full steam, but Kashima will be doing their best to ensure that the Tricolor’s resurgence waits at least another week.

Antlers have two wins, a draw and a loss, just like Marinos, but their route to seven points hasn’t been quite the same.

Kashima have mostly been very good, with their lone loss coming against a good Kawasaki Frontale team, who scored twice from the 89th minute on to turn around a game Antlers very nearly had three points from. They also had to settle for a draw last week, but only after a red card left them down a man for 40 minutes.

All in all, Kashima have played well, but have suffered due to bad luck and a couple bad decisions.

One of those bad decisions will cost them this against Marinos, as Kaishu Sano sits following his sending off last week, but Kei Chinen and Yuma Suzuki have formed a dangerous front line, while the defense is gelling nicely.

It’s easy to see Marinos or Kashima winning the title this season, but some dropped points have them playing catch up early on. A win would be massive for either team’s title hopes, so who will come out ahead at Nissan Stadium?

Tune into the J.League International YouTube channel on Saturday at 2 pm JST and find out!