A year ago, a match between Yokohama F·Marinos and Nagoya Grampus would be one of the most anticipated in the entire Meiji Yasuda J1 League calendar, with the mighty Marinos attack and the fearsome Grampus defense a thrilling clash of styles between two of the best teams in the league.
This season, only one of those clubs still fits the bill.
Despite the departure of joint Top Scorer Daizen Maeda, no side has scored more than Marinos in 2022 as Anderson Lopes has duly stepped in to lead the line.
Grampus, however, have not been the defensive stalwarts that fans are used to seeing. New manager Kenta Hasegawa’s arrival has been bumpy to say the least, as Nagoya have gone from AFC Champions League contenders to 14th place.
Strangely, however, their best defensive performance of the season came against league leaders Kashima Antlers, with goalkeeper Mitch Langerak and Co. keeping a clean sheet in Ibaraki last month.
This weekend they will hope to similarly rise to the occasion against a Yokohama team that is in fourth place, seven points off the Antlers in first, but with a game in hand and plenty of reasons to believe a title is not out of reach.
For Yokohama it's a chance to return to domestic play in style, as the Tricolor have spent the last few weeks in Vietnam playing in the AFC Champions League.
Having achieved their goal of qualifying for the knockout stages, they now have a domestic title push to attend to. That starts this weekend against a Nagoya side hoping to turn back the clock — and the Marinos strikeforce.