Kashiwa Reysol have been the surprise team of the early season, rising to fourth in the table and sitting second in points per game. They’ve been tremendous, featuring the second-best defense in the league and an attack averaging 1.5 goals per game.
On Tuesday, that Kashiwa side will take on arguably the hottest team in the entire Meiji Yasuda J.League - Cerezo Osaka.
The Sakura are fresh off of a 4-1 thrashing of first place Kawasaki Frontale and that match came on the heels of a 6-1 win over Oita Trinita in the J.League YBC Levain Cup, giving them a 10-2 scoreline in their last 180 minutes. Takashi Inui and Hiroto Yamada have scored three goals each in those two contests, leading Cerezo to their brilliant run.
Cerezo haven’t just had two strong matches, though. They’ve shown growth all season and currently sit just one place below Reysol in the table, making this a top-five clash.
The question will be whether Reysol’s defense can hold up against Cerezo’s surging attack. They’ve allowed just three goals on the season and never two in a match. Playing with three centerbacks allows them to track runners from deep and ensure they are never outnumbered in their defensive box.
Cerezo like to exploit defenses in transition, forcing giveaways with their press, then hitting opponents before they can get organized. The clever movement and pace with which they attack troubles teams, even excellent defenses like Reysol. After all, a well organized defense only matters if you have time to organize the defense.
Will Reysol’s defense be able to keep Cerezo at bay, or will Inui and Yamada break through and keep the Sakura flying high?
We’ll find out in Osaka on Tuesday.