Kashima Antlers are back on top of the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, a familiar place for the eight-time champions, but one they have not been in for a while. With momentum at their backs and back in first place, they face a big test in Matchweek 8 against Yokohama F·Marinos in Ibaraki.
Marinos haven’t yet found their stride in 2022, sorting through changes in defense and up front, but despite their struggles, they are still in fourth place and only three points back of Kashima. New pieces like Eduardo and Anderson Lopes have yet to fully integrate themselves in the team, but this new-look, rotated side has still managed to stay near the top.
While they are coming off a 2-0 loss in Hiroshima to Sanfrecce, this Marinos side have demonstrated what they are capable of already this season, with their 4-2 drubbing of Kawasaki Frontale one of the more impressive showings by any team this season.
Kashima won’t be intimidated by the challenge presented by Marinos, though. They have won five in a row, sit top of the table, and rank among the best attacks and defenses in the league.
Leading the way has been Ayase Ueda, whose five goals top the league. The 23-year-old has been progressively improving, going from four goals in his first partial season in J1, to 10 goals the next year, 14 last season and now five from seven matches in 2022. He’s ready for his breakout season that establishes himself as one of the best in the league, solidifies his spot in the national team for this year’s FIFA World Cup and puts him on the radar for big European clubs. Thus far, he’s doing exactly that.
Will it come together for Marinos this week or will Ueda run rampant again as Kashima stamp their place atop the table? We’ll find out at Kashima Soccer Stadium.