Vissel Kobe have been the best team in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League through five weeks. They’re first in the table, paced by the league-best attack and excellent defense, proving that they are back amongst the country’s top teams.
Now, coming off of the international break, the Ushi are tasked with protecting their place on top, and that begins with a trip to Kyoto Sanga on Saturday at 2 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.
Sanga are no slouches themselves, having won three in a row to take over fifth in the table. They have out-scored their opponents 8-1 in that span, exhibiting not just a winning form, but a dominant one that has completely overwhelmed anyone in their way.
With both teams faring so well in each box, the question of who has the upperhand Saturday may be determined by the midfields.
Sanga have excelled with Sota Kawasaki in particular taking on the lead role in the center. He’s been absolutely fantastic at just 21 years old and has gotten help from 22-year-old Shimpei Fukuoka on his right. Along with Shohei Takeda, Sanga have been able to be effective both defensively and going forward from the center of the pitch.
Vissel have leaned upon Shonan Bellmare loanee Mitsuki Saito and reliable veteran Hotaru Yamiguchi to lock down their midfield, but Andrés Iniesta made his season debut last weekend in cup action and could provide the Ushi another weapon in the midfield battle this weekend.
That Vissel and Sanga are playing so well and have set up this terrific match-up was no given after their struggles a year ago. Vissel spent most of the season in last place before surging late to avoid the drop, while Sanga were not far ahead and their status in the top flight was in doubt all the way to the end, when they prevailed via a draw in the promotion-relegation play-off.
Both teams have completely turned things around, though. They’re battling at, or near, the top of the league, and have their sights set on great things in 2023. That includes taking three points this weekend, in a match sure to thrill the global viewing audience on the J.League International YouTube channel.