Match of the Week: This season’s top team, Vissel, meets last season’s champions, Marinos

Match of the Week: This season’s top team, Vissel, meets last season’s champions, Marinos

Vissel Kobe have been the best team in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League this season, racing to the top of the table through eight weeks, but on Saturday at 7 pm JST they will face their toughest test yet when they meet the defending champions, Yokohama F·Marinos, in a match that will be streamed on the J.League International YouTube channel.

The Ushi are the league’s highest scoring team and no other club has conceded fewer goals, as they dominate in both boxes. They’re also coming off of arguably their most impressive win of the campaign, handing Kashima Antlers their worst-ever home loss as they rolled, 5-1.

Yoshinori Muto has been the catalyst for the Ushi’s terrific start, scoring three goals and adding a league-leading five assists. He’s been a danger in possession, on the counter and on set pieces, making him a threat at all times.

The top team in the league led by arguably the most in-form attacker in the league is the unenviable challenge that awaits Marinos. It is one that will be a good test of where they are and whether they are in a position to mount a title defense.

The Tricolor have not yet found their best form in 2023 and have only two wins in their last six matches, but they have begun looking better of late. The attack is kicking into another gear with Anderson Lopes leading the way as the Brazilian has scored three goals to go along with an assist in the last two matches. He’s now up to five goals on the season, tied for tops in the league.

The question will be whether they can slow down the red hot Ushi attack. Replacing last season’s J.League Player of the Year Tomoki Iwata was always going to be difficult and it’s shown up particularly in transition, but Marinos are getting better and they may have found their way forward.

Last season, this was the time of year that Marinos kicked into gear, winning 11 of 13. It was a stretch that propelled them into first place, which they did not give up the rest of the campaign en route to the title.

Will the Tricolor be able go on another win streak this season, beginning with a statement victory over the mighty Ushi? Or will Vissel show that last season is in the rearview mirror and they are the class of the league now?

Find out on Saturday in another tantalizing J.League showdown, which you can watch on the J.League International YouTube channel.