Match of the Week: Top two teams square off in derby to open 2023 J.League season

Match of the Week: Top two teams square off in derby to open 2023 J.League season

What’s more exciting than the first match of a new season?

How about when that match features the previous season’s champions against the No. 2 team in a derby.

That’s what we get when Yokohama F·Marinos square off against Kawasaki Frontale in a Kanagawa Derby to kick off the 2023 Meiji Yasuda J1 League season.

Marinos are the title holders, having surged in the spring and summer to the top of the table before holding off a feisty Frontale side on the final day of the season to claim their first title since 2019.

This isn’t the same Tricolor side as last season, with Tomoki Iwata having been plucked by Celtic FC in the Scottish Premiership and Léo Ceará having departed for Cerezo Osaka. They’ve regrouped by signing Takumi Kamijima, Takuto Kimura and Kenta Inoue, but how quickly will they integrate?

Frontale are not without their changes either, as captain Shogo Taniguchi departed and Leandro Damião and Yu Kobayashi both suffered injuries that will keep them out to start the season. That puts the pressure on additions Takuma Ominami and Taisei Miyashiro to fire right from the start.

Really, this match has it all.

Season kickoff excitement? Check.

Derby? Check.

Great teams? Check.

Roster turnover intrigue? Check.

And if last season is any indication, the three points on offer will be massive. Only two points separated first place Marinos from second place Frontale in 2022, so come Matchweek 34, it’s possible this result in Matchweek 1 determines the champion.

It’s a new season in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, and we’re kicking it off with a bang!