Match to Watch, Matchweek 1: Grampus, Vissel square off in early battle of top teams

Match to Watch, Matchweek 1: Grampus, Vissel square off in early battle of top teams

The fight for the final AFC Champions League place was fearsome in 2021. There were four teams who stayed in the battle for third place all the way to the end, when Vissel Kobe held off Kashima Antlers, Nagoya Grampus and Urawa Reds for the berth to the continental championship.

As we kick off the 2022 Meiji Yasuda J1 League season, we get a clash between two of those teams - Vissel and Grampus.

Both teams underwent some changes in the winter, but are expected to be right back in the fight for top places this season. This opening match might be a glimpse of what we could be watching all the way until the final matchday as two excellent teams go head-to-head.

Vissel will be hoping to show that they have the dynamic attack of a year ago - one they built and then reshaped midseason. The departure of Kyogo Furuhashi in the summer required big changes to stay a dangerous side going forward and the signing of Yoshinori Muto, alongside the rise of a midfield keyed by Andrés Iniesta, did just that.

Now Muto has had a full preseason to integrate with Vissel and could be even better. Iniesta, signed through the 2023 season, is ready for another terrific campaign, too. Will they be in top form and provide the elite level production to lead an Ushi team that has big dreams, starting against Nagoya?

Grampus, for their part, made a lot of changes in the summer. Kenta Hasegawa has come in as manager, a big change for a Nagoya side that was extraordinarily defensive-minded in recent years. With him has come some new attacking signings as they look to be a more complete team, but they still have the excellent Mitchell Langerak in goal who has made a name for himself with clean sheet records in recent years.

The question for Nagoya is how well they handle their stylistic transition and how quickly it comes together. If they can maintain their defense while adding some juice to their attack, Vissel are going to be in for a battle on Saturday and all season long.

The 2022 Meiji Yasuda J.League season is finally here and we have ourselves a tasty match featuring two of the top teams. You can’t ask for better than that on Matchweek 1.