Andrés Iniesta is a 37-year-old football icon who has accomplished as much as almost any legend of the sport.
From FIFA World Cups, to UEFA Champions Leagues, he’s done it all - and his move to Vissel Kobe has been one more smashing success, helping lift the club to their greatest heights ever.
Ryotaro Araki? He was three years old when Iniesta won his first trophy at FC Barcelona.
But Araki is the reigning Meiji Yasuda J1 League Rookie of the Year, an honor bestowed upon the 20-year-old after scoring 10 goals and ranking among the league’s top five in assists last season. He is a bright young star in Japan, on the opposite end of the career spectrum as Iniesta, but just as likely to win his team a match as the Spanish icon.
This weekend, the wisened old king takes on the young prince as Vissel host Kashima.
The Antlers attack has yet to find its free wheeling form in the early part of the season, but they have still scored four goals in three matches after Araki’s game-winning tally last week. They’ve been unlucky, striking the post and just missing on quality chances. Those goals are going to come, though, and Kashima are hoping that starts this weekend.
Vissel are in a similar boat, needing their attack to kick it into gear, but also to sort out their defense. They’ve scored just three and conceded seven in five contests, managing just three draws to put them in the bottom three of the table. The midfield hasn’t been the issue, especially last weekend when Iniesta helped lead a strong performance in the center of the pitch, but the finishing has been spotty at best and the defense has yet to find the organization that thrust them towards the top a year ago.
Will the youngster help push Kashima higher? Or will the veteran help right the ship in Kobe? We’ll find out this weekend when Araki and Iniesta clash.