J1 Match of the Week: Nagoya’s push for first takes them to high-powered Sapporo

J1 Match of the Week: Nagoya’s push for first takes them to high-powered Sapporo

Nagoya Grampus are just four points back of Vissel Kobe for the top spot in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, but their pursuit of first will be tested by high-powered Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo when the two sides meet on Saturday at 1 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

It’s been 13 years since Nagoya captured the J1 crown, but they got back in the mix in 2020 when they finished third. 2021 brought another high finish and the J.League YBC Levain Cup title, but they slipped to eighth last season.

Now, Grampus are right back in the thick of the title race.

As always, the defense is leading the way for Nagoya. Mitchell Langerak is as good as ever in goal and Haruya Fujii has taken the next step to outstanding centerback at just 22 years old. They’ve helped Grampus to the second-best defense in J1, making them real contenders to win the league.

Title contenders don’t just get it done on one side of the pitch, though. Nagoya have a reliable attack too, spearheaded by Kasper Junker and his seven goals. They have the sixth-most goals and have been trending upward, with an increasingly dangerous midfield asking more questions of opposing defenses.

Consa are unlikely to be up to the task of stopping Nagoya’s attack, ranking in the bottom three of goals allowed on the campaign, but their leaky defense isn’t much of an issue because their attack is downright unstoppable.

No team in the league has scored more goals than Sapporo’s 31, good for more than 2.2 per game. Yuya Asano leads the way with eight goals, second-most in the league, but Takuro Kaneko has six of his own to go along with four assists, while Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa has four goals and four assists.

You don’t build a league-leading attack with just one star. It requires a deep cadre of attackers that can unlock and punish a defense at any time, and Consa have just that.

Sapporo’s blinding attack has won them four of their last five matches and they’re sure to be a big problem for Nagoya. After all, their attack is a problem for anyone who comes to the Sapporo Dome, but Grampus are in a title race and challenging for the crown never comes easy.

Will the title chase win out, or will the sizzling attack reign supreme? Tune in on the J.League International YouTube channel and find out.