Sanfrecce Hiroshima season preview: Will the Viola challenge for the title?

Sanfrecce Hiroshima season preview: Will the Viola challenge for the title?

Sanfrecce Hiroshima are back! After being the Meiji Yasuda J1 League’s dominant club for several years, they took a tumble, but the Viola had a fabulous 2022 and are now back among Japan’s best. What does 2023 have in store?

Last season

The first season under Michael Skibbe went great, with the Viola rising to third place and winning the J.League YBC Levain Cup.

Funnily enough, things didn’t start great for Sanfrecce. It took them six weeks to pick up their first win, but once they got going, they were as good as any team in the league. Makoto Mitsuta had his big breakout season with nine goals and eight assists to lead the way in the league, while Júnior Santos’ six goals paced everyone in the cup.

Goal for 2023

Sanfrecce have the history of success, with J1 titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015. They have the recent silverware, with last season’s J.League Cup. And they have proof they can compete with the very best, with their third place finish in 2022.

Simply put, there is no reason why Sanfrecce cannot crack the top two and even win the Meiji Yasuda J1 League title in 2023. Their goal is to go to the very top.

What to watch for

Skibbe built a very good first XI that is well organized and dynamic. The emergence of Mitsuta as a bonafide star gave the team a true match-winner that they needed to put them right up there with the best teams. His ability to dive in from the left, create from the center or even become a menace in the box is the type of varied danger that gives defenses fits.

The question for the Viola is whether they have the depth to not just provide more options in the league, but balance AFC Champions League play this season. Pieros Sotiriou won them the cup, but Sanfrecce will need more from the Cypriot in the league, and some of the reserves will have to lift their play if the Viola are going to challenge for the title.

If the first XI is settled and the big questions are in depth, though, you know you have a good team. Sanfrecce definitely have a good team.