We're ready for another Meiji Yasuda J1 League matchweek! Here are our three things to watch for...
Kashima take another crack at first place
Kashima Antlers had the chance to take over first place last matchweek, but could only manage a draw so they held firm in second. They get another chance to jump into the top spot on Friday at Cerezo Osaka, though.
Kashima are a point behind Kawasaki Frontale and this is their game in hand, so victory will put them two points clear atop the table and it will be thanks to defense that has given up less than a goal per game.
The Antlers’ fearsome attack can rely too much upon Ayase Ueda and Yuma Suzuki at times as they wait for Ryotaro Araki to kick into top form, but the defense is so good that some sputters up front haven’t been a problem. And if the problem for a team is they have two tremendous attackers while a generational young talent has only been pretty good, it’s no wonder they are an exceptional side poised to take first place.
Who will take full points?
Six of the last eight Meiji Yasuda J1 League contests have ended in draws, with five of those being of the scoreless variety. For some of the teams involved, the point they took is a job well done, but draws are points missed for others. It’s hard to get some separation or make big jumps in the table one point at a time, so who’s going to break through this week with wins?
F.C.Tokyo is the prime example of a good team that had struggled to take points lately. They are undefeated in their last four matches and sit in sixth place, but their last three have only been draws and it has cost them a chance to be challenging for the top. Some wins in the next few weeks can get them up there, though.
Someone needs to jumpstart the Avispa attack
Avispa Fukuoka have built their team around good, organized defending and opportunistic attacking ever since being promoted back to J1. Last season’s excellent eighth-place finish was the result of a good defense and they’re defending well again this season, with just six conceded. That has not been good enough, though, because they have only scored four goals. As a result, they are down in 14th place.
Avispa need to jumpstart their attack and start being able to reliably score at least a goal a game. They brought in Lukian in the winter thinking he could be the goalscorer they needed, but he’s yet to score in J1 and nobody on the team has scored more than one goal so far.
That has to change or Avispa will end up in a relegation fight.