Frontale try to chase down Marinos
Kawasaki Frontale’s quest to win a third straight Meiji Yasuda J1 League title and their fifth in the last six years comes down to the last five matches. They are five points back of Yokohama F·Marinos, which means they will require nothing short of excellence down the stretch to lift the trophy once again.
Frontale’s final push takes them to Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo this weekend, where they will meet a team that has not lost in their last three. The leaky defense that plagued Consa for much of the season has disappeared and Frontale will have a tough task to win all three points.
While Frontale are busy in Sapporo, Marinos will be taking on a Nagoya Grampus side that has gone four in a row unbeaten.
With all the makings for two difficult encounters, this weekend's action could determine whether we have an even tighter title race or a team with one hand on the trophy.
Can Cerezo stay hot?
Cerezo Osaka’s international break wasn’t so much of a break - they had two J.League YBC Levain Cup semi-final legs to play. And the Sakura played terrifically, throttling Urawa Reds to book their spot in the final.
Not only are Cerezo bound for a cup final, but they are also unbeaten in their last three in the league. They’ve hit great form at the right time, sitting in fourth place, only three points off of third with a match in hand. And that third position is vital because it would guarantee the Sakura a return to the AFC Champions League next season.
Cerezo host relegation battlers Shonan Bellmare this weekend, a match that has a vital three points on offer for both sides. If the Osaka side can keep it going and win yet again, they’ll put themselves in position to take their cup prowess to Asia in 2023.
Three points are king
The Meiji Yasuda J1 League battles are tight across the board — for the title, AFC Champions League places, and even relegation survival — and with such fine margins the difference between going for a win and settling for a draw could be massive.
Last matchday, six games ended in draws, keeping much of the status quo intact as two thirds of the league table settled for the same haul.
For many, a draw won't cut it anymore — and that goes for defending champions Kawasaki, who are still aiming to catch Marinos in the home stretch.
For teams locked in a late stalemate, the prospect of two extra points is now mouthwatering — and this matchweek could see teams start to adventurously push for that extra goal in ways they previously would not have.