Giants meet in Kashima
Kawasaki Frontale have been the dominant team of this era in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League, but no club has dominated the 30 years of J.League football like Kashima Antlers.
This weekend, those two clubs meet, but while they both have dreams of lifting another title this year, the way their campaigns started were not similar at all.
Both Frontale and Kashima have big ambitions in 2023, with a title very much in play for each of the giants, but they find themselves in different places after Matchweek 1. Frontale were beaten by Yokohama F·Marinos, a big blow by the defending champions, while Kashima put together a convincing and comfortable win against Kyoto Sanga.
As good as Frontale have been in recent years, starting six points down would put them in a sizable hole, while Kashima have a chance to make a major statement that they are ready to compete for the league’s crown again. And it all goes down at Kashima Soccer Stadium.
Was Shonan’s big opener a sign of things to come?
No team shone as bright as Shonan Bellmare in Matchweek 1. They went to Tosu, where they met a historically excellent defensive Sagan team, and walked away 5-1 winners.
Yuki Ohashi led Bellmare with a hat trick, but it was a total team effort. Shuto Machino was excellent and fed Ohash on two goals, the team racked up 21 shots, with 15 of them from in close, and they were the better team from the very beginning in both tackles and duels.
The question now is whether Bellmare’s brilliant first 90 minutes was a sign of things to come or simply one great game. We’ll get a sign this weekend when Yokohama FC visit Hiratsuka.
Bounce back candidates
Frontale have won four of the last six titles and took the championship race down to the last day a year ago. As a clear title challenger, their opening loss puts pressure on them to bounce back with a win in Matchweek 2, but who else is looking to turn things around after disappointing openers?
Cerezo Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima were both tipped as potential title challengers and both could only draw at home last week. The Sakura are away to Avispa Fukuoka this weekend, while the Viola host Albirex Niigata, as both try to take three points to back up big dreams for 2023.
Urawa Reds are another team looking to start on the right track after being beaten by F.C.Tokyo in Maciej Skorza’s first match in charge and things will not be easy this week when they play away to Marinos. The champions are going to present the Reds a major challenge, but with big aims in 2023 and the AFC Champions League final coming up, Urawa are looking to perform ASAP.