Will AFC Champions League football propel Vissel?
Vissel Kobe are still winless in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League with three draws and three losses from their first six matches of the season. That has them second from the bottom in the table, an especially troubling position considering they’ve played two more matches than most other teams in the league. But Vissel had a breakthrough in midweek action, beating Melbourne Victory in a thrilling 4-3 match to advance to the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
It’s time for the Ushi to turn around their league campaign and a great win in Asian competition might be just what they need to turn things around. They did the first part, now they have to keep that momentum this weekend when they Shimizu S-Pulse.
Can Peter Utaka keep up his incredible form?
Peter Utaka is 38 years old and embarking on his first J1 season since 2017, having spent the last four years in J2. That age and absence from top flight football is not usually a recipe for success, but Utaka is no usual player. He’s a wiley striker whose brilliant movement in the box allows him to find space and opportunities, while his excellent physical conditioning keeps him up with the pace of play even as he ages.
After four matches this season, Utaka has scored three of Kyoto Sanga’s four goals and two of those three have been result-deciding goals. He’s been excellent in 2022 and absolutely vital to Sanga’s strong start to the season. As Utaka goes, so go Sanga.
Kashiwa try to stay hot
Kashiwa Reysol have nine points from four matches, good for third place. In fact, among teams who have played four matches this season (most of the league), Reysol are top. They’ve done it with a solid attacking output, having scored six goals, and a reliable defense, conceding just two. There’s nothing extraordinary happening in Kashiwa, simply a good team playing solid football.
This weekend, Reysol will take their good form to Toyota Stadium for a clash with Nagoya Grampus. Nagoya have a typically strong defense so it will be worth keeping an eye on whether Reysol, with Douglas up front, and Matheus Sávio and Tomoya Koyamatsu behind him, can cause problems. Grampus also have a more dynamic attack this season, providing the Reysol back line with a bigger challenge.
Reysol have to be thrilled with their start, but every week is a new challenge if they are to stay among the top teams and this week will be no different in Nagoya.