Three things to watch: Matchweek 11

Mon, 2 May 2022 - 16:00 JST
Three things to watch: Matchweek 11

Matchweek 11 is here in the 2022 Meiji Yasuda J1 League. Let's take a look at three things to keep an eye on...

Welcome to the title race, F.C.Tokyo

The title race seems to grow by the week and the newest team in the mix is F.C.Tokyo.

After a win over Gamba Osaka in a spectacular scene at the National Stadium, FCT travel to Avispa Fukuoka hoping to extend their unbeaten streak to six matches. That terrific run of points has lifted them to fourth place, just four points off the top.

The capital club are well and truly in the title hunt thanks to a league-best defense that has allowed only five goals on the season. If the rearguard can stay this good, Albert Puig's men could well be in the mix for that long-awaited first championship, but up first is a difficult challenge in Avispa, who are coming off a win in Kyoto.

Kei Koizumi, the midfield monster

There may be no player more difficult to play against right now than Sagan Tosu's Kei Koizumi. While he may not be known for the fancy dribbling or mind-bending pace of some superstars, the midfielder is quietly becoming an absolute terror for opposing teams to face. He doesn’t just lead the Meiji Yasuda J1 League in tackles - he has 27% more tackles than the man in second place.

Sagan Tosu have lost only once this season, thanks to a defense that has allowed just six goals in 10 matches. Most think of defense as the back line, but especially at Sagan it’s a full team effort - and Koizumi is at the heart of that. Try to counter, he’ll turn you back. Find a seam, he’ll burst in and take it away. Get some space, he’ll slam the door shut. He’s an all-action, do-everything midfielder for Sagan and simply amazing to watch.

After a 4-1 away win over the weekend at Kashiwa, Koizumi and his team will be aiming for yet another big result as Cerezo travel to Kyushu.

Subs making a difference

It's already been a year of incredible impact off the bench.

Last week, Yuki Otsu came into the match in the second half for Júbilo Iwata and turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory with two goals in two minutes. The week before, in cup action, it was Matheus Sávio doing the same for Kashiwa Reysol after two stoppage-time strikes.

Substitutes have been completely flipping matches lately and it will be interesting to see if the trend keeps going this matchweek. With five subs at their disposal, managers have more latitude to deploy their bench players than ever before. They’re taking advantage and matches have been especially dramatic, with subs coming on to give contests a twist.

Will there be a hero off the bench this week?