Sagan still lurking
Sagan Tosu may not have been near the top of the table all season long, but they have been incredibly hard to beat.
They have lost just one match so far this campaign, and while they would certainly have liked a few of their seven draws to have been wins, their ability to get something out of nearly every match is paying off.
No team in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League has allowed fewer goals, with only 7 conceded in 12 games, and that excellent rearguard has them pushing up the table and punching above their weight.
Now up to fifth and only six points back of Kashima Antlers in first, Matchweek 13 represents a big chance for Sagan Tosu to continue their surge into the elite of the division when they travel to face Vissel Kobe.
Vissel need points ASAP
Sagan’s opponent this week is in a very different position, languishing at the bottom of the table and seven points from safety.
Nobody has lost more games or scored fewer goals than Vissel Kobe - and with 11 games gone they will need to start picking up points immediately.
The inability of the Ushi to create and finish chances is particularly befuddling considering their long list of exceptional attacking talent, from Andrés Iniesta to Yoshinori Muto to Yuya Osako.
The team's sputtering attack, plus costly unforced errors like Ryuho Kikuchi’s first-half red card last week, have left them bereft of confidence in Kobe.
Vissel need points desperately to avoid falling even further into dangerous territory - and to do it they'll need to rediscover much of the attacking might and composed play that defined their 2021.
Fujii, the runner
Sanfrecce just had their most best matchweek of the season, scoring a dominant 3-0 victory over leaders Kashima and rising to seventh place in the table. They’ve done it as of late with a well-rounded team committed to doing a little bit of everything. No player exemplifies that better than Tomoya Fujii.
Sanfrecce’s system requires their wingbacks be major factors in the attack and defense, which Fujii does with some mind-boggling amounts of running. He’s made 464 sprints this season, nearly 100 more than the next closest player in the entire league. The right wingback pops up everywhere, be it in the box, delivering a cross, helping keep possession in the midfield, or making up a back five that stymies opposing teams.
The only way Fujii can be everything for the Viola is by sprinting everywhere, and nobody in the J.League does it quite like he does.