The Meiji Yasuda J1 League is back for Matchweek 14! Let's break down some storylines...
Osaka Derby time
It's derby day once again in Osaka, with Gamba and Cerezo meeting on the Sakura's home turf this weekend.
The two clubs match up equal on 17 points this season, part of a glut of teams in the top 10 who are within striking distance of the top group, giving them all plenty to play for as we near summer.
Gamba are in fine form, having won consecutive matches with consecutive clean sheets. Cerezo fell last week, but they come into this without two straight losses all season.
These two rivals did meet in cup play, with Cerezo winning the first contest, 3-2, before a very different second match played out, with both sides failing to find the net.
What will come of this derby day? It’s hard to say between two sides so evenly matched, but you can bet on a full crowd and immense intensity.
Turnaround time for F.C.Tokyo
F.C.Tokyo had a terrific run of form that put them on the fringes of the title race but their big dreams lasted a mere week because losing three matches in a row.
This once fearsome attack has managed only two goals in the last three games, while their defense has been even more of a problem, conceding eight in that stretch.
Albert Puig knows his team can hit another gear, but he has issues to sort out across the field to get them back to their best.
Sitting seventh in the table, and only two points off the top four, the capital club still has plenty of hope for a push toward the top, but the bid to get back on track will be tough with fourth-place Kashiwa Reysol in town.
Top Scorer race gets more crowded
Kyoto Sanga’s Peter Utaka spent much of this season as the leader on the J1 goalscoring chart, but Kashima Antlers’ Ayase Ueda has been right on his heels for weeks and now he’s equal on eight goals. They are not alone, though. Yokohama F·Marinos’ Anderson Lopes has seven goals now and Ueda’s teammate Yuma Suzuki is very much in the mix with six.
We are seemingly in for a treat this season as the race for Top Scorer gets increasingly crowded, with the potential to shift weekly depending on who has a big performance. With Antlers and Marinos both aiming for the title, and newly-promoted Kyoto only three points off fourth place, every goal from these attacking threats could make a big difference in a packed league table.