Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 17

Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 17

International stars return

The Meiji Yasuda J1 League has been off since May for the FIFA international break, but all of its players were not idle. Some of the league’s biggest stars were playing for their countries and are coming back in terrific form.

Kawasaki Frontale’s Miki Yamane suited up for Japan as part of their 2022 World Cup preparations and played splendidly, even scoring a goal. Shimizu S-Pulse’s Shuichi Gonda manned the net for the Samurai Blue and put on a particularly excellent performance against Brazil's legendary Seleção. Cerezo Osaka’s Adam Taggart was limited in action but was called in for Australia’s crucial qualifiers, which saw them book their ticket to the FIFA World Cup.

These players are now back at their clubs, ready to tackle league football after a very busy period away.

Title race back in centerstage

Yokohama F·Marinos lead J1 after 16 matches, but it is hardly a comfortable lead. Kashima Antlers and champions Kawasaki Frontale are just a point back, while Kashiwa Reysol, Cerezo Osaka, F.C.Tokyo, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Sagan Tosu are all within seven points of the Tricolor.

Marinos are powered by their league-best attack, but will they be in top form after a two-week break? Will another team have used the time off to get fit and propel themselves up the table? Who will be able to keep pace with the leaders as summer kicks on?

It’s time to find out who is ready to put up a serious fight for the title.

Season reaches halfway point

The excitement for the start of the season feels like it was just yesterday and the enthusiasm for the opening rounds of the campaign have continued all the way into summer, so you’re forgiven if you hadn’t noticed that J1 will reach the halfway point of the season this weekend.

With the campaign halfway through, teams’ performances are no longer quick starts or little slumps. Their standing in the table reflects how good a team is more and more with each passing week. While the attention will be at the top and who can really compete for the title, there is also more clarity on who is fighting relegation, which players can win Top Scorer, and who is having a truly breakout season. It’s getting real now, and that sets the table for a spectacular second half of the campaign.

Let's see who can make it count starting on Matchweek 17!