Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 21

Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 21

Can Frontale or Kashima keep pace with Marinos?

Yokohama F·Marinos’ lead atop the table is up to five points after they won midweek and their high-flying attack looks increasingly unstoppable. For anyone to keep pace with Kevin Muscat’s team, they are going to have to be exceptional, which puts a lot of pressure on second-place Kashima Antlers and Kawasaki Frontale in third.

Kashima drew on Wednesday, the third time in five matches they have dropped points, while Frontale’s Matchweek 20 contest was postponed and they are now nine points from the top. We know both Kashima and Frontale can be showstopping sides, as evidenced by Antlers start to the season and Frontale being the defending champions, but Marinos are presenting them with an extraordinary challenge and it’s crucial to keep pace through the summer so the Tricolor are under pressure down the stretch.

Shonan can’t be stopped

It was only a month ago that Shonan Bellmare were fighting to stay out of the bottom of the table. Now, not only are they not in the drop zone, but they could be in the top half of the table by the end of the weekend!

Shonan have been nothing short of outstanding of late, led by breakout star Shuto Machino. They’ve taken points from six of their last seven matches and have won three of their last four. It’s a tremendous run that has completely transformed the outlook of their season. This weekend they have a major challenge away to fourth-place Sanfrecce Hiroshima, but with the form they are in, they are more than capable of taking another three points.

Endo and Iniesta meet in relegation battle

Two legendary players in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League are set to go head-to-head this weekend as Yasuhito Endo’s Júbilo Iwata host Andrés Iniesta and Vissel Kobe in a match that could be crucial for top-flight survival.

With Vissel in the drop zone and Júbilo two points ahead in the J1/J2 playoff spot, Saturday night’s action is an undeniable “six-pointer” as both sides need to take full advantage of an occasion that could swing their season toward success and plunge their relegation rivals deeper into turmoil.

Nights like these require big performances from your stars and there are few more iconic in the division than Japan’s all-time caps leader and the man who brought FIFA World Cup glory to Spain.