Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 22

Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 22

Léo Ceará remains unstoppable

At what point does a terrific run of form transform from a hot streak into something more spectacular?

Léo Ceará may be reaching that point.

The Yokohama F·Marinos man has eight goals and three assists in his last six games, a sterling run that has helped the Tricolor not only jump into first place, but build a little cushion at the top. What’s been most impressive is the number of ways the Brazilian has hurt opposing defenses - he’s simply a danger everywhere on the pitch, no matter what he is doing.

Marinos play away to Sagan Tosu this weekend and few teams have been as stingy defensively as Sagan in recent years, but it will be hard for even an elite rearguard to keep Léo Ceará in check right now.

Urawa finding their form

Urawa Reds have had mixed fortunes this season, rarely overmatched but stringing together so many draws that they went ages without a win. Right now, though, they are looking like one of the best teams in the league again.

David Moberg has been stellar, with four goals in Urawa’s last four games. He’s been opportunistic in front, while also banging in shots from distance to bring a fully rounded threat to the team and helping lead them up the table.

The Reds haven’t lost in six and are up to ninth place, but are only eight points back of fourth with plenty of time to continue their climb. Urawa also have the AFC Champions League knockout stages beginning next month, so there is plenty for the Reds to play for and they are in the right form for such a key stretch of their season.

Who will be dragged into the relegation fight?

It wasn’t long ago that Shonan Bellmare and Vissel Kobe occupied the bottom of the table, but that is no longer the case. Shonan’s terrific form has lifted them to 13th place, while Vissel are winners of three in a row to get to 16th. As they rise, other teams must fall, so the question now is who will find themselves surprisingly in the relegation fight?

Júbilo Iwata and Shimizu S-Pulse have struggled for parts of the season and are the two bottom teams now, but Gamba Osaka, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, Kyoto Sanga, and Nagoya Grampus are all within five points of the drop zone now.

The battle for the drop is not just heating up - it’s expanding.