Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 26

Three Things to Watch: Matchweek 26

Another matchweek is upon us in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. Let's take a look at three headlines...

Has Iwamasa sorted out the Kashima attack?

Ayase Ueda was J1's leading scorer when he was sold to Cercle Brugge in the Belgian top flight on July 1 so it is only natural that Kashima Antlers have struggled to sort out their attack in his absence. The difficulties, and losses that ensued, were enough to lead the club to part ways with manager René Weiler and replace him with Daiki Iwamasa.

The top priority for Iwamasa was to sort out the attack and his first match in charge suggested he may have done so. They moved the ball through the midfield with ease and scored twice to beat Avispa Fukuoka, 2-0.

With Yuma Suzuki, Everaldo and Shoma Doi in the team, Iwamasa has terrific talent to work with up front. It’s about organization and getting the attack flowing again so they can challenge for the title. A win this weekend against Shonan Bellmare will take them within two points of the top and they’ll need goals to get it done.

Gamba under a new boss

Gamba Osaka have made a change at manager, parting ways with Tomohiro Katanosaka and appointing Hiroshi Matsuda as the new boss. The move comes after a stretch that saw them go six matches without a win and drop into 17th place.

Matsuda will have to address an attack that has scored just three goals in their last six and that begins this weekend against Sanfrecce Hiroshima. If he can jumpstart the attack, the defense has proven adequate and enough to earn results.

Those results need to start coming because Gamba are in an automatic relegation place. However, as they are only three points from safety, the Black and Blue have everything to play for under a new boss taking them forward.

Surging S-Pulse welcome Reysol

Shimizu S-Pulse have been in terrific form of late, taking points from four of their last five matches and winning their last two to jump out of the drop zone. Their last win was especially monumental, riding another great performance from Thiago Santana to create late goals in a 2-0 win over fellow a relegation fighter in Gamba.

S-Pulse’s great form will be tested this weekend when they welcome third-place Kashiwa Reysol. A win could move them all the way up to 10th, which would reflect their status as the most in-form team of the bottom half of the table. With Thiago Santana playing so well, and Carlinhos Júnior getting hot to create a great Brazilian front line for the men in orange, S-Pulse have to feel good about their chances against a top opponent.