Update: This match has been postponed due to Typhoon No. 2 and will be played at a later date.
For years, Kawasaki Frontale ran the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. They won four of six titles and added two more cups, setting several records and establishing themselves as the dominant team of the era. But it is Vissel Kobe who are top of the league right now, and they will want to beat Frontale as a statement of intent when the two meet on Saturday at 2 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.
The Ushi have stormed to the top of the league by looking a lot like the Frontale teams of years gone by. While they have an excellent attack, led by an unstoppable frontman in Yuya Osako, the real key to success has been at the back. No team in the league has allowed fewer goals this season than Vissel.
Tetsushi Yamakawa and Matheus Thuler have made up an excellent center of defense in recent matches, while the offseason addition of Yuki Honda has given them another reliable defender either in the middle or at left back. Add in Daiya Maekawa behind them in goal and new signing Mitsuki Saito immediately slotting in perfectly in midfield, and you have a defense that has led Ushi to the top of the league.
Frontale’s defense has been solid this season, slowly but surely adjusting to life without Shogo Taniguchi in the center of the back line. Takuma Ominami has grown into his role, while Naoto Kamifukumoto has performed well in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, the Frontale attack has left a bit to be desired. They’ve struggled without stalwart Leandro Damião up front, but the Brazilian is nearing a return from injury, while Akihiro Ienaga has been his usual outstanding self and Taisei Miyashiro appears to be a budding star. It’s possible that the Frontale attack is about to kick into high gear.
Frontale need to start finding their form because they have spent most of this season in the bottom half of the table, which is foreign territory for Toru Oniki’s side. They’ve only just climbed to ninth place, edging into the top half, but are eight points back of the top three.
Frontale have been the giants in J1, but right now it’s Vissel who sit on top. Will the Ushi make another statement in their quest for the title, or will Frontale hit back and make clear that they still harbor dreams of competing with the best the league has to offer?
Tune into the J.League International YouTube channel this weekend and find out as two clubs with big dreams square off and look to make a statement!