J1 Match of the Week: Vissel try to reclaim top spot in trip to Fukuoka

J1 Match of the Week: Vissel try to reclaim top spot in trip to Fukuoka

For more than three months, Vissel Kobe sat atop the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. They raced out to first place with three wins to start the season and never gave up the summit. That is until last matchday, when the Ushi were bested by Cerezo Osaka and fell out of first. Now, they set their sights on retaking their place on top of the league when they head to Avispa Fukuoka on Sunday at 7 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

The Vissel attack still remains one of the best in the league, having scored more than two goals per game. Yuya Osako’s 11 goals lead the team and is second-most in J1, plus he has three assists, but he’s not done it alone.

Yoshinori Muto has been a force, scoring six goals and leading the league with seven assists.

With Osako and Muto leading the way, the Ushi have a deadly one-two punch that are both just as capable of assisting as they are scoring. It’s no wonder that it’s been more than two months since a team kept Vissel off the scoreboard.

The problem for the Ushi of late has been at the back, where injuries have begun to take their toll on the defense. Tetsushi Yamakawa is the latest player to go down with an injury, following Ryuho Kikuchi. How Takayuki Yoshida figures out to sort out his defense while short-handed will be the key to Vissel’s second half of the season, beginning in Fukuoka.

Avispa are not the team that is most well-situated to expose a weakened defense, having barely scored half the goals that Vissel have this season. They’ve not won since May 3, having hit one of their tougher stretches of the season, but the international break came at a fortuitous time. Not only does it provide Avi with a chance to reset, but also reintegrate the spate of injured players who have returned in recent weeks.

With the squad becoming whole again, joining the likes of the terrific Masato Shigemi and Yuya Yamagishi on the pitch, Avi could be in line for a good second half of the season. Seeing as they’ve managed to hold in the midtable despite their injuries and struggles, a potential strong finish is something opposing teams should fear.

Will Avi be able to show their quality and take down Vissel? Or will the Ushi right the ship and maybe leap back over Yokohama F·Marinos and Nagoya Grampus to reclaim first place?

Find out on Sunday in a riveting clash on the J.League International YouTube channel!