J1 Match of the Week: Marinos and Frontale clash in revival of last season’s title race

J1 Match of the Week: Marinos and Frontale clash in revival of last season’s title race

A year ago, Yokohama F·Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale were fighting for the Meiji Yasuda J1 League title. The two clubs had combined to win each of the last five championships and were battling for the sixth in a spectacular battle that would go down to the final day of the season.

Now, the two teams meet again. Marinos won the title a year ago and are on top of the league again this year. Frontale have fallen off and are in ninth, but they have gotten results from four of their last five and will have every intention of giving the Tricolor a vicious fight that evokes memories of 2022 when the two sides meet on Saturday at 7 pm JST in a match that will be streamed live on the J.League International YouTube channel.

Marinos won the league last season thanks to a league-best attack and this year is no different. They have scored more goals than any other club in J1, led by Anderson Lopes’ league-leading 15 goals and aided by Yan Matheus, Kota Mizunuma and Élber, who all rank among the top three in the league in assists.

The Tricolor have needed every bit of their attacking verve because they are in yet another tight title race. While Frontale have fallen back, Vissel Kobe have emerged as a true threat for the crown and the Ushi sit a mere three points back of Marinos with a match in hand. Nagoya Grampus trail the Tricolor by only four points and Urawa Reds are six points back, making every single point crucial for Marinos as they aim to win consecutive J.League titles for the first time since 2004.

Frontale know how difficult it is to repeat as champions, having done so twice since 2018 and being denied a third straight crown by Marinos a year ago. They are not at the same heights as their teams of years gone by, though.

Injuries have hampered Toru Oniki’s squad, but more than anything, it’s the steady departure to Europe of excellent talents grown in Kawasaki that has finally caught up to the club. They did a masterful job replacing the likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Reo Hatate, Ko Itakura, Koji Miyoshi, Ao Tanaka and Hidemasa Morita, among others, then Shogo Taniguchi joined them in the winter and Frontale were faced with the realities of so many great players out the door.

Frontale have leaned upon younger talent this season and, while it was shaky at first, they are starting to see the quality of the precocious players come through of late.

Taisei Miyashiro’s eight goals lead the team as he has proven himself a constant threat, while Daiya Tono has played well off of him. 18-year-old Kota Takai has stepped up in defense alongside Takuma Ominami, who came over from Kashiwa Reysol.

Toss in the mainstays of Miki Yamane, Akihiro Ienaga and Yasuto Wakizaka and Frontale have themselves the makings of a team that is finding its form.

Frontale may not be in the fight for the title, but making a run at an AFC Champions League place is not out of play. A win over Marinos would not only be a nice bit of revenge for last season, but it would be quite the statement that their young players are increasingly ready to put the club in a position to battle for titles in the years to come.

Will Marinos take another step towards the title that they snatched from Frontale a year ago? Or will Frontale get revenge for last season and continue the build towards future silverware? Find out in another great J.League contest on Saturday!