Football Tribe SEA Editor
A mouthwatering clash of the titans will serve as the curtain-opener for the 2019 J.League 1’s 31st Matchweek tomorrow. Defending champions Kawasaki Frontale will visit Ibaraki Prefecture to play title contenders Kashima Antlers at the Kashima Soccer Stadium on Saturday, November 9th, in a tie that is guaranteed to be an explosive one. The match will saw Kashima, the J1’s most successful team with 8 league titles so far, trying their best to break Kawasaki’s two-year dominance of the league as the Ibaraki outfit pursues their 9th league title. Kawasaki’s hopes of defending their J1 title might be slim as with the 54 points that they have right now Kawasaki are 5 points off the top two with only three games to play for (instead of four that everyone else bar Sanfrecce Hiroshima have thanks to them and Sanfrecce having played a game more due to Urawa Red Diamonds’ AFC Champions League commitments), but they’re more than eager to hamper Kashima’s title bid with a win. Ironically, a Kawasaki win would pave the way for their Tamagawa Clasico rivals FC Tokyo towards the J1 title, as the capital club are equal on points with Kashima on 2nd with 59 points, but only behind them on virtue of goal difference.
FC Tokyo themselves will have a tricky away tie to navigate themselves, visiting Jubilo Iwata at the Yamaha Stadium. Jubilo may be bottom of the table with a very slim chance of survival, but they’re in an ascendancy as of late, having not lost two of their most recent matches with a draw and a win. The win itself came from last week’s Shizuoka Derby against Shimizu S-Pulse, which adds more to Jubilo’s fire. The Brazilian combo of Adailton and Lukian, as well as Kotaro Fujikawa and Kosuke Yamamoto, will be vital for Jubilo’s survival chances, and they would fight until the very bitter end to ensure that they would still be playing J1 football next season. As usual, FC Tokyo will be relying on Kensuke Nagai as the danger man for Kenta Hasegawa’s squad, and Jubilo’s defense must be in high alert all times should they wish to nick a point or three off the Gasmen.
Should both Kashima and FC Tokyo slip up in their matches, the door would be open for 3rd placed Yokohama F. Marinos to turn the two-horse race into a three-horse. The City Football Group and Nissan-backed team has been silent yet deadly, being undefeated in their last 7 matches with 6 wins and a draw as they kept in touch with the battling top two. With 58 points, they’re only one point off both Kashima and FC Tokyo, and Ange Postecoglou’s men are gunning for a win as they host Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Football Stadium on Saturday. With the top three all playing on the same day and at the same time, it is guaranteed that Saturday will provide an interesting twist to the J1 title race.
Saturday’s Matchweek 31 action will also saw Vissel Kobe and Nagoya Grampus facing off in Nagoya while Cerezo Osaka host freefalling Shonan Bellmare in Osaka.
Matchweek 31 continues on Sunday with the highlight of the action on that day being Sagan Tosu hosting Matsumoto Yamaga at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium in a vital relegation six-pointer. Both teams are eager for points to ease their relegation worries, with 15th placed Sagan hoping to pull themselves away from both the relegation and the relegation play-off zones and 17th placed Matsumoto hoping to overtake Shonan and replace them in the relegation play-off zone. With both teams fighting out for survival, it is guaranteed to be an exciting and intense spectacle in Tosu. Elsewhere on Sunday, Oita Trinita host Gamba Osaka at the Showa Denko Dome while in Miyagi Prefecture, Vegalta Sendai squares off against Shimizu.