Football Tribe SEA Editor
The final matchweek of the 2019 J.League 1 season kicks off today and we are treated to the final match to end all final matches. It’s 1st against 2nd as leaders Yokohama F. Marinos hosted their closest rivals on the table, FC Tokyo. Playing at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, the hosts practically have one hand on the J1 title, but their capital rivals might still be able to pip them to it despite the circumstances stacked firmly against them. For FC Tokyo to pry the J1 title away from Yokohama’s grasps, they must win by a scoreline of 4-0 or more due to the Kanagawa-based side having the advantage in goal difference.
The game was massively hyped by the two sides’ social media accounts, with Manchester City and their fellow City Football Group clubs lending their support to Yokohama with a video message posted on City’s Twitter account. Fans have been flocking the Nissan Stadium long before the kick-off time at 2pm JST, drenched by the afternoon rain. Over 68,000 tickets have been issued, with the match potentially breaking into the J1 attendance records if everyone who had bought a ticket came to the Nissan today.
It will be a 90 minute battle between two excellent managers. Sitting in the Yokohama dugout is Australian Ange Postecoglou, who had brought silverware to the likes of Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory as well as winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup with Australia. His Tokyo counterpart is Kenta Hasegawa, a Shimizu S-Pulse legend who had masterminded Gamba Osaka’s rise from J2 in 2013 and subsequently won them the domestic treble in 2014. Both are gunning for glory today, with Ange seeking to end Marinos’ 15-year wait for a league title and Kenta determined to help the Gasmen cross that line and win them their maiden league title.
Both teams are expected to field their strongest lineups for this match, albeit the absence of Diego Oliveira would weaken the Tokyo camp significantly. The likes of Teruhito Nakagawa, Erik, Marcos Junior, Theerathon Bunmathan, and Matheus will line up against the likes of Kensuke Nagai, Masato Morishige, Kyosuke Tagawa, Kento Hashimoto, Yojiro Takahagi, and Hirotaka Mita. Takefusa Kubo’s departure to Spain meant that FC Tokyo are not as almighty as before, but Kenta’s steadying presence and a consistent performance from all players meant that the capital side still have a shout in the title race, despite a late blip coupled with Yokohama’s frightening consistency in the late stretch of the season meant that they would have to do the impossible at the Nissan. But having beaten Yokohama 4-2 in their first meeting this season at the Ajinomoto, FC Tokyo are confident that they would upset the odds and pip their rivals to the title. Anything can happen in football, so despite the advantages that they have right now, Yokohama should tread into this match with caution if they wish to confirm themselves as J1 champions.
Other action in the J1’s final day involves a 5-way battle to avoid the relegation play-off spot. With Matsumoto Yamaga and Jubilo Iwata already relegated, it’s a fight between Shonan Bellmare, Sagan Tosu, Shimizu, Urawa Red Diamonds, and Nagoya Grampus to avoid having to play another game for their J1 place. Things get more interesting as both Sagan and Shimizu play each other at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium in Tosu, while Nagoya have the tough task of hosting 3rd placed Kashima Antlers. Urawa take on Gamba Osaka in Saitama in a match that would be a title decider in earlier years, while Shonan travel to already-relegated Matsumoto. Whoever slips up in their match will have to take on the winners of the J2 promotion play-offs between Montedio Yamagata and Tokushima Vortis, for a spot in the 2020 J1 season.
The J1 final day also sees Oita Trinita hosting Cerezo Osaka at the Showa Denko Dome, Vegalta Sendai flying over to Hiroshima to take on Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo taking on Kawasaki Frontale at the Sapporo Dome, and already-relegated Jubilo visiting Vissel Kobe.