Football Tribe SEA Editor
18 clubs. 34 matches. 1 title. Here we go again.
The 2020 J.League 1 season is set to kick-off tomorrow at the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka, where hosts Shonan Bellmare will take on Urawa Red Diamonds in the league’s curtain-raiser. Both teams have struggled considerably throughout the 2019 season, with Shonan barely surviving the promotion/relegation play-offs, and they will use this match to build some momentum for the tough season ahead.
Both Shonan and Urawa have received attacking boosts during the off-season that would play a vital role in the season – Shonan have gotten themselves Norwegian international Tarik Elyounoussi from Swedish Allsvenskan giants AIK Stockholm, who has experience in playing in the European leagues. Urawa, on the other hand, have signed Leonardo, the top scorer of the 2019 J.League 2 season, from Albirex Niigata. It is interesting to see the two battle it out on the pitch of the Shonan BMW Stadium Hiratsuka, each giving their respective team a distinctive flair in attack.
In the buildup for the match, both Shonan and Urawa won their respective first games of the 2020 J.League Cup, albeit with different performances. Shonan huffed and puffed and made to work hard for their win, but a last-minute penalty ensured that they emerged 1-0 victors over visiting Oita Trinita. Urawa, on the other hand, had a more comfortable affair, smashing Vegalta Sendai 5-2 at the Saitama Stadium 2002. However, both Bin Ukishima of Shonan and Tsuyoshi Otsuki of Urawa knew that their encounter on Friday would serve as a foundation to build their season on. With a difficult 2019 behind them, both Shonan and Urawa are determined to make amends in the 2020 season by getting off to the best possible start.
Saturday’s action will see four matches being played out, with Vegalta hosting Nagoya Grampus at the Yurtec Stadium Sendai. Having beaten Oita 2-0 in the final day of the 2019 season at the Showa Denko Dome in Oita, Cerezo Osaka will have to meet their Kyushu counterparts once again for the 2020 curtain-raiser, but this time the men in pink will be playing in home comforts at the Nagai Stadium. Kawasaki Frontale will look to start their campaign at home as Sagan Tosu pays them a visit, while Kashiwa Reysol, freshly promoted from the J2, will kick-start their return to the top flight by hosting Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Kashiwa Hitachi Stadium.
Defending J1 champions Yokohama F. Marinos will start their title defense on Sunday, with a tough challenge at the Nissan Stadium against Gamba Osaka. Last year’s runners-up FC Tokyo will travel to the IAI Stadium Nihondaira to take on Shimizu S-Pulse, while Vissel Kobe, who are determined to have a shot at the J1 title this time out, will start their campaign with a home match against newly-promoted Yokohama FC at the Misaki Park Stadium. Last but not least, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Kashima Antlers will face off at the Hiroshima Big Arch for their own season opener.