Football Tribe SEA Editor
The J.League have announced the revised fixture list for the restart of all three of their divisions and the fixture list for the J.League 1 threw out some tasty ties for the league’s restart. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the J.League prioritizes fixtures that involves teams that are close to one another throughout the month of July. This meant that once the league restarts, a number of close rivals will go toe-to-toe against one another in a series of intriguing ties.
With the J1 restarting on July 4th, the first matchday after the restart will be headlined by the Osaka Derby – with Gamba Osaka hosting city rivals Cerezo Osaka at the Panasonic Stadium Suita in the latest edition of this rivalry. Other notable clashes in the J1’s revised second matchday are a Kyushu derby between hosts Oita Trinita and Sagan Tosu at the Showa Denko Dome, as well as clashes between Kawasaki Frontale and Kashima Antlers, Kashiwa Reysol and FC Tokyo, and Urawa Red Diamonds hosting defending champions Yokohama F. Marinos.
In accordance to the COVID-19 prevention guidelines adopted by the J.League, these matches, alongside Matchday 3 of the 2020 J1 season, will be played behind closed doors, with spectators being gradually allowed back into stadiums in limited numbers starting from July 10th. This meant that the Tamagawa Classico between Kawasaki and FC Tokyo, to be played on July 8th, will have no spectators attending the game. However, the first Yokohama Derby in 13 years between Yokohama F. Marinos and Yokohama FC, alongside a Kansai derby between Vissel Kobe and Cerezo, both scheduled to be played in July 22nd, should see the introduction of a limited amount of fans within the stands.
With J.League teams expected to face a condensed schedule – J1 teams are required to juggle both league and J.League Cup at the same time – FIFA’s recent rule of allowing 5 substitutes to be made in one game came as a welcomed relief for these teams, alongside the fact that the J.League are allowed to play matches during the international break to ensure that the league will finish by December 19th.
The 2020 Emperor’s Cup has been changed into a tournament for amateur teams to ease pressure on teams within the J.League – with the top two finishers of the J1 joining the competition in the semifinals. The condensed schedule would see J.League teams playing numerous matches with only a few days’ break between them – with the J1 having 9 midweek fixtures, J.League 2 an astonishing 14 matches, and J.League 3 a mere 8.
It should be noted that FC Tokyo U-23 had withdrawn from this year’s J3 due to their inability to find a suitable venue for their games, which means that there will be 34 rounds instead of the usual 38.
There were no words from the J.League regarding the participation of Japanese teams within this year’s AFC Champions League, which has been also heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.