In the pick of J.League Division 1 fixtures, Cerezo host city rivals Gamba in the Osaka derby. Cerezo, still searching for a first championship and who finished a very disappointing twelfth in the 2011 season, came closest to winning the title in 2005 with five clubs in contention on the last day of the season. Topping the table and leading their final match 2-1 having twice taken the lead and missed a penalty, FC Tokyo broke Cerezo supporter hearts by equalising in the 89th minute. Other results around the division consigned Cerezo to a fifth place finish, and to make matters worse Gamba’s 4-2 victory over Kawasaki Frontale handed the title to the team based in Suita, Osaka.
Gamba and Cerezo share foundations perhaps unequalled by any football organisations with the exception of England’s Liverpool and Everton. Both clubs would come into existence through Yanmar Diesel, a team which featured in the now defunct Japan Soccer League, who were formed from the remnants of Yanmar Diesel FC’s B-team, reincorporating as Cerezo Osaka in 1993. Gamba, meanwhile, was created out of the remnants of Yanmar Club, Yanma Diesel’s B-team, and ironically would enter J.League Division 1 sooner than Cerezo, starting in the highest tier of Japanese professional football from its inception in 1993, while Cerezo would not be promoted until 1995.
Gamba’s trophy count outweighs that of Cerezo significantly, Gamba having not only won a J.League Division 1 title, but also a J.League Cup, two Emperor’s Cups and the 2008 AFC Champions League. Cerezo’s devastating end to the 2005 J.League Division season was followed-up with a third-placed finish in 2010, albeit one in which the still finished a point below Runners-up Gamba Osaka and eleven points behind eventual champions Nagoya Grampus. With Gamba opening the 2011 season with a 3-2 defeat at home to Vissel Kobe, Cerezo will be hoping to inflict further punishment and steal a march on their historic rivals.
Newcomers Sagan Tosu face a difficult test on the road at Jubilo Iwata, who scored the fifth highest number of goals at home in finishing in eighth place overall, while Consadole Sapporo face Vissel Kobe. We’ll be liveblogging the match between the final promoted team and 2011 J.League Division 2 champions FC Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus.
Kashima Antlers, defeated 1-0 on Matchday One, meet Kawasaki Frontale at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, while champions Kashiwa Reysol travel to Saitama Prefecture in an intriguing fixture against Urawa Red Diamonds. The Reds, under new coach Mihailo Petrović, are aiming to put two desperately poor seasons behind them, and with their first game ending in a 1-0 defeat at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, they will be hoping for a better outcome in hosting the Sun Kings at the Saitama Stadium.
Yokohama F-Marino’s first home tie of the season sees them Vegalta Sendai welcoming to the Nissan Stadium, pitting last years fifth and fourth placed teams against each other with both teams aiming for further improvement.
The Outsourcing Stadium in Nihondaira features Shimizu S-Pulse, the tam originally founded with a cantera policy akin to that of Basque clubs Athletic Club and Real Sociedad, and who finished tenth in the 2011 season, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima. S-Pa were on the end of a 1-0 defeat away to Nagoya Grampus, while Sanfre took all three points at the Hiroshima Big Arch.
Finally, Albirex Niigata play host to Omiya Ardija at the Niigata Stadium Big Swan. Albi and the Squirrels both fell to 1-0 defeats, and will hope to take their first points on 17 March.
J.League Division 1, 17 March
|Kashima Antlers||vs||Kawasaki Frontale|
|Urawa Red Diamonds||vs||Kashiwa Reysol|
|Yokohama F-Marinos||vs||Vegalta Sendai|
|Albirex Niigata||vs||Omiya Ardija|
|Cerezo Osaka||vs||Gamba Osaka|
|Shimizu S-Pulse||vs||Sanfrecce Hiroshima|
|Jubilo Iwata||vs||Sagan Tosu|
|Vissel Kobe||vs||Consadole Sapporo|
J.League Division 2, 17 March
|Montedio Yamagata||vs||Oita Trinita|
|Kyoto Sanga||vs||Roasso Kumamoto|
|Gainare Tottori||vs||FC Machida Zelvia|
|Tokushima Vortis||vs||SC Tochigi|
|Matsumoto Yamaga||vs||Giravanz Kitakyushu|
|Shonan Bellmare||vs||Avispa Fukuoka|
|Kataller Toyama||vs||Tokyo Verdy|
|FC Gifu||vs||Thespa Kusatsu|
|Fagiano Okayama||vs||Mito HollyHock|
|JEF United Chiba||vs||Yokohama FC|
|Ventforet Kofu||vs||Ehime FC|
(In a sensational end to the 2005 J.League Division 1 season, Gamba Osaka leapfrogged their city rivals Cerezo Osaka to claim the title on the final day of the season. Cerezo, who topped the table and required a win to be sure of winning the championship, conceded an 89th minute goal to draw 2-2 with FC Tokyo, with results across the league seeing them eventually finish in fifth place. Gamba ended on 60 points, and the four teams below all finished on 59 points)