J.League Division 1: MD Four and Division 2: MD Six Fixtures and Preview

(Full highlights of the 14 August 2011 J.League Division 1 match between Júbilo Iwata and Kashiwa Reysol, Júbilo completing a remarkable 6-1 win over the eventual champions. The two teams meet again on Saturday 31 March 2012)

The end of March brings us to J.League Division 1 Matchday Four, and the ongoing search for points which continue to elude Gamba Osaka. New manager Masanobu Matsunami takes his charges to Tohoku’s Denryoku Big Swan Stadium where they will meet Albirex Niigata. Gamba went undefeated against Albi last season, and the team from Niigata Prefecture may not have an better opportunity to end their poor run of results against the Suita-based outfit which has seen them without a victory in this fixture since 2008.

Early pace-setters Vegalta Sendai travel to Osaka to face unbeaten Cerezo at the Nagai Ball Gall Field. Vegalta’s defence has been broached on just the one occasion in three matches so far this season, a continuation of last season’s fine defensive performance which saw them concede only 25 goals in 34 matches, significantly lower than any other J.League Division 1 team in 2011, and only bettered in J.League history by Oita Trinita in 2008 since the move to a regular league championship format. Cerezo’s defence, meanwhile, has also yielded just the single goal, but finding the net is proving harder to come by than Vegalta. An average of merely one goal per game and one goal every twelve shots compares very unfavourably with Vegalta’s more than two per game and goals every five shots.

FC Tokyo, currently sitting alongside Vegalta on nine points at the top of the table, entertain Sanfrecce Hiroshima at the Ajinomoto Stadium. Tokyo will be hoping to maintain a 100% record against a side which put away struggling Kashima Antlers last weekend, following their own 2-0 victory away to Vissel Kobe. This is something of a bogey fixture for The Gas, with their last victory in Tokyo over Sanfre in league competition coming nearly a decade ago in July 2002.

The NACK5 stadium features home side Omiya Ardija versus Nagoya Grampus. The Squirrels currently occupy thirteenth place in the table, the same position in which they ended the 2011 league campaign, and in a further parallel have completed their opening three fixtures with the same points total and results as last year. The visiting Nagoya Giants will be aiming for a result that propels them higher up the table than their current sixth position, and will hope to continue their run of victories in Sendai which began in 2008.

The teams lying in seventh and eighth spots do battle at the Saitama Stadium, with Urawa Red Diamonds hosting Kawasaki Frontale. Mihailo Petrović, appointed to the managerial position in December, has secured two wins from three league fixtures in a promising start for the Reds after a disastrous 2011 season nearly ended in relegation, while Naoki Soma, whose side have also taken six points, is looking to relieve the burden of being the first Frontale manager to finish outside the Top 10 since 2004 and restore their fortunes as regular title and AFC Champions League contenders.

Kashiwa Reysol journey to the Yamaha Stadium to face Júbilo Iwata. The Sun Kings won their first game of the league season at the third time of asking on 24 March, defeating Júbilo’s local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse by two goals to one. Júbilo sit third in the table in an unbeaten start to the season, and will have fond memories of the 2011 fixture. It was less Shizuoka’s Sorrow than delight, putting six past Reysol in a remarkable 6-1 win, and Júbilo were one of only two clubs to take all six points from the eventual champions last year, the other being Gamba Osaka.

Shimizu S-Pulse manager Afshin Ghotbi shows no signs as yet of improving upon a year in which he led the team to their worst league finish since 2004. Three matches have been rewarded with the same total points, and he faces a real test when newly promoted Consadole Sapporo visit the Outsourcing Stadium in Shizuoka. While Consa have only taken a single point thus far, their bright attacking football has attracted a number of admirers, and should they be able to provide a finishing touch to the chances they have been creating, it may make for a difficult day for the Iranian.

Kashima Antlers take on Yokohama F-Marinos at the Nissan Stadium in a tie featuring two sides scratching around for form. New manager Jorginho may come under the kind of pressure which led to compatriot Jose Carlos Serrao sacked by Gamba Osaka if his poor league run continues. While the shoes of Oswaldo de Oliveira are difficult to fill at the Ibaraki Prefecture side, three defeats leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table and many more negative results are likely to be deemed unacceptable by Hiroshi Ushijima. The Marinos have problems of their own. One point from nine in the J.League reflects badly on new appointee Yasuhiro Higuchi at a club which has failed to finish in the top 10 only once since its inception. Both managers will be looking for a positive outcome to help alleviate both the club’s position and their own.

You can read the preview of the game I will be liveblogging tomorrow, Sagan Tosu v. Vissel Kobe, here.

J.League Division 1, 31 March

Omiya Ardija vs Nagoya Grampus
FC Tokyo vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Urawa Red Diamonds vs Kawasaki Frontale
Júbilo Iwata vs Kashiwa Reysol
Cerezo Osaka vs Vegalta Sendai
Albirex Niigata vs Gamba Osaka
Shimizu S-Pulse vs Consadole Sapporo
Yokohama F-Marinos vs Kashima Antlers
Sagan Tosu vs Vissel Kobe

J.League Division 2, 1 April

Montedio Yamagata vs Mito HollyHock
Tochigi SC vs JEF United Chiba
Matsumoto Yamaga vs Kataller Toyama
Kyoto Sanga vs Avispa Fukuoka
Gainare Tottori vs Shonan Bellmare
Roasso Kumamoto vs FC Gifu
Thespa Kusatsu vs Yokohama FC
FC Machida Zelvia vs Tokyo Verdy
Ventforet Kofu vs Giravanz Kitakyushu
Tokushima Vortis vs Fagiano Okayama
Oita Trinita vs Ehime FC
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