(Fan footage captures Naoki Sugai – at 4:06 – scoring with a header in the 2011 J.League Division 1 fixture between Albirex Niigata and Vegalta Sendai. The midfielder’s header came in the 95th minute, cancelling out Yuta Mikado’s 72nd minute opener, and allowed Vegalta to escape with a point)
Albirex Niigata go in search of their first home victory in J.League Division 1 on 28 April, but the sixteenth placed strugglers could not be coming up against a tougher opponent as they host undefeated league leaders Vegalta Sendai at the Niigata Stadium Big Swan. Albi’s defence is relatively solid at their Niigata ground, conceded just three times so far in the 2012 campaign, but they have found goals very difficult to come by, a miserly return of two merely underlining how they find themselves near the bottom of the table.
Vegalta, on the otherhand, have taken 19 points from a maximum 21 and boast a 100% away record, having scored the greatest number of goals and conceded the fewest on the road. Albi will also be unable to draw any comfort from Vegalta forward Shingo Akamine being absent through injury, as while the forward has contributed four goals for the Sendai side, two of the top five goalscorers so far this season can be found in Yoshiaki Ota and Kunimitsu Sekiguchi. The two previous ties since Vegalta returned to J1 in 2010 resulted in 1-1 draws, but any result other than an away victory is certain to be of surprise.
join me from 07:00 BST/15:00 JST for team news as the live blog gets underway, and 08:00 BST/16:00 JST for kick-off.