There’s me simply thinking that I would have a little break from the J-League and enjoy the NFL Draft 2018 when I notice that the last round of fixtures was during the week and we have the weekend games to look forward to. Lucky enough I have three monitors so I can write this whilst enjoying the Draft. Anyway, enough about the Americans and more about the J-League. The weekend has all teams playing once again, with a full nine games being played. One game that stands out at a quick glance is Vissel Kobe vs Kawasaki Frontale, however, there are a few other games that many will be keeping a close eye on, speaking of which, shall we get to the previews?   

Game 1: V-Varen Nagasaki vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima   

This game will be one that I definitely keep my eye on during the weekend. Hiroshima entered this week as an undefeated side, however, Tokyo completely demolished them and ended their chances of an invincible season. I am definitely interested to see how they bounce back after that crushing defeat and Nagasaki won’t be an easy pushover.    

Nagasaki are trying to climb the league as they look to impress in their first season back in the top flight. They currently sit 9th in the league with fourteen points, a win would take them up much further and also cause Hiroshima to lose even more of their lead on teams like Tokyo, depending on other results.    

Both teams enjoy scoring goals and so this game could be an absolute goal-fest, especially with Hiroshima showing that their defence can be taken apart from some quick passing. If I was Nagasaki, I would watch that Tokyo game over and over again and identify the weak spots within the defence of Hiroshima as they definitely showed some crucial weaknesses in that game.   

My prediction for this game will be a 2-1 win for Hiroshima, although Nagasaki could easily replicate Tokyo and hit Hiroshima whilst they’re down.   

Game 2: Shimizu S-Pulse vs Kashiwa Reysol   

This game is a battle between two mid-table sides and it could be a feisty affair. Shimizu are the hosts and they are coming off the back of a 3-1 win against bottom of the league, Nagoya. That was a game that should have won and was expected to win but they showed they can control a game and score a few goals as well. It will be interesting to see if that result is the catalyst to their season and actually proves to them that they can play some good football.   

However, I am sure Kashiwa will be looking to stop them from leapfrogging them in the league. Kashiwa are in a similar boat to Shimizu in the fact that they haven’t been the best this season, they have just been good. They sit eighth in the league and four points behind third place so they can cut the lead down with three points and other results benefitting them. They just beat Urawa Reds 1-0 without showing their true potential so hopefully, they can prove themselves in this match.    

My prediction for the game will be a 1-1 draw, however, if I was to choose a winner it would be Shimizu, just because I have seen their full potential and haven’t seen Kashiwa’s.  

Game 3: Vegalta Sendai vs Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo    

This is another of those games that I will be keeping my eye on as it’s a great battle between two sides fighting near the top of the table. Vegalta are currently sitting seventh in the league, three points behind third place so a win will help them massively. They are coming off the back of a 2-1 loss to fellow high-flyers Cerezo Osaka and they will definitely not want to fall to another of their rivals at the top of the table.   

Hokkaido are looking like a very good team who are sneaking up the table game by game. They currently sit joint third and could leapfrog Tokyo in second if results go their way. They recently beat struggling Yokohama 2-1, however, they looked pretty lackluster in the first half of that game. Thankfully, they were back to their usual selves in the second half and won the game but it did show that they can switch off at times, allowing teams to take advantage.    

My prediction for this game will be a 2-1 win for Vegalta as I think they will be looking to improve after their recent loss to Cerezo and will look to close the gap on teams above them.    

Game 4: FC Tokyo vs Nagoya Grampus Eight    

This game should be interesting, just because of the goals Tokyo could score against Nagoya. Tokyo are currently second in the league and only six points off the top spot. They just beat, then, undefeated Hiroshima 3-1 and it was an absolute masterclass by them. They completely destroyed Hiroshima’s backline and made them look like a team who had lost every game of the season. They are definitely expected to beat their opponents today and, if they fail to, it will be the biggest surprise this season.   

Nagoya have had a horrid start to their first season back in the top flight. They currently sit bottom of the league on seven points and have really struggled to settle at the top-flight level. They were recently beat 3-1 by Shimizu and looked completely out of place against an average J-League side. If they do stay up this season, I will be very shocked as they definitely look the worst team in the league right now.    

My prediction for this game will be a 3-0 for Tokyo, everyone is expecting Tokyo to win quite comfortably and, even though I love a good underdog story, I just can’t see Nagoya pulling off a miracle and besting Tokyo in this game.    

Game 5: Jubilo Iwata vs Cerezo Osaka    

This game will be one to watch as Iwata are a very weird side and Cerezo are looking to break into the top three. Iwata have had a very inconsistent season so far as they currently sit tenth in the league. They have struggled to score goals in games, only managing nine all season and this has really let them down and cost them games. However, their defence has been great and kept them in games and won them games, having only conceded nine times. It will be interesting to see if they can start scoring goals soon because if they can, they could be an unstoppable force.    

However, Cerezo are standing in their way this time around and they will be desperate to pick up the points and leapfrog as many teams as they can to secure second place. They have just beaten Vegalta 2-1 in a very closely fought game. They proved that they can mix it with the best of them and this win should inspire them to the belief that they can beat anyone.   

My prediction for this game will be a 2-0 win for Cerezo however, the match could end up the complete opposite way and see Iwata take the three points.   

Game 6: Urawa Red Diamonds vs Shonan Bellmare    

This is a great battle of two teams near the bottom of the table, this could be a really good game or an absolute shocker. Urawa haven’t started the season off very well, failing to win many games and in turn, failing to pick up points. They recently lost to Kashiwa in an important battle in midweek, they may have only lost 1-0 but they never seemed to get into the game and never showed any passion. They really need to improve their form if they are to start climbing the table.   

Shonan are in a very similar boat to their opponents Urawa. They have also struggled to really find wins consistently and never seem to perform the same in each match. They did beat joint bottom side Gamba Osaka 1-0 last time out but they never really showed complete control over the game and it does leave worrying signs on the team if they can’t perform well against joint bottom.   

My prediction for this game is a boring 0-0 draw. However, this game has the potential to be a goal-fest due to the teams that are playing but I can’t see it happening.   

Game 7: Vissel Kobe vs Kawasaki Frontale   

This is another game I am really looking forward to and I may even watch over the weekend. Vissel Kobe will always be my favourite team thanks to them having Lukas Podolski on their roster. He is an absolute hero of mine and I love watching his games. Kobe have been a fairly decent team this season as they sit in sixth position, just outside the top three. They recently drew 1-1 with Kashima Antlers which was a good result in the end as the match was closely fought.   

Their opponents, Kawasaki, are the current title holders and have started the season off brilliantly as they currently sit in third, seven points behind the leaders. They have a brilliant gameplan and perfect it well in every game they play, they always score goals and hardly concede which is a perfect formula. They recently took care of strugglers Sagan Tosu 2-0 and they never looked like they were in trouble. Kobe will be a tough test for them this time out but they have the tools to beat them too.   

My prediction for this game is a 3-2 win for Kawasaki. This an extremely tough game to call as there are many reasons for both teams taking the three points but I think Kawasaki just edge Podo and Co to the three points.   

Game 8: Yokohama F. Marinos vs Kashima Antlers    

Surprisingly, I actually quite like matchups like this, two teams that aren’t the worst but they certainly can be a lot better and to be perfectly honest, I prefer these to the matchups of the top teams as these games can be absolute chaos. Yokohama are just outside the bottom three and desperately need to sort their form out if they want to get away from the relegation spots quickly. They recently lost to high-flyers Hokkaido 2-1, however, they did give Hokkaido a run for their money but just fell short. If they can reproduce a similar performance this time out they can beat Kashima quite easily.   

Kashima, who are arguably the biggest team in Japan after winning the league eight times, are just a single spot above their opponents and only three points separate them. They recently managed to draw with Vissel Kobe 1-1 and this was a great result for them as Kobe are a very good side. They need to sort out their attacking threat and actually learn how to create chances as they usually convert their chance well.    

My prediction for this game will be a 2-1 win for Yokohama. This game has the potential to go either way, especially with both teams playing well last time out but I feel Yokohama will want to catch their rivals and force them back into the relegation battle.     

Game 9: Gamba Osaka vs Sagan Tosu   

The Sunday game is another I am really looking forward to as it’s one of those relegation dog scraps that can literally surprise everyone. Both teams have struggled this season and that could be a good thing for us neutrals. Gamba are currently sitting seventeenth in the league and joint on points with bottom of the league. Only a single point separates Gamba and their opponents so they really need the win. They recently lost to Shonan 1-0 and never had the chance to replicate the quality football they showed in the Osaka derby last weekend. If they get the chance this time around, then they will decimate Sagan.   

Sagan are in the exact same boat as Gamba and have failed to really show the league what they are made of. They sit a single point above their opponents and desperately want the win to extend the gap between the pair. Last time out, Sagan lost to high-flyers Kawasaki 2-0 which isn’t a bad result, Kawasaki are on another level and everyone expected Sagan to lose. Hopefully, they perform a little better in this game and actually go at Gamba from the first whistle.   

My prediction for this game will be a 3-1 win for Gamba. I feel they have more to play for than their opponents and they have actually shown their quality this season. However, I am usually completely wrong so don’t do what Jake did and put money on my predictions.   

Game Of The Weekend   

With so many games to look forward to I have decided to allow you access to my massive brain as I recommend to you the best match to watch at the weekend. Obviously, everyone will sit down and watch the singular Sunday game but my choice for Game Of The Weekend is Kobe vs Kawasaki. Both teams are very good sides, with great quality within their respective rosters, so I am sure the game will not let us down. That’s all for the preview, hopefully when you next hear from me, I will be talking about some absolute goal-fests and Game Of The Season contenders, however, a Podolski hattrick will do.