Round 30 of the J-League has thrown up some fascinating fixtures, but all eyes will be on a Urawa Reds side that takes on Nagoya Grampus Eight in a blockbuster at Saitama Stadium.
Urawa qualified for the final of the AFC Champions League in midweek, and Nagoya will be hoping to take advantage of any hangovers by putting one over the Reds in what is traditionally a hotly contested affair.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima kick off the weekend with what could be an ill-tempered clash against JEF United. Not only will Japan striker Hisato Sato come up against a team captained by his twin brother Yuto, but Hiroshima recently signed Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov.
Stoyanov was sacked by JEF United for claiming that coach Amar Osim was “clueless” and would lead the Chiba outfit into the Second Division. Ironically it’s Hiroshima who could be destined for J2 – if they lose this match, they are in danger of being overtaken by a fast finishing Omiya Ardija.
In other highlight matches Kashiwa Reysol and Vissel Kobe will slug it out in a battle between two sides promoted from J2 last season, Omiya Ardija will be fighting for their lives away at a hapless Yokohama FC, Ventforet Kofu will be desperate to take all three points from Yokohama F. Marinos at home, there should be a near-capacity crowd at Nihondaira Stadium as fourth placed Shimizu S-Pulse take on second placed Gamba Osaka, and the Tama River Derby between FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale will be another hotly anticipated affair.
Yokohama FC relegated in record time
Yokohama FC were relegated in record time, after their 3-0 loss away at Vissel Kobe in Round 29 condemned the port city strugglers to Second Division football next season.
Having picked up a meagre eleven league points, the fan-created club look certain to finish with the lowest points tally since the J-League introduced a single stage season in 2005.
Yokohama FC have lost an embarrassing eight matches in a row, and their last point came in a 1-1 draw with Gamba Osaka back in Round 21.
That run of losses has been overseen by Brazilian coach Julio Leal, who was brought in to replace the sacked Takuya Takagi, with Leal yet to pick up a single point in charge of the embattled club.
Omiya Park Stadium open …