J.League Preview: Urawa out to consolidate lead

J.League leaders Urawa Reds will look to consolidate their position at the summit with victory at mid-table Albirex Niigata on Tuesday.

In-form Urawa have taken 13 points from their last five top-flight outings to open up a six-point lead over Kawasaki Frontale and Sagan Tosu.

And Mihailo Petrovic's side will fancy their chances of taking another step towards a first J.League title in eight years against Albirex - a club they have not lost to since July 2006.

Urawa's closest challengers Kawasaki and Sagan face trips to Omiya Ardija and Kashiwa Reysol respectively.

Omiya appeared to be doomed to relegation after going 10 games without a win before Hiroki Shibuya took over, but the new boss has led them to consecutive victories, meaning they are within touching distance of rising out of the drop zone.

Kashima Antlers, who sit just outside the AFC Champions League qualification places, will be confident of taking advantage of any slip-ups from those above them when they visit Vegalta Sendai, who have lost four in a row. 

Meanwhile, Kenta Hasegawa takes his in-form Gamba Osaka side to his former club Shimizu S-Pulse, and Vissel Kobe head to Ventforet Kofu. 

Tokyo have not lost in 12 J.League games, but four straight draws have left them eight points behind the AFC Champions League places.

However, the capital club have the ideal opportunity to get back to winning ways against rock-bottom Tokushima Vortis this week. 

Other midweek fixtures see reigning champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who sit seventh, visit Yokohama F Marinos, and Cerezo Osaka host Nagoya Grampus.