J.League Preview: Urawa maintain title hope

Urawa Reds have not given up hope of winning the J.League title, despite surrendering top spot heading into the final round.

Three teams are in contention to win the championship after Urawa conceded at the death to draw 1-1 at fourth-placed Sagan Tosu last week.

Urawa appeared to have one hand on the trophy when former Japan international Yuki Abe converted a 67th-minute penalty, but despite playing the remaining 27 minutes with 10 men, hosts Sagan equalised via veteran defender Teruaki Kobayashi in injury time.

The draw opened the door for rivals Gamba Osaka (62 points, +28), who moved to the summit on goal difference following their 3-1 win at home to Vissel Kobe.

Kashima Antlers (60 points, +26) are also in the mix having emerged emphatic 4-1 victors against Cerezo Osaka, who were relegated as a result.

But Urawa (62 points, +21) will battle until the end as they prepare to host Nagoya Grampus at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Saturday.

"It is difficult to make comments looking at our situation," Urawa coach Mihailo Petrovic said after last week's draw.

"We conceded in the 88th minute against Gamba and then in the 94th today. We are conceding late goals and not getting results and these last two games have really hurt us.

"It hurts to concede top spot before the last game of the season but as long as there is a possibility [of us winning the title] then we will keep battling until the very end."

Gamba are on the road for their final match, travelling to Pocarisweat Stadium to face cellar-dwelling Tokushima Vortis, who are winless in 12 games.

Kashima - unbeaten in five outings - entertain Sagan at Kashima Soccer Stadium, needing favourable results in games involving Gamba and Urawa to stand any chance of winning the title.

Relegation-threatened Omiya Ardija take on Cerezo, with their top-flight status on the line.

Omiya (32 points, +18) are three points adrift of safety as Shimizu S-Pulse (35 points, +18) play Ventforet Kofu.

In other fixtures, Kashiwa Reysol will be out to make it seven leagues wins on the bounce when they make the trip to Albirex Niigata.

Tokyo host Yokohama F. Marinos in a mid-table clash, Vissel go head-to-head with Kawasaki Frontale, while Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vegalta Sendai meet at EDION Stadium.