J.League Preview: Sanfrecce eye top spot

Sanfrecce Hiroshima can return to the J.League summit if they continue to recover from last month's mini-wobble on Saturday.

The defending champions lie second as they target a third straight title, having recovered from surrendering points to Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka in March. 

Following that, Sanfrecce have looked back to their best, seeing off bottom side Tokushima Vortis 3-1 before putting five past Nagoya Grampus. 

Hisato Sato has been at the centre of their fine recent form, scoring four times in the J.League this season - including two penalties - and he could prove crucial against Tokyo in helping Sanfrecce to the top of the table. 

Tokyo have perked up in recent weeks, picking up six points from their last two outings, but, provided Sanfrecce can overcome them and Kashima Antlers are beaten by Albirex Niigata, top spot would belong to the holders.

That would appear unlikely, though, as Kashima have dropped points just once this term and conceded only three goals - making Niigata's task an uphill one, especially given their inconsistent form this season. 

They are one of four sides located in mid-table on nine points with Sagan Tosu, Kashiwa Reysol and Nagoya Grampus, who take on Ventforet Kofu, Kawasaki Frontale and Urawa Reds respectively. 

Cerezo Osaka can add further misery to what has been a disappointing start to the season for Gamba Osaka when the sides meet for their derby encounter at the Nagai Stadium. 

However, even defeat would probably not see Gamba drop any further due to the sizeable 'goals against' column of the top-flight's bottom two. 

Vegalta Sendai and Vortis are both yet to win this term and have conceded 32 goals between them. 

Vortis - last season's J2 League play-off winners - have found the net just once and will likely have their work cut out when they travel to third-place Vissel Kobe while Vegalta visit last season's runners-up Yokohama F Marinos. 

Shimizu S-Pulse and Omiya Ardija - who hover two points above the relegation zone - can kick-start their respective campaigns when they meet at the Nihondaira Stadium.