J.League Preview: Sanfrecce look to pull away as Kashima host Vissel

With second facing third in the J.League this weekend, Sanfrecce Hiroshima are able to extend their lead at the top against Albirex Niigata.

Albirex beat Kashima Antlers last week to ensure they slipped to second while Vissel Kobe moved a point behind them thanks to victory over Tokushima Vortis. 

Antlers and Vissel meet on Saturday and, depending on results, Sanfrecce, who moved top last week, could end the weekend with a three-point cushion.

However, a trip to the Denka Big Swan Stadium is no foregone conclusion even for a Sanfrecce team who have won their last three league games and fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Bejiing Guoan in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday. 

Albirex have lost only once in the league this term, and are yet to be seriously hindered by an early lack of goals - having scored just six in their opening seven games. 

They sit level on points with in-form Sagan Tosu, who will hope striker Yohei Toyoda can bring Susumu Watanabe back down to earth after a positive start to managerial life at Vegalta Sendai.

Watanabe took over from Graham Arnold last week and Vegalta saw off Yokohama F Marinos 2-0 in his first match in charge but his defence will need to cope with the league's leading goalscorer Toyoda on Saturday. 

Toyoda has three goals from his last three games while only bottom team Vortis have conceded more than Vegalta this season. 

Tokushima will go in search of their first win of the campaign when they host Shimizu S-Pulse while fellow strugglers Ventforet Kofu welcome Nagoya Grampus. 

After his brace salvaged a point in the Osaka derby, Cerezo will hope Diego Forlan can again produce the goods against Tokyo in the capital this week with Gamba able to avert their slide towards the drop zone when Omiya Ardija come to town. 

Urawa Reds have the chance to move into the top three, depending on the earlier result between Antlers and Vissel, when they take on Kawasaki Frontale.