J.League Preview: Yokohama, Sanfrecce to battle for top spot

Yasuhiro Higuchi’s men head into the match at the Kashima Soccer Stadium on the back of an impressive run of form that has seen them go unbeaten in their last six matches.

The 2004 J.League champions also went top of the league last Saturday when they defeated Tokyo 2-0, with Shingo Hyodo and Shunsuke Nakamura both netting their sixth league goals of the season respectively to clinch the points.

But the league leaders will be tested by Kashima, with the hosts having not lost at home in the league since October last year. 

Anything but a win would hand Sanfrecce Hiroshima the chance to leapfrog over them in the table and Hajime Moriyasu’s men travel to rock-bottom Oita Trinita.

Trinita have won just one league game all season and face relegation unless they can turn things around immediately, with Jubilo Iwata and Shonan Bellmare also both scrapping for their J.League status. 

The duo, who occupy the other two places in the drop zone, both edged further clear of Trinita with draws last weekend and face tough matches against Tokyo and Ventforet Kofu respectively on Saturday.

Urawa Red Diamonds and Cerezo Osaka will both aim to close the gap on the top two and keep their title hopes with just under half of the season left to play.

Both are on the road this weekend, with Urawa heading to Shimizu S-Pulse while Cerezo make the trip to Nagoya Grampus, who have won four successive league games. 

Levir Culpi’s Cerezo side are also brimming with confidence after thrashing Shimizu 4-1 to make it three wins from five in the J.League. A brace from Endo and further goals from Yoichiro Kakitani and Takuma Edamura sunk Shimizu.

Also in action are Omiya Ardija and Sagan Tosu as they play host to Kashiwa Reysol and Vegalta Sendai, while Kawasaki Frontale make the trip to Albirex Niigata.

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