A look ahead to the J2 weekend, and it is a weekend that throws up a couple of very interesting fixtures as well as no less than three derby games!
At the ND Soft stadium Montedio Yamagata take on Gamba Osaka. Montedio were beaten in their top of the table clash last week in Kobe and will be eager to claim a win that will underline their promotion credentials. Gamba on the other hand are becoming draw specialists, with 5 in their first 7 games but they are still unbeaten. Gamba will feel they had more than enough chances to see of Verdy last week but they couldn’t and the jury is still out on the Osaka club. Maybe this is the game where they step on the accelerator. In another top end clash, JEF United host second-placed Fagiano Okayama and Fagi will be hoping that in-form striker Tomoyuki Arata can return to haunt his old club. JEF themselves are starting to hit their stride and in Jair & Kempes they have a formidable front pairing. Fagiano are unbeaten this year whilst JEF have lost just the once, that being against Consadole Sapporo on the opening day.
Leaders Vissel Kobe will be without the suspended Popo when they make the trip to Kataller Toyama. Popo has been in fine form but Kobe have plenty of options to replace him with. They might go for anyone of Ken Tokura, Koki Arita or Keijiro Ogawa and any of them would pose problems for Toyama’s defence. Kataller, having had a very good start, are without a win in their last two games and could find themselves slipping down the table soon. One bright spot is that they have already beaten Kyoto at home this season so they “have previous” in turning over promotion contenders. Speaking of Kyoto Sanga, they host a Yokohama FC side currently battling away at the bottom of the table after a horror start that has seen them win only one of their opening games, at Gifu on the opening day of the season. Kyoto’s 3-0 victory in Gifu last week saw them pushed into the play-off places.
At the bottom, Matsumoto Yamaga welcome FC Gifu to their Alwin Stadium hoping not to be on the receiving end of Gifu’s first goal of the season. Gifu have bolstered their threadbare squad by bring in two loan players: Taisuke Mizuno from Nagoya and Hiroki Higuchi from Shimizu S-Pulse. Higuchi returns for his second loan spell at the club. Yamaga meanwhile have relied on their away form to keep them in the upper echelons of the table but they are yet to win at home. Two downwardly mobile teams meet at the Ningeer Stadium when Ehime FC, defeated in their last two games, meet Thespa Kusatsu Gunma, defeated in their previous three.
Consadole Sapporo, beaten in a five goal thriller in Okayama last week, face Tokushima Vortis in Hokkaido. Consa have lost four of their last five and are in 19th place while their opponents are in mid-table. Vortis will still be smarting from their injury-time defeat at home against Nagasaki last week but will look to take advantage of Sapporo’s lack of confidence. Mito Hollyhock were turned over at home by Matsumoto last week but they will look to bounce back when they make the relatively short trip to rapidly improving Tochigi SC for a north Kanto derby. Tochigi played some excellent football in appalling conditions in Toyama last week, deservedly snagging a late winner from Alex Santos. Tochigi must be confident of beating Mito, who have only won once this season, and moving into the top six.
Kyushu bragging rights are up for grabs as two derbies take place on the island. Avispa Fukuoka welcome near neighbours Giravanz Kitakyushu to the Level 5 stadium looking to arrest a slide that has seen them fail to secure victory in any of their last five games. Kitakyushu head into the game with an identical record to their regional foes having won against Ehime last time out. A little bit further west on the island, V-Varen Nagasaki host Roasso Kumamoto. Nagasaki could move into the top six with a win (providing other results go their way) and have Shouma Mizunaga and Koichi Sato providing their goal threat. Roasso are doing their best impression of Gamba Osaka by drawing their last four games.
Finally, Tokyo Verdy will climb above opponents Gainare Tottori if they beat them at the Ajinomoto Stadium. Verdy have recently shown signs of life and Naohiro Takahara is proving a very capable J2 forward, even in this late stage of his career.
Full J2 fixtures:
- Consadole Sapporo v Tokushima Vortis
- Matsumoto Yamaga v FC Gifu
- Montedio Yamagata v Gamba Osaka
- Tochigi SC v Mito Hollyhock
- V-Varen Nagasaki v Roasso Kumamoto
- JEF United Chiba v Fagiano Okayama
- Kataller Toyama v Vissel Kobe
- Tokyo Verdy v Gainare Tottori
- Avispa Fukuoka v Giravanz Kitakyushu
- Kyoto Sanga v Yokahama FC
- Ehime FC v Thespa Kusatsu Gunma