17 July 2014 14:36
Urawa Reds and Sagan Tosu will resume their battle for top spot in the J.League when they return to action on Saturday.
A two-month break from Japanese top-flight action for the World Cup came to an end on Tuesday when two matches were played, and this weekend will see a full programme of fixtures.
Urawa moved to the summit in the final game before the interval, beating Cerezo Osaka 1-0 to take advantage of Sagan’s 1-1 draw with Omiya Ardija.
That pair of results gave Urawa a one-point lead at the top, which they will look to consolidate or even extend against an Albirex Niigata side that sit eighth, bottom of a pile of six teams separated by just two points.
Meanwhile, Sagan face a tough task against a team further to the front of that queue as Yoon Jung-hwan’s men travel to take on Vissel Kobe, who are only behind third-placed Kawasaki Frontale on goal difference.
Kawasaki’s 2-1 success at Cerezo on Tuesday saw them go third and they will be favourites to take maximum points again versus a Shimizu S-Pulse team hoping to avoid a sixth consecutive league game without a win.
Victory at Shimizu could potentially cut the four-point gap to Sagan, but Yahiro Kazama’s side will be wary of Kashima Antlers and Kashiwa Reysol, both of whom will be out to boost their AFC Champions League prospects this weekend.
Kashima visit the capital to face Tokyo, while Kashiwa host an in-form Vegalta Sendai team aiming for a fifth straight league win.
Defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima take on struggling Omiya as they look to bounce back from a midweek defeat to last year’s runners-up Yokohama F. Marinos.
Yokohama visit lowly Cerezo, whose fellow strugglers Gamba Osaka and Nagoya Grampus welcome Ventforet Kofu and bottom club Tokushima Vortis respectively.