This Saturday’s fixture list in J2 is the halfway point marker of the season. Here are some bite-sized previews of fixtures, with predictions as to how I think they’ll pan out.
(NOTE – DO NOT TRUST MY PREDICTIONS!)
Avispa Fukuoka vs FC Gifu – Gifu shipped in six goals last week at home to JEF United, so a date with league leaders Avispa is probably not the remedy to the defensive woes. Avispa have the joint second best defensive record in the league and in Wellington have one of the premier strikers in the division.
Tokushima Vortis vs Ehime FC – Vortis are coming off the back of a stunning 6-1 win away in Yamagata last week and could potentially move up to third with a win. Daiki Watari has arguably been player of the year in J2 so far, his 12 goals proving crucial to the new style of play that manager Ricardo Rodriguez is trying to implement. Ehime make the relatively short trip to Tokushima after losing narrowly in Fukuoka last week. They’ll be tough, but I expect they’ll come up just short against their Shikoku neighbours.
Kyoto Sanga vs ThespaKusatsu Gunma – Two teams in horrible form meet up at Nishikyogoku. Kyoto have lost their last two, Gunma the last four. I think there’ll be goals, and unfortunately for Gunma, I think they’ll be more on the receiving end.
Renofa Yamaguchi vs Matsumoto Yamaga – even though their last game brought a much welcome win for new Renofa manager Carlos Mayor, they will do well to repeat the trick against an admittedly inconsistent Matsumoto Yamaga. Renofa are a shell of the team that did so well last year, and if Matsumoto want to be the promotion/play-off contenders they seem to believe they should be then these are the kind of games they should be looking to win
Zweigen Kanazawa vs Yokohama FC – recent form might suggest the opposite, but I have a feeling that Yokohama FC will get back on track in this game. YFC have won just once in the last five, but they are only losing games by the odd goal suggesting that they are never out of games. They are also never out of games when they can call upon the services of Norwegian forward Ibba, the division’s top scorer with 13 goals so far. Kanazawa have hit three in both of their last two outings, the latter outing being an impressive win in Kyoto but whether they can deal with Ibba is a huge question for them.
Roasso Kumamoto vs Tokyo Verdy – Roasso are in horrendous form, losing their last five, nine of the last eleven, and have failed to score in their last four league games. Verdy are flying high in third place and are looking to build on their fine 4-2 win at Machida last week. Verdy forward Yoshiaki Takagi has been one of the unheralded stars of J2 this year and I believe that his probing runs & passes will cause lots of problems for Kumamoto.
Shonan Bellmare vs Nagoya Grampus – should Bellmare win this it will send a huge signal of intent to the rest of the league and would put them nine points clear of Nagoya at the halfway point of the season. For Nagoya, this is a seminal moment in their season. They finally got back on track by beating Nagasaki last weekend, but a defeat will bring the storm clouds back over Yahiro Kazama’s head.
Fagiano Okayama vs Mito Hollyhock – this is completely different Mito side than we’ve seen before. Spearheaded by the talented Daizen Maeda and the rejuvenated Ryohei Hayashi, Hollyhock are currently on a five game win streak. Fagiano are themselves unbeaten in the last six, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a draw in this game.
Montedio Yamagata vs Machida Zelvia – Both of these sides are coming of bad home defeats – Yamagata were thumped 6-1 at home by Tokushima, while Machida were beaten 4-2 at home by Tokyo Verdy. The defensive performance last week from Yamagata seemed to be an aberration as they’ve usually been pretty tight recently. I expect them to return to that form and if pushed I would say they’re slight favourites, but I also expect Machida to try & tighten things up as well.
Kamatamare Sanuki vs V-Varen Nagasaki – After two difficult away games, Sanuki return home to their Pikara Stadium to face a Nagasaki side with designs on the play-off places. Nagasaki have lost just one of the last seven, that being last week against a wounded & fired up Nagoya side. Nagasaki are a good, functional team but Sanuki really need a positive result at home and it isn’t difficult to see them canceling each other out in this one.
JEF United vs Oita Trinita – Fresh off their frankly bizarre 6-4 win at Gifu, JEF will look to tap into their goalscoring reserves again when they host surprise package Oita Trinita. This could be decided between a battle of two of my favourite players so far this year in J2: JEF forward Koki Kiyotake and Oita striker Yusuke Goto. They their respective teams go-to talents, and whichever one of them has a better day could tip the scales in their team’s favour.