J.League Preview: Top three expected to win
By Football News
The leading J.League sides can all consolidate their positions as each of the top three face bottom-half opponents at the weekend.
Leaders Omiya Ardija (29 points) can continue their high-flying season on the road at 13th-placed Ventforet Kofu on Saturday.
Omiya have won nine of 12 this season, although their most recent road trip ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Vegalta Sendai.
Kofu, meanwhile, have won two of their past three at their Yamanashi Chuo Bank home, although their last fixture there resulted in a 2-0 reverse to Shimizu S-Pulse.
Saturday's hosts will be optimistic of a result, as they beat Omiya 3-1 away in their J.League Cup first-round tie in April.
Omiya have not won at the venue since 2004, when both clubs were competing in J.League Division 2.
Second-placed Yokohama F Marinos are five points adrift of top spot ahead of their trip to 15th-placed Sagan Tosu.
Tosu have dropped their past four outings at home, conceding 10 goals in the process - while Yokohama's most recent road trip was a 2-1 victory at Nagoya Grampus, and they have lost just one of their past 10 league away clashes.
Urawa Reds are third on 23 points - one behind Yokohama - in the final AFC Champions League spot, and the continental tournament's current edition could work in their favour this weekend.
Urawa take on Kashiwa Reysol on Sunday, with the latter involved in Asian duties on Wednesday in the last 16 of the 2013 tournament.
The Reds will fancy their chances of getting all three points given 10th-placed Kashiwa's squad will be pushed to back up for league duties with just three days to recover from their ACL clash with K-League club Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday.
In the only fixture pitting two top-half teams against one another on the weekend, seventh-placed Tokyo can draw level with Kashima Antlers in fourth with a win.
Tokyo have just one draw in 12 league affairs this season, meaning a result one way or the other is on the cards.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima - led by golden boot frontrunner Hisato Sato (nine goals) - can make it three wins in succession when they travel to relegation-placed Shonan Bellmare.
The Hiratsuka-based club have scored only two more goals collectively than Sato, who has scored the game's first goal on four occasions this term.
Shimizu S-Pulse have lost three of their past four, and will host a Vegalta Sendai outfit who are unbeaten in four.
Kawasaki Frontale can continue their bright form of late, and make it four wins in their past five when they entertain Albirex Niigata.
Nagoya Grampus will have a tough time ending their seven-match winless run in all competitions when they face Cerezo Osaka.
Osaka have not been beaten in seven, including back-to-back wins in their past two including a cup triumph.
Finally, Oita Trinita can scrape their way off bottom spot on the table when they take on the side directly above them Jubilo Iwata.
Both sides are level on points with six from 12 matches, but Oita have an inferior goal difference - meaning only a victory can get them off bottom.