J.League Preview: Bellmare in danger of Ardija backlash
Leaders Omiya Ardija will be looking to bounce back from their first loss this J.League season, when they host Shonan Bellmare on Saturday.
The Omiya-ku club suffered a 2-1 loss on the road to mid-table Vegalta Sendai, while their upcoming opponents snapped a three-match losing streak with a 3-2 win over Tokyo.
The Hiratsuka-based club, who were promoted from the Japanese second division last season, still have only nine points to show for their first 11 matches - 17 fewer than Omiya.
The league's pacesetters will be confident of getting back onto the winners list, as they have beaten Shonan Bellmare in their past six contests dating back to 2004.
The two most recent battles between the clubs - both in Hiratsuka - ended 3-1 in Omiya's favour, while their last clash at Omiya's NACK5 Stadium saw the hosts win 3-0.
The good news for the visitors on Saturday is that the two men to have scored against them on multiple occasions in those three clashes - namely Yuki Fukaya and Rafael Marques - have moved on to different clubs.
Looking to further decrease the gap between themselves and Omiya at the top will be second side Yokohama F Marinos, who trail the league leaders by three points.
Yokohama host Omiya's recent conquerors Vegalta Sendai, who will undoubtedly be riding high after taking a big scalp last matchday.
Urawa Reds sit third in the table, and will welcome Sagan Tosu to the Saitama Stadium 2002.
Nagoya Grampus' attempts to get themselves back into the AFC Champions League have gone badly so far this season, and things do not get much easier for Dragan Stojkovic's men when they travel to Kashima Antlers.
Kashima, in fourth, have not been in continental action since 2011, and are well placed early in the season to threaten for a top-three finish.
Nagoya meanwhile are dwindling in the nether regions of the table, sitting in 14th spot, just three points clear of the drop zone.
Albirex Niigata are unbeaten in three, and can continue their run of picking up points when they host winless Oita Trinita.
In other fixtures, second-bottom Jubilo Iwata welcome Kawasaki Frontale, fifth side Sanfrecce Hiroshima are at home to Ventforet Kofu, Kashiwa Reysol can leapfrog sixth-placed opponents Cerezo Osaka with a win, and Tokyo are hoping to bounce back from a last-start loss when they entertain Shimizu S-Pulse.