J.League Preview: Urawa, Kashima vie for third
Third position in the J.League will be up for grabs on Saturday when Urawa Red Diamonds look to take the spot back from Kashima Antlers.
Urawa, who have not won in three J.League matches, dropped to fourth last week following their 2-2 draw with Cerezo Osaka with Kashima leapfrogging the Reds into third on the back of a 1-0 victory over Shonan Bellmare.
Kashima have not lost in nine matches in all competitions and will travel to the Reds' Saitama Stadium with no fear, having only lost once in their past five trips to Urawa's home turf.
The Antlers have won two of those matches but the hosts will be given a boost with captain Yuki Abe set to return from suspension.
The 31-year-old defensive midfielder received a straight red card in Urawa's 1-0 defeat to Shimizu S-Pulse on April 27, missing the draw with Cerezo, and will provide crucial cover for the Reds' defence when they come up against Kashima's attacking weapons Davi, Takuya Nozawa and Yuya Osako.
League-leaders Omiya Ardija will look to extend their winning streak to eight games in Japan's top tier of football when they travel to Vegalta Sendai.
Omiya may have to play Vegalta without super-sub Takamitsu Tomiyama after the 22-year-old striker suffered concussion when he scored the winner in his team's 2-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima last week.
The J.League's top side will be looking to extend their six-point gap on second-placed Yokohama F. Marinos, who travel to Nagoya Grampus.
Tomiyama, who has scored two goals this season after coming off the bench, clashed with Sanfrecce goalkeeper Takuya Masuda as he nodded the ball into the net in the 84th minute and both players were taken to hospital with concussion.
Masuda seems unlikely to play in Sanfrecce's match against bottom club Oita Trinita after the horrific head-on collision with Tomiyama.
Jubilo Iwata will host Kashiwa Reysol with Tetsu Nagasawa as caretaker head coach after Hitoshi Morishita resigned on Sunday.
Morishita stepped down as Jubilo's head coach after his team lost 2-1 to Ventforet Kofu on Friday to sit in the J.League's relegation zone after 10 games.
In other J. League fixtures, Sagan Tosu will host Albirex Niigata, Cerezo Osaka face a trip to Kawasaki Frontale, Shonan Bellmare are up against FC Tokyo and Ventforet Kofu will play Shimizu S-Pulse.