The 2013 J-League season begins tomorrow, as last season’s winners Sanfrecce Hiroshima look to defend their title, whilst also hoping to make some headway in the AFC Champions League - a tournament a J-League side haven’t won since Gamba Osaka in 2008.
Following on from last weekend’s Fuji Xerox Super Cup, where a Hisato Sato goal clinched the trophy for Sanfrecce, the competition provided a quick look as to how strong they will be for the upcoming season.
Fielding a team showing no new signings, Sanfrecce duly delivered another trophy to keep their fan base happy and to send out a message to the rest of the league, showing they mean business.
Vegalta Sendai will be hoping to challenge again after a good showing last season, finishing runners-up, though they will have to juggle their priorities as they prepare to embark on a first ever Asian Champions League campaign.
Seven time winners Kashima Antlers will be hoping for a better turn out this season, after finishing in 11th place last time round - their worst ever finish in J-League history. Surely things can only get better?
Also looking for a marked improvement will be Jubilo Iwata who were sitting comfortably in the top half at the midway point, only for their form to dramatically veer off, losing six of their last eight games, drawing two.
Urawa Red Diamonds will be hoping that their 3rd place finish is just the beginning of things to come, and with an expectant fan base, will be looking for their first J1 title since 2006.
The Reds are entering the season with a strong squad, and will hope new signing Shinzo Koroki can provide the goals that will propel them to league glory.
After being defeated just four times in the J-League 2 last time out, J2 Champions Ventforet Kofu will look to cement a position in J1, along with their fellow promoted teams Shonan Bellmare and play-off winners Oita Trinita.
Other clubs hoping to starve off relegation will be Albirex Niigata, Cerezo Osaka and Omiya Ardija, all of whom finished within five points of the relegation places last season.
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