J-League: Week 16 preview
Sanfrecce Hiroshima pick up back-to-back victories to move into title contention
After an inauspicious start to the season, it seemed Sanfrecce Hiroshima would have no chance of retaining their title, however after a few good results before the mid-season break they have come back refreshed and won two out of two.
They now sit six points of off Omiya, and are due to face the Squirrels in two weeks time. The first meeting ended 2-1 to Omiya. Before that game though, Omiya travel to Yokohama to face the Marinos and Sanfreece have a home game with Cerezo Osaka, both difficult games.
Urawa Red Diamonds had to fight from 2-0 against FC Tokyo to force a draw, meaning they sit in second place, five points behind the league leaders. A gap has begun to emerge between sixth and seventh and with Kawasaki Frontale due to face Urawa this week - the Reds are in for another tough weekend.
The battle at the bottom took a twist this week as 90th minute goal from Ryohei Yamazaki secured a 2-1 win for Jubilo Iwata. It saw them close the gap to three points for safety, and was just their second win of the season. Other bottom clubs Shonan Bellmare and Oita Trinita were again on the wrong end of their respective results, it almost looks certain now that Oita is destined to return to J2 next season.
Kashima Antlers and Yokohama F Marinos still have faint hopes of a title challenge but one would feel now that an eight point gap would be too large. They will till give it the upmost of goes, but Marinos seem to be on a serious down, whilst Antlers have lost a few important games. It gets no easier for Marinos this weekend, whilst Antlers face Champions League quarter-finalists Kahsiwa Reysol.
Venforet Kofu have been on five game losing streak and have begun a perilous slide down the J1 table. After a promising start it now seems that a relegation battle looms for the J2 Champions and this was probably expected of them, when they won promotion. They sit just above Sagan Tosu, who did much to calm those relegations fears. A win over Kofu, gave them a bit of breathing space between themselves and Jubilo.
Mid-table occupants Vegalta Sendai continue to struggle to find consistency as does Shimizu S-Pulse. Both clubs will most likely stay in mid-table obscurity this season and for last years runners up, Vegalta it should be looked on as an extremely poor showing. Nagoya Grampus will be hoping for a victory to allay their relegation fears and move seven points clear of the drop.
The J1 is really starting to open up now, as we start to see what clubs will be challenging for what places. Omiya Ardija are going strong at the top and with a five point cushion, have a little bit of security, should they run into a bad batch of form.
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