Already into week three of the 2013 J-League season and Yokohama F Marinos are currently setting the pace at the top of the division after their second win in as many games.
Shunsuke Nakamura again opened the scoring for the Marinos after just eight minutes with Shingo Hyodo getting the second just before half-time. The second half belonged to one man, Marquinhos who netted a hat-trick to take his tally to five goals in just two league games.
The real question for the Marinos, who face 13th placed Jubilo Iwata this coming weekend, is can they realistically be title contenders or are we just seeing an early season flutter? With no disrespect to S-Pulse or Shonan Bellmare, who they faced in week one, but they are yet to face an actually title contender and when they do it will show whether they can be considered title contenders.
FC Tokyo, Cerezo Osaka and Urawa Red Diamonds also have had a perfect start to the season with two wins. Fourth place Urawa Red’s will be hoping to make it three out of three when they face an away trip to Oita Trinita, who themselves have failed to win in their opening two games and currently sit 11th with a solitary point. The Red’s will be hoping to make it three out of three as their quest for the title continues. For Cerezo and Tokyo, they face each other in the battle of second versus third with Cerezo hoping home advantage will lead them to victory.
Fifth placed Kashima Antlers travel to champions Sanfreece Hiroshima in the Sunday game, and will hope to add to the miserable start that Hisato Sato and his teammates have had. Having lost the first game of the J1 season to the Red’s, Sanfreece improved with a 2-1 victory over Albirex Niigata in week two, yet their AFC Champions League form has been extremely poor. This being the first time they have entered the tournament, Sanfreece already find themselves bottom of their group after losing their opening two games, and one would feel they have a mountain to climb if they are to qualify for the next stage. Antlers have had a decent start to the campaign with a draw in week one and then beating Vegalta Sendai 3-2 to register that all important first win of the season.
Vegalta then will be looking to bounce back with their first win of the season when they welcome Kashiwa Reysol to the Yurtec Stadium Sendai. For Vegalta and Reysol - both representative’s of Japan’s in the AFC Champions League this season - Vegalta earning two draws, leaving them second in their group, and Reysol winning both games, leaving them top. It will be interesting to see who has recovered best from their midweek games in this one.
Bottom club Albirex Niigata travel to sixth placed Omiya Ardija looking to improve their fortunes after two losses. Ardija have looked good in both their opening games and will be hoping to continue their positive start to the new season. J2 Champions Ventforet Kofu’s 25-game unbeaten run came to an end last week with defeat to Cerezo, and are at home to Nagoya Grampus, Kawasaki Frontale travel to Sagan Tosu, whilst Shonan Bellmare, who were J2 runners up last year face Shimizu S-Pulse.
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