Friday, November 27, 2009

Day of reckoning on blockbuster J. League weekend

Day of reckoning on blockbuster J. League weekend.
Don't bother heading out to Omiya Park or Todoroki Stadium with no ticket this weekend - J. League games there are already sold-out.

A ticketless trip to Kyoto's Nishikyogoku Stadium is similarly inadvisable, as is venturing out to Yamaha Stadium in Iwata.

And there will be plenty of fans at Kashima Stadium, where big guns Kashima Antlers go head-to-head with fellow title-chasers Gamba Osaka in a clash of the titans.

Welcome to the penultimate round of the J. League - a day of reckoning for several of Japan's biggest clubs.

The match of the round undoubtedly takes place at Kashima Stadium, where defending champions Kashima meet Gamba Osaka.

An unprecedented five-game losing streak midway through the campaign threatened to derail Kashima's season, however Oswaldo de Oliveira's team have fought back venomously to regain control at the top of the standings.

They have third-placed Gamba Osaka standing in their way in this round, with mercurial Gamba playmaker Yasuhito Endo named the AFC Player Of The Year at an awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in midweek.

All tickets have been sold for Kawasaki's vital Todoroki Stadium showdown against Albirex Niigata, with Kawasaki desperate to beat the dour northern side and hope that Gamba do them a favour in Kashima.

At the other end of the table, Omiya Ardija's 'Noda Line' classic with regional rivals Kashiwa Reysol will go a long way to sorting out the final relegation candidate for 2009.

Omiya must avoid defeat to guarantee their top flight survival, however Kashiwa are currently in form, as the Chiba side chase their third straight victory in this game.

The Sun Kings must win both of their remaining two league games if they are to avoid making the drop into J2 alongside local rivals JEF United and the hapless Oita Trinita.

A big crowd is likely to descend upon Nishikyogoku Stadium in Kyoto for Sanga's final home game of the season against Urawa Reds, with Volker Finke's star-studded Reds enjoying somewhat of a resurgence, as they look to sneak into the top three at the last possible moment.

Another packed house should turn out at Yamaha Stadium in Iwata to witness 42-year-old one-club man Masashi 'Gon' Nakayama play his final game for his beloved Jubilo, as they welcome Sanfrecce Hiroshima to the compact venue.

Sunday's games see Yokohama F. Marinos take on Shimizu S-Pulse, while relegated pair JEF United and Oita Trinita meet in Chiba.

However, it's the Saturday schedule that looks set to enthrall, and it sets up another fascinating round on the final day of the season.

More than 60,000 fans will turn out at Saitama Stadium next weekend to see if Urawa Reds can end the championship hopes of bitter rivals Kashima Antlers, as Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka both wait to pounce in another thrilling climax to a J. League campaign.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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