The 2019 JFA Emperors Cup winners, Vissel Kobe, begin their 2020 J League campaign at home to newly promoted Yokohama FC on Sunday.
The significant investment made by Japanese online giant Rakuten in acquiring marquee signings such as Andres Iniesta, David Villa and the recently departed Lucas Podolski finally paid dividends when they record league winners Kashima Antlers in the January 1st cup final.
The trophy marks the clubs first major achievement and subsequently qualify for the AFC Champions League in what is to be their maiden campaign.
Manager Thorsten Fink will aim to bring further returns on investment and launch a serious challenge for the title this season.
Meanwhile the visiting side will be looking to assert themselves in the top flight and steer clear of relegation at all costs.
They boast a roster of household veteran players such as former Celtic man Shunsuke Nakamura and Kazuyoshi Miura, who turns 53 on Wednesday.
They have bolstered the defense with new arrival Maguinho on loan from Kanagawa neighbors Kawasaki Frontale.
Key Talking Points: Vissel Kobe
- Although key players David Villa and Lucas Podolski have parted ways with the club, Kobe have not replaced them with such extravagant signings.
- The most noteworthy addition to attack is Brazilian forward Douglas, suggesting young hopeful Kyogo Furuhashi will be given a further push along with Homegrown Keijiro Ogawa.
- Kobe’s weakness is often said to lie within their leaky defense. This was highlighted in the Super Cup final against Yokohama F Marinos that ended 3-3 after 90 minutes with Vissel winning on penalties.
Key Talking Points: Yokohama FC
- Despite a roster of senior players, Yokohama do possess youth in the middle of the park, helping bring the average age down somewhat.
- Prolific forward Norwegian Ibba is set to return to the frontline and is likely to be a prime source of goals for Yokohama in their 2nd ever season in the top flight.
- With Ibba, Nakamura and Maguinho holding the defense together, Yokohama have enough fight bravely against relegation. However, there is doubt as to whether it will be enough to withstand the strenuous demands of an entire season.