J1 League: FC Tokyo aim to extend lead at the top when they clash with Vegalta Sendai
J1 League leaders FC Tokyo take on Vegalta Sendai at the Ajinomoto Stadium this weekend. The home side will be looking to extend their 6-point lead at the top of Japan’s top flight on a weekend that sees fellow title contenders Yokohama F Marinos and Kashima Antlers play each other.
Kenta Hasegawa’s red and blue army are enjoying a great run of form in the league, having secured 12 points from their last five games. They are sure to be in high spirits after brushing aside Cerezo Osaka 3-0 last weekend.
The visitors, on the other hand, currently lie in 12th place on 26 points, behind Shonan Bellmare on goal difference. A win for the Tohoku based club could see them climb as high as 9th depending on other results.
The club from the capital city boast a deadly attacking partnership with Kensuke Nagai and the league's top scorer Diego Oliveira. Tokyo are renowned masters of the counter-attack with the two frontmen playing integral parts in transitioning from defense to attack.
Nagai, with his pace, is able to carry the ball the full length of the pitch before setting up target man Oliveira. The duo have tallied a total of 19 goals between them this season.
Tokyo arguably boast the better strength in depth of the two sides. In their last match, they had a wide array of starting 11-worthy talent on the bench, including former Gremio forward Jael, South Korea international Na Sangho and new signing Hirotaka Mita.
Such depth allows for a change of shape should their initial set-up fail to deliver. It may also allow them a degree of flexibility in launching attacks given the variety of skills possessed by each player.
The visitors, meanwhile, are likely to line up in a 4-2-2-2 formation and sit deep for the majority of the game. They will look to take advantage of holes left in their opponents' defense when they attack and steal a goal on the counter.
The striking partnership is likely to be Ramon Lopes and veteran striker Naoki Ishihara. Diogo Acosta may also make an appearance should they find themselves behind.
New arrival Jakub Slowik is likely to be the 1st choice keeper for Sendai. The Polish keeper arrived in July from Slask Wroclaw as a replacement for the outgoing Japan international Daniel Schmidt. So far Slowik has kept 1 clean sheet in 2 matches.
The odds are seemingly stacked against the visitors this weekend. However, recent league matches between the two teams have seen Vegalta securing 3 wins from 5. If history is to repeat itself, this game may not be as one-sided as the current standings would indicate.