J1 League Match Preview: FC Tokyo host Cerezo Osaka amid a forecasted heatwave this weekend

FC Tokyo fans
FC Tokyo fans

Current leaders FC Tokyo host 7th placed Cerezo Osaka in matchday 21 of Japan`s J1 League this weekend. Both clubs should be recharged after a two-week break, as neither were involved in the European friendlies that have been taking place in the region.

A win for the hosts would maintain their lead at the top of the table and end a run of poor form against the Kansai based club, who have won all 5 of the games played between the two sides since Cerezo returned to J1 back in 2016.

FC Tokyo are currently 3 points adrift of 2nd placed Yokohama F Marinos with a +4 goal difference (42 and 39 points respectively). Current champions and occupiers of 4th place Kawasaki Frontale lost their game in hand to Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3-2 on Wednesday night and failed to gain any ground on the top 3. Meanwhile, fellow contenders Kashima Antlers could only manage a 1-1 draw against local rivals Urawa Reds, leaving them in 3rd with 38 points.

Cerezo Osaka lie further down the table in 7th place but boast a brilliant run of form in the league, tallying a total of 11 points from their last 5 games. They have seemingly done well to recover from a shaky start to the season. Manager Miguel Lotina appears to have established a settled system and the team has found its form in recent weeks.

Kenta Hasegawa’s men are likely to set up in their usual 4-2-2-2 counter-attacking formation with frontmen Diego Oliveira and Kensuke Nagai positioned to receive long through balls deep into the opponent's half. It is not clear if new signing Hirotaka Mita will be played as a central playmaker or as a wide attacker in place of the injured right-sided attacking midfielder, Na Sang-ho.

Similarly, the visitors will line up in their typical 4-4-2 with Brazilian forward Bruno Mendes likely to be the focal point of their attacking moves. So far the centre forward has scored 5 goals and made 2 assists from 15 appearances this season. Former Tokyo winger Kota Mizunuma is also enjoying a run of good form with 4 goals and 2 assists under his belt so far.

Japan is currently experiencing a heatwave with temperatures expected to rise as high as 35 degrees in the capital this Saturday evening. Therefore both sides may opt to sit in their usual counter setups and expend as little energy as possible. Such conditions may suggest a low scoring game this weekend.

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Edited by Raunak J
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