J1 League Preview: FC Tokyo aim to keep title hopes alive at Oita Trinita on Saturday
FC Tokyo are back in action this weekend as they head south to face Oita Trinita, who currently sit in 7th place.
The team from the capital are aiming to go level on points with pack leaders Kashima Antlers, who beat Urawa Reds 1-0 on Friday evening.
The Gas Men were finally overtaken by the Antlers on Matchday 28 after having maintained pole position for 19 games on the trot.
Their great run earlier this year could be attributed to the contribution of rising Japanese star Takefusa Kubo who has since departed for greener pastures at Real Madrid.
Tokyo were also made to play the majority of their games at the beginning of the season at home, as their home stadium was selected as a host venue for the Rugby World Cup.
They have suffered a sharp dip in form the past few weeks though, and have won just two of their last seven league games.
Manager Kenta Hasegawa has come under fire for persisting with a stagnant and inflexible set-up that has regularly failed to break down defences as of late. That said, the former treble-winning manager masterminded an impressive 3-1 win over Vissel Kobe two weeks ago.
The usual front-two system was switched to a set-up that consisted of just one up top, with attacking midfielder Yojiro Takahagi stepping in for Japanese striker Kensuke Nagai.
Hasegawa is now faced with a “stick or twist” dilemma with most fans hoping he persists with the side that made light work of Vissel Kobe.
Oita Trinita, meanwhile, are aiming to keep their hopes of Asian Champions League qualification alive with a home win on Saturday.
Trinita started their first season back in the top flight in impressive style and have remained in the top half for the entirety of the 2019 campaign.
Striker Noriaki Fujimoto caught the eye of Vissel Kobe, who swiftly acquired him mid-season. He now plays his football alongside European legends such as Andres Iniesta and David Villa.
Nonetheless, Oita have also struggled to find consistency and have dropped points recently. They too have been forced to play a string of away games as a result of the Rugby World Cup.
FC Tokyo comfortably beat Trinita 3-1 at the Ajinomoto Stadium back in June and will be looking to complete the double when they travel to the Oita Stadium on Saturday.