J1 League: Relegation-threatened Jubilo Iwata host title hopefuls FC Tokyo
FC Tokyo play the last of their eight straight away games when they travel to relegation- threatened Jubilo Iwata in the J1 League on Saturday. A win for the Gasmen will put them top of the table should leaders Kashima Antlers fail to win their match against current champions and pack chasers Kawasaki Frontale.
Jubilo, riding a wave of momentum after winning the Shizuoka Derby against Shimizu S Pulse last weekend, need nothing less than a win if they are to keep J1 survival hopes alive. Tokyo are level on points with Antlers with a goal deficit of 8. They led the pack for 19 games on the trot before being overtaken as a result of mid-season dip in form.
Having won their past two matches, against Andres Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe and Oita Trinita, the club from the capital appear to have made a return to winning ways.
With four games left to play, the title race is wide open with Kashima, Tokyo and 3rd-place Yokohama F Marinos all in good form and in with a chance of lifting the J League shield.
Conversely, Jubilo have spent the majority of their season languishing in and around the danger zone and currently sit bottom and seven points from complete safety.
A shock win for Iwata will bring them a step closer to safety depending how the teams around them do. Speedster Kensuke Nagai has been the focal point of many Tokyo attacking moves given his strength and ability to break away from his marker on the counter attack.
Manager Kenta Hasegawa is likely to spring no surprises and name an unchanged starting 11 to that which beat Oita Trinita last weekend. Goals have been scarce at Jubilo this season but Brazilian striker Adailton is the highest scorer with 7 goals tallied this season.
Previous meetings between the two sides have generally played out as low scoring, stagnant affairs with both sides sitting deep and compact.
However, Iwata are now in a “do or die” situation and must take the game to Tokyo if they are to secure the 3 points they critically need. This may play in to Tokyo’s hands, however, as they have proven time and again to be kings of the counter attack and consistently punish teams who commit too many men forward.
For very different reasons, fans of both sides will consider this match key to the outcome of the 2019 season.