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J-League Round 1 PREVIEW: The new season begins

J-League Round 1 PREVIEW: The new season begins

The 2013 J-League season is just around the corner. Catch round one of the matches to see who's in the running to be this year's J-League champions. Indonesia   BY

Vegalta Sendai vs Ventforet Kofu (Yurtec Stadium)

Vegalta finished as runners up last year, taking their title challenge to the second-to-last game of the season, and they will be keen to get up-and-running early on this year. Ventforet also need to click into gear quickly, and after storming to the J2 title last season they can’t afford to waste any time trying to re-establish themselves back in J1.

Yokohama F.Marinos vs Shonan Bellmare (Nissan Stadium)

Marinos narrowly missed out on a place in the Asian Champions League in 2012, with their tendency to draw games – 14 in all – their ultimate undoing. Although this is a derby match, local rivals Shonan won’t need any extra motivation as they get their season underway after sealing promotion as the second-placed team in J2 last year.

Nagoya Grampus vs Jubilo Iwata (Toyota Stadium)

Grampus lost two key players in Mu Kanazaki and Kensuke Nagai over the off-season, and after finishing in a disappointing seventh-place last year head coach Dragan Stojkovic is demanding an improvement this time around. Jubilo will also be hoping for an upturn in fortunes after their season petered out towards the end in 2012, leaving them in 12th place.

Cerezo Osaka vs Albirex Niigata (Nagai Stadium)

Cerezo regularly churns out talented youngsters, and with Shinji Kagawa and Hiroki Kiyotake now enjoying success in Europe the latest No.8, Yoichiro Kakitani, is tipped to follow in their footsteps. Albirex’s nine-year stint in J1 came agonizingly close to an end last season, but they preserved their status dramatically on the very last day and will be keen not to leave things so late in 2013.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Urawa Reds (Edion Stadium)

Reigning champions Sanfrecce also faced Urawa in this fixture last season, and would surely have rather avoided such a difficult fixture with which to get their title defence underway. Reds are tipped as one of the favourites for this year’s championship and will want to lay down a marker by coming away with something from this tantalizing opener.

Ryota Moriwaki will be particularly keen to get a result having transferred to Reds from Sanfrecce over the break, joining fellow Hiroshima old boys Tomoaki Makino, Yosuke Kashiwagi and coach Mihailo Petrovic in Urawa.

You can see how they all get on if you check your TV schedules as this game is being broadcast live worldwide!

Sagan Tosu vs Kashima Antlers (Best Amenity Stadium)

Tosu were the surprise package in J1 last season, and while they are aiming to build on that success they will also be wary of the dangers of ‘second season syndrome’. Antlers enjoyed the opposite luck in 2012, and the seven-time J-League champions were very nearly relegated. New coach Toninho Cerezo will be keen to have them battling back at the other end of the table this year.

Omiya Ardija vs Shimizu S-Pulse (NACK5 Stadium)

Omiya finished in their customary 13th place last year, and this season they will be hoping they can finally get up-and-running a bit quicker and avoid a late recovery to avoid the drop to J2. S-Pulse came out of the traps very sharply in 2012 but struggled to cope with the pressure and pile up of fixtures towards the end of the year, and will be hopeful of lasting the pace a bit better this season.

Oita Trinita vs FC Tokyo (Oita Bank Dome)

Oita were the surprise winners of the maiden J2 Play Offs last season, coming from 6th place and sealing a spot back in J1 after a three-year absence by beating Yokohama FC and JEF United. FC Tokyo only returned from the second division themselves last year and having re-established themselves in the top flight in 2012 they will be looking to improve on their 10th-placed finish this season.

There are plenty of links between these two clubs, and Tokyo coach Ranko Popovic was in charge of Masato Morishige and Keigo Higashi when the trio were at Oita in 2009. Olympic midfielder Higashi signed from Omiya over the pre-season and if you check your TV schedules you’ll be able to see how he gets on in this game as it is being shown live around the world!

Kashiwa Reysol vs Kawasaki Frontale (Hitachi Dai Stadium)

The 2011 champions Reysol weren’t able to defend their title last year, but they have recruited well in the off-season and look set to challenge for the championship this year. Frontale enjoyed a season of transition in 2012 but looked to have settled towards the end of the season and will hope they can start to mix it with the big boys again soon.

Yoshito Okubo will certainly help them in that respect, and having signed from relegated Vissel Kobe the Japan striker won’t be afraid to get stuck in for his new club.

You can see how he and his teammates get on on Sunday as this game will be broadcast live around the world. Check your local TV schedules to find out who’s showing it in your region!

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