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J-League Preview Round-Up: FC Tokyo In Relegation Dogfight, Kashima Antlers Look To Pressure Nagoya Grampus

It's a big weekend of J-League action at both the top and bottom of the table after Alberto Zaccheroni announced his first ever squad as manager of Japan.

Nagoya Grampus look set to clinch the title but Kashima Antlers will have plans of their own, while things are a little less glamorous for FC Tokyo who are in a relegation dog-fight with Shonan Bellmare.

Kashima Antlers vs Shimizu S-Pulse

The big game of the weekend, featuring the second and fifth-placed clubs respectively, separated by only four points.

Kashima Antlers absolutely need a win to keep chasing Nagoya Grampus. Shimizu S-Pulse meanwile haven’t won in their last five J-League games (including three J-League Cup matches) but are surely not giving up hope for at least an Asian Champions League berth; in the J-League Cup in midweek manager Kenta Hasegawa fielded a weak side, resting his best men for this match.

Mitsuo Ogasawara (Antlers) versus Shinji Ono (S-Pulse) might be an intriguing duel between two tactical geniuses, while we should see some great battles in the Antlers’ penalty area between Frode Johnsen and the duo formed by Daiki Iwamasa and Masahiko Inoha.

Nagoya Grampus vs Vegalta Sendai

Grampus has a seven point lead at the top and quite a few have already assigned this year’s title to the Nagoya side.

However, they best not rest on their laurels, as Vegalta Sendai comes into this game in great form.

The northerners have won their last two matches, in both cases by keeping clean sheets; prior to that, they made life tough for Kashima Antlers despite going down 1-0.

Tamada | In red-hot form for Nagoya

It is unlikely that Nagoya manager Dragan 'Pixie' Stojkovic will underestimate the opponents and he also has history on his side: the two clubs have met on five occasions previously, all of which have been won by Grampus.

For Vegalta, the spotlight will be on forward Kunimitsu Sekiguchi, one of the surprise call-ups by new Japan’s coach Alberto Zaccheroni for the upcoming Argentina friendly.

FC Tokyo vs Shonan Bellmare

Marred by countless injuries (Yonemoto, Kajiyama and Hanyu, among others) FC Tokyo must win this game against bottom-of-the-table Shonan Bellmare, or they could be in serious trouble at the wrong end of the J-League ladder.

Tokyo haven’t won in ten league games, losing their last three but all by one-goal difference.

Shonan Bellmare however have an even worse record, not having won in eleven matches, while accumulating a minus-27 goal difference. They however showed signs of life as they fought to a 1-1 draw against Yamagata last week.

A game between two struggling teams, it is a fighting for survival not for the feint of heart.

Other matches:

Kyoto Sanga - Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Omiya Ardija - Urawa Red Diamonds
Vissel Kobe - Kawasaki Frontale
Cerezo Osaka - Albirex Niigata
Yamagata - Gamba Osaka
Jubilo Iwata - Yokohama F. Marinos

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