Japan Fuji Xerox Super Cup: Kawasaki Frontale -Cerezo Osaka (early Saturday morning kick off)
Seasonal opening game in Japan, played at the Saitama Stadium the home of Urawa Reds.
The two teams met here in this stadium late last season in the League Cup final ahead of which I wrote ........
Match will be played at the Urawa stadium in Saitama.
Confidence is a wonderful thing, easy to give little credence to when you have it, very hard to find once lost, but in sport it is everything and when it comes to big games, Kawasaki Frontale, who are a good team and put themselves in postition to win things time and time again, lack it and find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We spoke about this ahead of an AFC Champions League quarter final second leg with a struggling Urawa Reds team where all they had to do, was avoid defeat by two goals..................
Urawa Reds issues have been very well documented by me in recent months, but briefly, they fully expected to win J-League and go deep in this competition. They started well domestically and were four points clear after 8 rounds and all was rosy in their garden. Now, 17 rounds on, they are in 8th, 16 points off title, 10 adrift of Champions League pace, out of the League Cup, facing a Emperor's Cup game with league leaders Kashima Antlers who have been their nemesis and elimination here from the Champions League, having lost the first leg 3-1.............it has been a nightmare !
It would not put everything right, but they could keep some real interest in their season and salvage something from all this if they could win just one game 2-0 , this one ! That is a very tall order given what has happened over the last 4-5 months, but to be given one last throw of the dice is something and whilst they might come up short, I expect and the crowd will be demanding, everything in terms of efforts, with nothing left on the pitch.
Frontale have collected 16 points more than Urawa over those 17 rounds, are second in JL1 and the closest challenger to Antlers, they beat FCTokyo 7-1 on aggregate in their League Cup quarter final, are in with a real chance in all four competitions and could make this a season to remember forever, BUT, they do have some history of coming unstuck at the business end of tournaments /events and blew Stage 1 last season, a home playoff game and then lost the Emperor's Cup final in extra time, if you think that will not have crossed their mind, you do not really understand human nature and they will almost be "expecting" something to go wrong ! Also, that was not extraordinary last season, more like par for the course .............
They are a two time (now three ) Champions League quarter finalist, but never gone beyond this stage, in the Emperor's Cup they are a 7 time quarter, two time semi, one time finalist without winning, a eight time League Cup semi finalist and have yet to win a final and have never won JL1 (second four times !)..........you get the picture, always the bridesmaid never the bride !
Surely they will be a little nervous today, Urawa have nothing much to lose now and will have to give this a go and Frontale can afford to lose by a single goal. The visitors have been the better side for almost all of this season, but history comes into play now and their's is a very long tale of woe in similar situations.
That tale of woe continued and they lost 4-1 after leading and still being level with 20 minutes remaining . That match was played in this stadium and it is hard to see how they will return with anything apart from negative memories . Cerezo drew here 2-2 in the last 8 of this competition to qualify for the semi finals, so should see things very differently. Frontale are the better team I guess, they are six points ahead in the league and that feels about right, but this is a one off game, Cerezo will have been delighted with how this season has played out and they have been really good in both domestic cup competitions (also in the final four of the Emperor's Cup. Their odds seem too big today even without factoring in the Kawasaki inability to get the job done at the final hurdle.
That was exactly 14 weeks ago, seems longer as a lot has happened, but Cerezo not only won 2-0, but followed up and also took the Emperor's Cup last month in the very same arena, so very positive and recent memories as they enter the stadium for the team from Osaka, who had a glorious return to the top flight following promotion in 2016. Winning two of the three major titles and also finishing 3rd in J-League and all the time playing very attractive , open, offensive minded football, with their league games averaging 3.18 goals per game (0.59 above the JL1 mean). Short off season for them, with this fixture coming just 39 days after their second cup success, that might actually be an advantage now, but will probably take a toll somewhere down the line. Frontale had an extra 30 days off and will have spent the first few celebrating wildly as they broke that duck and actually won JL1 on the final day of the regular season, or perhaps it is more correct to say that Kashima Antlers wrapped it up and presented it to them. But the deed is done and such is the way with these things that once the floodgates are open, other titles should flow and the next, should certainly be easier.
Frontale deserved the title,or at least to win something, they could have won the Champions League too ( see above) and it must have pained them to see Urawa Reds do so, after blowing that advantage and that happened here in Saitama and, although they did record a late season league win here, that would surely not extinquish, only dampen those negative vibes. Kawasaki are also free scoring and notched a JL1 high 2.09 goals per game en route to the Championship. Both teams look to have kept all their star names, but we can look at squads in more detail once we get down to the real business of league football.
Last two Super Cups have been high scoring (both 4+ goals) and everyone involved in football would like to start the campaign with a bang, both teams start their AFC Champions League campaign in midweek, Cerezo will be in Korea for a game on Wednesday and they will each play with that in mind , which should further add to the friendly open game nature of today's encounter I feel.
If choosing between the two I would prefer to stick with Cerezo at the odds offered , as at 2.33 off level ball they are similar to those League Cup odds , but it is the "over" which appeals slightly more on this occasion.
1.5 units "over" 3 goals 2.25 asian line/Sportmarket.