Sagan Tosu – Vissel Kobe:
J1 is finally back, and we start of wit a Friday-match, which is something new to J1 this season.
Sagan Tosu will look to build on last year’s impressive 8th place finish, and haven’t made too many changes since last season. Key striker the last couple of seasons Yohei Toyoda have gone to Ulsan in South Korea on loan, but that’s the only notable departure except veteran DF Aoki. With a couple of young and talented DFs brought in from J2-clubs, they look overall a bit strengthened in that part though. Up front however, they look a bit thin, and they will most likely have to rely even more heavily on their Colombian ace Victor Ibarbo this year.
Vissel Kobe were not happy with finishing as low as 9th last season, and the arrival of star-striker Lukas Podolski midway through the season did not have the effect they were hoping for. On the contrary, Kobe were actually the 14th weakest team in the league after Podolski arrived, and it proved once again that one player doesn’t make a team.
Kobe have made quite a few changes ahead of this season as well, with the most prominent signing being the Brazilian striker Wellington from Avispa Fukuoka. He’s yet to prove himself in J1, but with better team-mates than what he had at Avispa and before that Shonan Bellmare he might blossom and could be an x-factor in this team. It’s hard to see him outdo already established J1-strikers like Havenaar, Leandro, J.Tanaka and K. Watanabe though, in addition to Podolski . Defensively they have also made some changes, with the highly talented Iwanami having moved to Urawa Reds but they have brought in some decent names, with particularly Theerathon Bunmathan from Muang Thong United looking promising.
Sagan Tosu won both their league-matches against Kobe last year (2-1 away and 1-0 at home), and should be considered the favorite here as well as they have usually been quite solid at home. Season-openers can be tricky though, so would avoid any big bets here although I do have some value on the home-team. Ibarbo will not play for Sagan either, which should weaken them quite a lot up front.
Prediction: 1-0 or 1-1
-0,25 @ 2,06 / Over 2,5 @ 2,00
Sagan DNB @ 1,94 / Over 2,25 @ 1,98