Tokyo – Urawa Reds:
High-spending FC Tokyo had a disastrous 2017-season, and finished as low as 13th despite ambitions of winning the title, or at the very least making it into the ACL. The new players they brought failed to deliver, and the whole team lacked chemistry. They made additional changes ahead of this season, with a couple of new strikers brought in as well as MF Omori from Kobe.
Urawa Reds also disappointed in the league, but on the bright side they managed to win the ACL so overall their season was a success. With no ACL to compete in this year, they can have full focus on the league and they look like a clear candidate for the title. They have also made some changes, but the only player of significance that have left is FW Rafael Silva. Taketomi from Reysol should be a nice replacement, and in addition they also got the highly rated AM Martinus from Marinos, and the possibly future Japan NT centreback Iwanami from Kobe.
I don’t leave FC Tokyo with much chance here, and their H2H record vs Urawa is also abysmal. On the last 10 matches between the 2 teams (in all competitions), Urawa got 9 wins and 1 draw. With no pre-season ACL to worry about, I expect Urawa to be fit for fight here and take the 3 points without too many problems. Could easily see a couple of goals in this one as well.
Prediction: 0-2 or 1-2
My price: +0,5 @1,83 / Over 2,5 @ 1,90
Market Price: +0,5 @ 1,97 / Over 2,5 @ 1,96
Sanfrecce Hiroshima – Consadole Sapporo:
Hiroshima were 1 point away from being relegated last season, which were a bit of a surprise. An aging squad along with failed signings meant they had a very tough season overall, and among the non-relegated teams they scored the by far least goals. They hope the Thai FW Teerasil Dangda will improve on that alongside Daiki Watari, who had a decent run in J2 last season.
Consadole Sapporo on the other hand, were very happy with a strong 11th place in their first season back in J1, and they hope to build on that here. Not made too many changes, but added depth to their midfield and its possible we will see some new faces in the starting lineup here.
In the same match last season it ended 1-1, while Consadole won the home-match 2-1, and it shouldn’t be too much between the 2 teams here I think. Another even match looks likely, and wouldn’t be surprised if Consadole ended up with all 3 points even.
My price: -0,25 @ 2,07 & Over 2,25 @ 1,97
Market Price: -0,25 @ 1,85 / Over 2,25 @ 1,95
Consadole +0,25 @ 2,07 ( 5 units)
Gamba Osaka – Nagoya Grampus:
Gamba was another team that disappointed last season, failing to get out of the group stage of the ACL and only managing a 10th place finish in the league. They got a new manager this year in former Cerezo-man Levir Culpi, which should be a big boost. Squad-wise they haven’t made too many changes, and they still seem to rely heavily on the aging duo Konno and Endo in midfield. At their best Gamba still looks strong, but doubt they have what it takes to be a contender for ACL.
Nagoya Grampus had to go through playoffs to earn promotion from J2 last season, and have made some big-name signings ahead of their return to J1. Most notably Brazilian FW Jo, which potentially looks like the best striker in the league. Australian GK Langerak should also be a nice addition, although veteran GK Narazaki will most likely still be starting a lot of matches. They lost their influential MF Taguchi, and having him replaced by the journeyman Aria Jasuru Hasegawa is a big step down in quality, and the fact that Hasegawa have already been relegated with 3 different club is not a good sign.
This could potentially be a very exciting match, between 2 teams that will be focusing on attacking, and I expect goals at both ends. Gamba is the favorite, but not sure I trust them, atleast not at this point of the season.
Prediction: 2-1 or 2-2
My price: -0,25 @ 1,89 / Over 2,75 @ 1,99
Market Price: Gamba -0,5 @ 2,08 & Over 2,75 @ 1,90
Shonan Bellmare – V-Varen Nagasaki:
Shonan completely dominated J2 last season, and will look to build on that here. They got an exciting squad, and have added a couple of experienced J1-players to their team as well as FW Stevanovic, who got plenty of experience from Italian football.
Nagasaki is the surprise team in J1 this season, and based on their resources and players, they will have to outdo themselves to have any chance of surviving. Not made too many chances, but added experience at the back with Tokugawa from FC Tokyo, as well as fringe Australia NT player Ben Halloran in one of the AM-positions.
Shonan should be a rather big favorite here, but Nagasaki showed last season that they should not be underestimated. Don’t think we’ll see a particularly well-played match here, and a low-scoring home-win seems the most likely outcome.
Prediction: 1-0 or 2-0
My price: -0,5 @ 2,03 / Over 2,25 @ 2,00
Market Price: -0,5 @ 2,11 / Over 2 @ 2,00
Over 2 @ 2,00 ( 5 units)