Kashima Antlers- Sagan Tosu
These two met on the final day of last season, which was less than four months ago, ahead of which I wrote ......
Reysol can steal 4th by bettering Sagan's result, or if both win, by scoring one more goal. These scenarios are the real interest in this round of games.
We have spoken a lot about how Sagan approach games ... Ahead of their home game with Urawa last week I wrote ......Expect this to be cagey through the early exchanges.Sagan have drawn 20 of 32 first halves, but only two of those have ended all square (10 wins and 8 defeats).That was level at the break and did actually end 1-1, but Sagan were reduced to ten men and fell behind and to score a late equaliser with ten men, against a team who would have kept the title destiny in their own hands with the win, was a terrific result and all credit has to go to them for plugging away for 95 minutes . Antlers did us a big favour last weekend with that win at Cerezo, but this looks set to be far tougher, despite Sagan being without two suspended players, I feel that the visitors will look to keep this tight as long as possible, definitely until half time, which is their modus operandi in any case and hope that the results outlined above come to pass and that Antlers motivation will evaporate. I quite like Sagan +0.5 ball as a draw could be enough, but would prefer taking big odds for the away win "in play", if Gamba are ahead and doubly so if Reysol also lead. They are without a couple of players, but to my miind, that is more than factored into the odds.
That played out well for us with Sagan winning 1-0, it was not enough for them to claim 4th spot and one of the Champions League places, as Reysol won by the desired two goals, but they did finish level on points with both them and third placed Antlers and perhaps missing out on the international fixtures is a blessing in disguise. Playing in the international club game has certainly not done Kashima any favours so far, they have lost all three Champions League fixtures, conceding eight goals in the process and have just a single point from three J-League starts, shiping three goals at Shimizu who narrowly missed relegation ( by one point) last season and who have not scored in their other two fixtures this time round and also losing at home to a newly promoted team. They had a very young team last season and in their last outing, six were aged 22 or younger and this is the always difficult big second season for many and they are no longer the surprise package they were at the start of the last campaign, key striker Davi who scored and assisted for 18 goals in 2014 has a long term injury and in his absence, Antlers have lost 10 of 18 starts.
Sagan have started well, posting two wins including one over Gamba Osaka, where they went toe to toe early with the treble winners, however, once they took the lead, arguably a little against the run of play they reverted more to type and according to Gamba, "parked the bus", but this is a team with a little something about them and against whom it is absolutely vital to score first. They won 10 times on the road last season and are ideally suited to playing on the break and with Antlers leaking goals, it is easy to see the visitors scoring and one, given their defensive prowess, might well again be enough.
1.5 units Sagan Tosu +0.25 ball 2.28 asian line/Sportmarket.