J League: Sanfrecce Hiroshima - Urawa Reds
Sanfrecce looked to have finally broken the Urawa jinx , taking four points from them last year and they are now unbeaten in four h2h meetings. Prior to that Reds had dominated, with their head coach Mihailo Petrovic formerly in charge at Hiroshima for five years and knowing the club back to front. However, few of the current group would have played under him now and much has changed since 2011, but it was previously a major issue. Anyway, both have fallen off Stage 1 title winning pace and paid the price for a Champions League campaign, which always seems the case. Each will be looking to stay in touch of top 3 and to make a big push to win Stage 2.
Both teams played in midweek, Sanfrecce in Tokyo, which is a long trip and four hours on the fastest train and they are fast ! Urawa in Osaka, not sure if they stayed and then moved on to Hiroshima, or went back to Tokyo and then made the trip on Friday, neither is ideal and it is a coin toss which is the more unsettling/draining, so for me, definitely advantage Sanfrecce who would have been back on normal schedule by Thursday. Urawa also played two extra Champions League games and in the last 23 days they have played a home game and made trips to Seoul, Osaka, Tosu ( another long journey) and now Hiroshima and that is very demanding, especially for a team who had about a 4-5 week off season, playing their final game of last season on New Year's Day and a CL game on February 24th ! It is no wonder that the schedule is beginning to take a toll.
Petrovic spoke about the effect all this had on his team after the loss at Gamba, he admitted his team were running on empty, could not keep pace with Osaka early, got into things after the break briefly, but then just run out of steam and that they were "looking to rebuild" and get strong again after the next 2-3 matches were out of the way. They look to have hit a wall and the head coach as admitted as much and it is hard to see how they can be as up for this as the home side and their priority will surely be their two home matches next week.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima level ball 2.23 asian line/Sportmarket
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