Preview: Albirex Niigata vs. Vissel Kobe

Albirex Niigata and Vissel Kobe get round 20 of the Japanese J1 League underway when they go head to head at the Denka Big Swan Stadium on Friday.

While the Albi set out to pick up successive wins for the first time since September, the visitors could move into second place with all three points this weekend.

Match preview

Albirex Niigata returned to winning ways in style as they edged out Sanfrecce Hiroshima 2-0 when the sides squared off last Saturday.

Shunsuke Mito broke the deadlock with his second goal of the season in the 25th minute, three minutes before defender Hayato Araki scored an own goal to make sure of the result.

The Albi were previously on a three-match winless run across all competitions, claiming one draw and losing twice, including a 2-0 loss to Kashima Antlers in the J. League Cup, where they suffered a group-stage exit.

Rikizo Matsuhashi’s men had also failed to taste victory in any of their previous five J1 League matches preceding Saturday’s win, claiming just two points from a possible 15 in that time.

Albirex Niigata have picked up five wins from their 19 matches so far while claiming six draws and losing eight to collect 21 points and sit 13th in the league table.

Vissel Kobe, on the other hand, were denied a second consecutive league win last weekend when they could only salvage a 1-1 draw with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

In an end-to-end affair at the Misaki Park Stadium, Supachok Sarachart gave the visitors the lead in the 26th minute, but Brazilian defender Thuler rose highest to head home an 85th-minute equaliser.

Prior to that, Vissel Kobe were on a run of four consecutive home wins in the league, scoring 10 goals and keeping three clean sheets since a 3-2 loss against Yokohama F. Marinos on April 22.

With 37 points from 18 matches, Takayuki Yoshida’s men are currently third in the J1 League standings, five points behind first-placed Yokohama F. Marinos, albeit with one game in hand.

Next up for Vissel Kobe is an opposing side who have failed to win any of the last four meetings between the teams, losing three and claiming one draw since March 2017.

Team News

Brazilian forward Danilo Gomes was forced off injured inside the opening 10 minutes last Saturday and is out of contention for Albirex Niigata.

He is joined on the club’s injury table by experienced midfielder Yoshiaki Takagi, who is currently recuperating from a muscle injury.

Japanese left-back Yuto Horigome also missed last week’s victory over Sanfrecce Hiroshima through a muscle problem and is a major doubt for Matsuhashi’s side.

Vissel Kobe remain without the services of former Renofa Yamaguchi man Ryuho Kikuchi, who has been out of action since March through a cruciate ligament injury.

Twenty-five-year-old defender Tetsushi Yamakawa has also missed the last six matches after suffering a metatarsal fracture in March’s game against Tokyo FC.

Albirex Niigata possible starting lineup:
Kojima; Fujiwara, Deng, Watanabe, Arai; Matsuda, Hoshi, Shimada, Komi; Suzuki, Mito

Vissel Kobe possible starting lineup:
Meekawa; Sakai, Thuler, Honda, Hatsuse; Yamaguchi, Saito; Patric, Iniesta, Yuruki; Muto

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