Preview: Urawa Red Diamonds vs. Shonan Bellmare

Two sides in contrasting ends of the Japanese J1 League go head to head at the Saitama Stadium as Urawa Red Diamonds lock horns with Shonan Bellmare on Monday.

The Hiratsuka outfit are currently rooted to the bottom of the standings and will head into the midweek clash looking to pick up their first league win since early April.

Match preview

Urawa Red Diamonds' Shinzo Koroki celebrates scoring against Al-Hilal on April 29, 2023

Urawa Red Diamonds were involved in a share of the spoils once again as they were held to a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw by 10-man Kawasaki Frontale at the weekend.

In a game where Kazuki Kozuka received his marching orders, Takahiro Sekine broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute to put the hosts in front before Shusaku Nishikawa’s own goal forced a share of the spoils.

Prior to that, Urawa Red Diamonds played a goalless draw with Yokohama FC on June 11, one week before holding out for a 1-1 draw away to Shimizu S-Pulse in the J.League Cup, where they currently lead the way in Group B.

While the Red Devils have struggled to close out games of late, they have gone 10 consecutive games without defeat across all competitions, claiming five wins and five draws since May’s 2-0 loss against Sagan Tosu.

With 30 points from 17 matches, Maciej Skorza’s men are currently fifth in the J1 League table, nine points adrift of first-placed Yokohama F. Marinos, albeit with one game in hand.

Next up for Urawa Red Diamonds is an opposing side who have failed to win any of their last five meetings, losing once and claiming four draws since being awarded a 3-0 victory in June 2021.

Shonan Bellmare failed to get their league campaign up and running as they suffered a 6-0 thrashing against Sagan Tosu when the sides met at the Lemon Gas Stadium Hiratsuka on Saturday.

Yuji Ono scored a hat-trick to fire Kenta Kawai’s men into a commanding lead, before Yuki Horigome, Yuta Fujiwara and Ryonosuke Kabayama added to the scoreline to hand the hosts their heaviest defeat this season.

Satoshi Yamaguchi’s men have lost three games on the bounce since beating Btop Hokkaido 6-1 in the Emperor Cup on June 7, including a 3-2 defeat against Kawasaki Frontale in Group B of the J.League Cup two Sundays ago.

Following Saturday’s defeat, Shonan Bellmare have now gone 11 consecutive games without a win in the league, claiming just five points from a possible 33 since April’s 4-1 victory over Gamba Osaka.

While the Hiratsuka outfit also have one game in hand, they have now lost nine of their 17 matches while picking up two wins and six draws to collect 12 points and sit rooted to the bottom of the league table.

Breaching opposing defences has not been the root of Shonan Bellmare’s problems as they have made the net ripple 23 times this season — with only eight teams scoring more goals so far.

However, they currently hold the division’s third-worst defensive record, having conceded 34 goals already and have managed just one win away from home since the turn of the year.

Team News

Al-Hilal's Odion Ighalo in action with Urawa Red Diamonds' Alexander Scholz and Marius Hoibraaten on April 29, 2023

Takahiro Akimoto was forced off injured midway through the second half against Kawasaki Frontale last time out and the full-back is a doubt for Urawa Red Diamonds.

Should he fail to shake off the injury, former Sagan Tosu man Ayumu Ohata should come into the fold, forming the back four with Alexander Scholz, Marius Hoibraten and Takuya Ogiwara.

Sekine staked his claim for a starting role with his impressive cameo at the weekend and the 28-year-old, who now has four goal involvements this season, could be rewarded with a place in the XI on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Shonan Bellmare will take to the pitch without the services of experienced defender Takuya Okamoto, who has missed the last two games through a muscle injury.

Former Fukushima United midfielder Masaki Ikeda has been sidelined since coming off injured against Kawasaki Frontale back in March and will play no part in Wednesday’s game.

Urawa Red Diamonds possible starting lineup:
Nishikawa; Ohata; Scholz, Hoibraten, Ogiwara; Ito, Iwao; Okubo, Takahashi, Sekine; Kante

Shonan Bellmare possible starting lineup:
Tomii; Takahashi, Yamamoto, Sugioka; Okuno, Ishihara, Onose, Hiraoka, Hata; Ohashi, Elyounoussi

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