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Kashima Antlers vs Vissel Kobe
When: Saturday, April 24 – 17:00 JST
Where: Kashima Soccer Stadium in Kashima, Japan
Weather: Sunny, 17°C
Kashima Antlers were once the dominant force in J-League and they’ll surely look to reclaim that renown. That, however, might be a bit too much to ask, since they’re not playing as well as it is expected of them.
Although Antlers managed to pick up a few crucial points this month, they have proven time and time again they’re no match for the top-half teams. And that could spell problems as they face the no.5 Vissel Kobe.
Kashima Antlers no Longer the Top Dogs
Since the introduction of professional Japanese football in 1993, there was no team as successful as Kashima Antlers. The Mercari-owned squad have won the J-League title a record eight times, in addition to six J-League Cups and five Emperor’s Cups.
With 19 domestic titles under their belt, there is no other Japanese team that comes even close to what Kashima Antlers have achieved. That said, this is no longer the same team we got used to watching.
Antlers last won the J-League title in 2016, and have since managed one runner-up (2017) and two third-place finishes (2018 and 2019). Although not a disastrous record, Antlers were passed by Kawasaki Frontale as the J-League’s new top dogs, and from the looks of it that won’t change anytime soon.
Looking at Antlers’ play now, they clearly struggle to compete at the levels expected of them. They’re 3-2-4 on the season, having beaten only Kashiwa Reysol (2-1), Tokushima (1-0), and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (3-0).
Seeing Antlers experiencing a slow start of the season, however, is nothing new. Last year they won only three out of the opening 12 games and are now only three fixtures away from matching that record.
Vissel Kobe Off to a Fast Start
Unlike Kashima Antlers, Vissel Kobe made a strong start to their 2021 J-League campaign. They’ve won five out of 10 games played, with only one loss against the current no.2 Nagoya Grampus.
What’s more, Kobe are unbeaten in their last six league fixtures. That stretch includes wins against Sapporo (4-3), Vegalta Sendai (2-0), and Oita Trinita (1-0), and three draws with Kawasaki Frontale (1-1), Shimizu S-Pulse (1-1), and a stalemate with Shonan Bellmare (0-0.
Watching them play, Kobe look solid offensively, having scored 14 goals in 10 games. Their best scorer is a 26-year-old Kyogo Furuhashi, who has netted six this season.
It’s worth noting that Atsuhiro Miura’s men tend to perform significantly better in away games. On the road they have scored 10 in five games and are one of three still unbeaten teams in away games.
Their tendency to look better on the road was most notable in their 2-0 win against Sendai about three weeks ago. That result goes perfectly with their away record with 2.0 pg.
Kashima Antlers vs Vissel Kobe Betting Picks
As noted, Visel Kobe do extremely well on the road, which should work in their favor as they take a trip to Kashima. It will mark their first visit to the Kashima Soccer Stadium since August 2020, when these sides shook hands and parted ways with a 2-2 draw.
In the prior four visits, Kobe won twice (3-1 and 2-1), drew one (1-1), and lost 1-2 in September 2016. In their last outing in October 2020, Antlers won 3-1, which would suggest they are in a position to repeat that success on Saturday, but we would bet to differ.
Not only are Kobe in great form and extremely effective on the road, Antlers were also not as impressive at home. They’re 2-1-2 on the season with seven goals scored and seven conceded, which wouldn’t be that had had Antlers not faced mostly weaker sides.
Vissel Kobe might not be champions-caliber yet, but they are definitely capable of finishing high up the ladder. A win here would propel them into top-three, while a draw would be enough to place them in a three-way draw with Cerezo Osaka and Sagan Tosu.
Prediction: Vissel Kobe +0.50 AH, 2.09 at SBOBET
Prediction: Vissel Kobe to win, 4.29 at Matchbook