With the international break yielding a positive result for Japan and the autumn leaves starting to make their first appearances on the tree-lined avenues surrounding the National Stadium, attention now turns to the business end of the J. League season.
Five teams are still in with a genuine chance of lifting the trophy, but northern outfit Consadole Sapporo are certainly not one of them. News that the J. League is considering switching to a European-aligned, winter-based calendar will have gone down like a lead Judi Online24Jam Terpercaya balloon in Sapporo, where Consadole habitually spend their summers in the open-air surrounds of Atsubetsu Stadium. The Hokkaido side have been luckless at their traditional summer home this season, and they currently sit bottom of the table, with last season’s J2 champions set to make a swift return to the Second Division.
Fellow northern outfit Albirex Niigata have also struggled in 2008. They may be the second-best supported team in the league – only Urawa Reds draw larger crowds – but Niigata have played some awful football under their eternally dour coach Jun Suzuki. Niigata surprised many by finishing sixth last season, but they could become embroiled in a relegation dogfight this time around, and the constant play-acting of striker Kisho Yano has won them few fans this season.
On the other side of the country Ibaraki giants Kashima Antlers are involved in an almighty scrap as they look to retain their title. Oswaldo de Oliveira’s men are a point behind league leaders Nagoya Grampus, with eternal rivals Urawa Reds also breathing down their necks. Like the Reds, Kashima also have an upcoming AFC Champions League quarter-final to contend with, and they will hope that Nagoya don’t skip away while de Oliveira and his men are battling for …