It’s only eight games left until the J.League comes to an end and it promises to be a fight down to the wire, in terms of who ends up getting crowned as champions. As it stands, only four points separate the top three sides but the two teams who are looking like strong favourites for the title is without doubt the duo of FC Tokyo and Kashima Antlers.
The Antlers, current Asian champions, are strongly backed to retain their crown and would be banking on one strong point in their quest for glory. While FC Tokyo might boast about the fact that they are top of the pile currently and also boast the second joint-best defence in the league, the outstanding form of Kashima Antlers on home ground could be the advantage that sees them remain champions in due time.
As it stands, FC Tokyo have conceded only a mere 21 goals (via Whoscored) and that tally means only Cerezo Osaka have conceded less than the capital city side in the league. Kashima Antlers are not far off at 23 goals conceded but that might not have much effect in determining who remains on top come December.
One strong point that could be the difference in the end is the Antler’s impressive home record. Currently, Kashima Antlers have the best home form in the league and even the best form of any side in general. They are the only side without a loss in their last five games. The dominance of the current Asian Champions at home stretches far back as June and since then Kashima Antlers have not lost a match at the Kashima Soccer stadium. That brilliant run of form included a resounding 2-0 win over top of the table FC Tokyo last week and it is that win that has now opened the title-race wide with three teams still within shouting distance, realistically.
Compare that to FC Tokyo who have lost nine points (three games) at home in the same period and it could be a worrying stat for them as we approach the end of the season (via Soccerway).
Coupled with the fact that Kashima Antlers are currently the best side offensively, it’s as well looking like all odds are pointing in the way of the current holders. Go Oiwa’s side’s tally of 48 goals scored means they are top in that regard and have scored a massive 11 goals more than FC Tokyo who have only managed 37 goals. To that effect, Kashima Antlers superior goal difference of 25 compared to FC Tokyo’s 16 could be crucial as well in the unlikely event that both sides finish the season on par with the same points. However, should that happen, there is only one clear winner and Go Oiwa would be taking note of the advantage his side has at the moment, despite being in second place and a point behind FC Tokyo (all stats via Whoscored).
Finally, with Kashima Antlers having four of their last eight games at home, they boast the psychological advantage knowing they are barely unstoppable at home. Unfortunately, FC Tokyo will play six out of their last eight games away as a result of their home ground being used for the Rugby World Cup and that factor could come back to haunt the capital side at the end of the season.