Postecoglou faces make or break week in J.League

Yokohama F. Marinos coach Ange Postecoglou Source: Getty Images

This may be the longest J.League season in history but for Ange Postecoglou and Yokohama F. Marinos, the next seven days are make or break.

With the unstoppable Kawasaki Frontale sewing up the title that Yokohama won last season, the focus is now on finishing in the top three and securing a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League.

The bad news is that Yokohama are currently in seventh and seven points off Cerezo Osaka in third.

The good news is that the two meet on Saturday and it is the start of a series of crucial meetings for the champions.

On Wednesday, the Marinos host Nagoya in fourth and with a new limit of 21,000 fans allowed in the stadium, there should be quite an atmosphere.

On the following Saturday, the team then makes the short trip to take on second-placed FC Tokyo.

Yokohama can’t afford to let too many points slip in this series of three games otherwise they will all but drop out of the race for Asia as the season moves into the final quarter.

The game at Cerezo is the second in Osaka in the space of three days following a 1-1 draw at Gamba on Wednesday.

“I think it was a really good game,” Postecoglou said. “Both teams worked hard and created various opportunities so I think 1-1 is a fair result.”

“We have a big game on Saturday and we will have to make sure that we are ready to do well.”

Just a month ago, Cerezo went to Yokohama to come from behind to take the three points with a 2-1 win.

Osaka boss Miguel Angel Lotina says he is ready for any tactical surprises that Postecoglou may come up with.

The game brings together one of the league’s best attacks in Yokohama with one of the tightest defences.

“We do not have to worry about the opponents' system too much,” the Spaniard said.

“It will not be a big factor for us. It is better to focus on our own game but we know it will be a difficult game against the champions.”

Postecoglou has something else to think about due to the resumption of the 2020 AFC Champions League in November in Qatar.

With the J.League not finishing until December, the Australian is going to have to somehow find a way to compete on two fronts, thousands of kilometres apart, simultaneously.

Getting as many points on the board as soon as possible will make the situation a little easier.

At the opposite end of the table, Shimizu S-Pulse have other concerns.

Led by Postecoglou’s former assistant at Yokohama, Peter Cklamovski, the Shizuoka club are fighting to stay off the bottom.

While authorities ruled that there would be no relegation this season due to the effects of the coronavirus, Shimizu need a win to lift them up the table as well as raise spirits.

Losing 12 out of the last 13 games means that only Shonan Bellmare are below Shimizu in the table.

On Sunday, S-Pulse have a great chance to get some more points on the board with a home game against fellow strugglers Sagan Tosu.

The latest loss, 3-1 at FC Tokyo, offered some encouragement. Shimizu gave as good as they got until an injury-time goal gave Tokyo some breathing space.

“The first goal was important and we didn’t get it,” Cklamovski said. “We will work to improve on this part.”