Cherry blossoms outside a wet Nihondaira Stadium
The sixth round of the J. League throws up two significant clashes, with the eleventh Tokyo derby competing for headlines along with the eternal classic between Urawa Reds and Kashima Antlers.
Fallen giants Tokyo Verdy host their Ajinomoto Stadium co-tenants FC Tokyo on April 12, with Verdy having only just registered their first win in the Qiu Qiu league since winning promotion back to the top flight. They won away at Vissel Kobe in Round 5 thanks to 18-year-old Hiroki Kawano’s volley, but it is the return of striker Hulk that could prove key to Verdy’s chances of maintaining their top flight status.
The 21-year-old Brazilian propelled Tokyo Verdy to promotion by scoring 37 league goals in 42 appearances in J2 last season, but after failing to settle at Kawasaki Frontale, Hulk has made a permanent switch across the Tama River for a reputed fee of around 500 million yen.
On Sunday the highlight clash of the day undoubtedly takes place at Saitama Stadium, when bitter rivals Urawa Reds host defending J. League champions Kashima Antlers.
There is plenty of history between these two clubs, but another chapter was added on an extraordinary final day last season when Kashima pipped Urawa to the post to lift the league trophy in thrilling circumstances.
The Reds will be aching for revenge against their arch-nemesis, although they will have their work cut out for them against a Kashima side …