Urawa Reds seek to continue their relentless charge towards the J.League title as the top three face struggling opponents on Saturday.
Urawa have won four on the spin and lead second-placed Kawasaki Frontale by six points, with Kashima Antlers a further point back in third.
Urawa striker Shinzo Koroki will try to extend a run of seven goals in his last 10 league matches away to Cerezo Osaka, who have collected just seven points from a possible 42 since early May.
Cerezo have, nevertheless, lost just two of their past seven meetings with Urawa in all competitions, and their coach Yuji Okuma has been flirting with the idea of returning high-profile imports Diego Forlan and Cacau to his starting XI.
Kawasaki and Kashima are overwhelming favourites to collect maximum points in Round 26.
Yoshito Okubo hit a hat-trick against Omiya Ardija in midweek and will now look to fire Kawasaki past Vegalta Sendai, who have lost five successive games, while Kashima coach Toninho Cerezo will unleash fellow Brazilian Davi on rock-bottom Tokushima Vortis.
The title may be beyond Sagan Tosu and Gamba Osaka, but they are very much in the fight for AFC Champions League places heading into their collision.
Fourth-placed Sagan hope South Korean midfielder Kim Min-Woo can rediscover the form that helped his side set the J.League pace last month, while Gamba, one point back in fifth, target a sixth straight victory in all competitions that would elevate them above their visitors.
“We’ve been on a poor run and we just haven’t been looking ourselves,” said Sagan coach Megumu Yoshida. “We’ve got to get going. If we don’t put a run of wins together now, we won’t be able to realise our goals.”
With Tokushima are adrift at the foot of the table and all but down, Ventforet Kofu, Vegalta Sendai, Shimizu S-Pulse, Cerezo and Omiya are scrapping to avoid the remaining two relegation spots.
Omiya and Shimizu will square off on Saturday, while Ventforet are at last year’s runners-up, Yokohama F. Marinos.
Finally, Tokyo host Kashiwa Reysol and defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima entertain Vissel Kobe in mid-table battles.
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