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How can these J-League teams avoid relegation?

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Roar Rookie
4th July, 2021

Although it looks likely that Kawasaki Frontale and Yokohama F Marinos will finish first and second respectively, there is still everything to play for on the other side of the table.

Four teams – Shonan Bellmare, Shimizu S-Pulse, Tokushima Vortis and Kashiwa Reysol – are just above
the relegation zone and are holding on to avoid the drop to J2.

After finishing dead last in 2020, Shonan Bellmare have tightened their defence, and that effort has so far paid off, at least in part as seven teams are below Shonan on the table.

However, the J League so far has been very close and only five points separate Shonan from relegation. Shonan are yet to win convincingly consistently as they have had to grind out most of their wins.

Shonan have held high flying teams like Nagoya Grampus and Vissel Kobe scoreless, however they’ve only scored more than two goals a game twice this season.

Although Tarik Elyounoussi is a good attacker, there is a lack of quality behind him, thus they’ve been lacklustre in attack.

Shonan must sign a decent attacker who will score goals and help take the load off of Elyoussini if they want to avoid the drop to J2.

Otherwise, I’m afraid it will be tough for them to do so because the only way they will survive the drop is by grinding out narrow wins.

Shimizu S-Pulse got off to a rocketing start this season beating high flying Kashima 1-3 away, however they fell into a deep abyss after a few games as they went on a nine game winless streak starting mid-April. If it weren’t for this abysmal run of form, Shimizu probably wouldn’t be in the position they are right now.

J League

J-League action. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

During this winless streak, Shimizu averaged less than one goal a game and were often unsuccessful in limiting the damage as they lost 0-3 to Tokushima and Nagoya.

For now though, it looks like Lotina has steadied the ship as Shimizu are unbeaten in three out of their four games, but it is yet to be seen whether this form will continue. If it does though, they are likely to survive the drop as Lotina has the squad playing some decent football.

Tokushima Vortis were predicted to get off to a terrible start this season, however just the opposite has been true. Despite head coach Daniel Poyatos not being with the team early on, Tokushima were playing some attractive football and caused some upsets, beating Cerezo Osaka and earning a well deserved draw against Vissel Kobe.

However, since the arrival of Poyatos and midfielder Battochio, Tokushima haven’t looked the same as they’ve struggled to find momentum.

There is hope though, as most of Tokushima’s recent defeats have been narrow one goal losses. If they can find a way to draw or win those games going forward, then Tokushima can survive the drop. Otherwise, it looks unlikely as the team is currently in a state of freefall – having only registered one win since the start of May.

After losing star striker and J League MVP Michael Olunga to Al Duhail before the start of the season, Kashiwa have really struggled to find their attacking foothold as they’ve been able to create a lot of chances but have been wasteful in front of goal.


It only looks like things will get worse for them attacking wise as playmaker Ataru Esaka has just left the club, having signed for the Urawa Reds. However, they’ve recently shown a glimmer of hope as they came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Shonan Bellmare 4-2 last weekend.

If Kashiwa want to avoid relegation, Pedri Raul and Cristiano da Silva have to replicate their performances against Shonan week in, week out. Otherwise, with a below average defence and Gamba Osaka having multiple games in hand, it’s hard to see them playing J1 football next season.

All four of the aforementioned teams can survive the drop and play in J1 next season but they have a lot of work if they want to do so.

Some of those teams are currently in free fall whereas others are rebounding after a poor start. It remains to be seen whether these teams make adjustments in the coming weeks in an effort to avoid relegation, and if they do, what those adjustments look like.