Johor Darul Ta’zim vs Kawasaki Frontale
Johor Darul Ta’zim and Kawasaki Frontale are set to square off in an exciting AFC Champions League Group I opener at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.
The nine-time consecutive Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim cannot afford to rest on their domestic laurels to navigate a tricky Champions League Group I, featuring Ulsan Hyundai, Pathum United, and Kawasaki. A flying start might help, yet Johor not only went scoreless in both Champions League clashes against Kawasaki last year (D1, L1), they suffered an embarrassing 5-0 home defeat. Maybe it’s time for revenge, with Esteban Solari’s men boasting a flawless home record in 2023, winning all 15 home outings across all competitions, including an overwhelming 10-0 triumph over domestic rivals Kelantan last time out. Since a 6-1 demolition of Kuala Lumpur City in early July, the ‘Southern Tigers’ have won five successive home games without conceding while netting 2+ goals in return on each occasion.
Visiting Kawasaki would wish their domestic season goes as smoothly as Johor’s, with the visitors stranded in the J1 League mid-table despite beating Tokyo 1-0 in the build-up to this trip. That victory, in fact, arrested Kawasaki’s dreadful six-game winless league run (D2, L4) and marked only their first top-flight clean sheet since mid-July. Since defeating reigning Japanese champions Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0 over two months ago, Toru Oniki’s men have gone winless on four straight road trips in all competitions (D2, L2 – 90 minutes only), conceding 2+ goals on three occasions. But considering they only failed to get on the scoresheet once in that sequence, Kawasaki should feel comfortable about their scoring prospects in Malaysia.