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Japanese J2 League champion Shonan Bellmare kicks off its top-flight campaign with a home match against a Urawa Red Diamonds team that has not shone in its early games.
Shonan dominated the Japanese J2 League last term, winning 31, drawing eight and losing three of its 42 matches to break through the 100-point barrier. Shonan averaged more than two goals per Japanese J2 League game and it did not lost at home until the championship was stitched up. Shonan kept clean sheets in more than half of its 21 Japanese J2 League home matches so, when the Japanese J1 League draw appeared, one made a brief note about Saturday’s game.
One was not expecting Urawa to approach its Japanese J1 League match at Shonan in such bad shape and that bookmakers would quote the Red Diamonds at such short odds. Everything has come together for one to suggest backing Shonan at the tasty odds of 3/1 4.00 +300 3.00 3.00 -0.33 with Ladbrokes to send Urawa crashing to its fourth consecutive defeat across all competitions.
Urawa is staring down the barrel of an early exit from the AFC Champions League – a tournament that it won in 2007 – after losing each of its first two Group G matches. There was nothing wrong with Urawa’s 1-2 loss at Suwon Bluewings in its first AFC Champions League Group G game – the Red Diamonds opened the scoring and they were on course for a point until Leo Itaperuna’s 87th-minute goal – but one can be pretty nasty about its defeats versus Gamba Osaka in the Japanese Super Cup and Brisbane in the AFC Champions League. Urawa lost 0-2 to a Gamba side that has failed to accrue a point in its opening AFC Champions League Group F matches and it was bad in losing 0-1 to Brisbane in AFC Champions League Group G on Wednesday. Even before Urawa was reduced to 10 men in the 51st minute the Red Diamonds made Brisbane, which has struggled in the Australian A-League after losing its star forward, Besart Berisha, to Melbourne Victory, look like it was a legitimate title contender which it is not.
Playing three competitive games should have placed Urawa at an advantage over Shonan for the first round of the Japanese J1 League but the Red Diamonds are low on confidence after losing three matches on the spin, the latest of which they were trading at short odds to win against a Brisbane team that was clueless in its AFC Champions League game versus Beijing Guoan, going down 0-1 despite having a numerical advantage for more than two-thirds of its home match.
No punter with any grasp on value could contemplate backing Urawa at odds on to beat a Shonan side that returns to the Japanese J1 League after spending one season out of the elite. Shonan supporters have been counting down the days to their team’s Japanese J1 League opener and they will make sure that Urawa’s fragile players know that they are in a game. Urawa could have done with a Japanese J1 League match at home to a middle-of-the-road side rather than an away game versus Japanese J2 League’s runaway champion.
Conservative punters can back Shonan at odds of 7/4 2.75 +175 1.75 1.75 -0.57 with PaddyPower on the draw-no-bet market, but the purpose of this weekly column is to have a crack at a big-priced winner and Shonan are well over the odds at 3/1 4.00 +300 3.00 3.00 -0.33 to beat Urawa – one thinks that Bellmare should not be bigger than 2/1 3.00 +200 2.00 2.00 -0.50 .
Shonan Bellmare to beat Urawa Red Diamonds
7th March 10:00 GMT
Odds: 3/1 4.00 +300 3.00 3.00 -0.33
Where to Bet: Ladbrokes