In Olunga we trust: Kashiwa out to exorcise Antlers' ghosts

Kashiwa Reysol's Michael Olunga in action against FC Tokyo during their Japanese League match at the Ajinomoto stadium on October 28, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Nelsinho Baptista's charges' last visit at Kashima Soccer Stadium ended in a 6-2 humiliation in July 2018.
  • Olunga got a taste of this fixture on November 6, 2018 when he replaced Brazilian Cristiano in the 77th minute as Kashiwa fell 3-2 in front of its own fans at Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium.

Kashiwa Reysol will hope Michael Olunga's fine scoring form helps them end their bad record against Kashima Antlers when the two sides clash in a Japan top-tier (J1 League) match at Kashima Soccer Stadium on Wednesday.

They have not beaten fourth-placed Kashima on five previous attempts and have lost their last three matches against Wednesday's opponents with an aggregate score of 12-6.

But with the Kenyan international leading the scoring charts with 24 goals this season, Kashiwa, who have collected one point in their last two games, will fancy their chances in their 28th fixture of the season.

Nelsinho Baptista's charges' last visit at Kashima Soccer Stadium ended in a 6-2 humiliation in July 2018.

Olunga got a taste of this fixture on November 6, 2018 when he replaced Brazilian Cristiano in the 77th minute as Kashiwa fell 3-2 in front of its own fans at Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium.

Kashiwa was again on the receiving end, losing 3-2 at home when these two met in the first leg this season on August 28. Olunga scored both goals as his side succumbed to two late goals from Shoma Doi after Kento Misao had made it 1-1. Kashiwa played the entire second half 10 men after Shunki Takahashi picked a red card just before the breather.   

Antlers are three points off the Champions League places. They will need nothing short of a win to keep pace with third-placed Nagoya Grampus, who currently occupy the last qualifying spot for the lucrative Champions League. Kashima and Nagoya have clawed 52 and 55 points from 30 matches each in the 18-team league.

For Kashiwa, they are almost guaranteed a second consecutive year in the topflight league. They have amassed 41 points from 27 matches since they returned to the big stage after one year in the second-tier league.

Kashiwa are 18 points above the relegation zone and need just one point from their remaining seven matches to stay up.

This fixture will bring some extra excitement as it pits two leading scorers against each other. Olunga has scored 24 times, while Kashima’s Brazilian forward Everaldo is on 16.

Both were on target when these two sides took to the field on November 21. Olunga scored Kashiwa’s consolation goal as his side suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sagan Tosu just three days after resuming training.

Nelsinho and his boys were in quarantine for 10 days from November 4 after being hit with 16 positive cases of the coronavirus infection.

In the latest round of testing conducted on November 22, the last two people who did not take the test on November 19 returned negative results. Fourteen had tested negative on November 19.

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