Betting Preview for the 2021 J1 League Season

| February 26, 2021 3:09 am PST
Betting on the 2021 J1 League Season

Following a two-month lay-off, Japanese soccer is back!

The 2021 J1 League season gets underway on Friday, February 26, with defending champion Kawasaki Frontale hosting 2019 champion Yokohama F. Marinos on opening day.

If you’re planning to bet on the J1 League in 2021, you’ve come to the right place, as I tell you everything you need to know about wagering on Japan’s top-flight – and how to win money – in this post.

Below, I review the previous J1 campaign, assess the betting favorites for the 2021 J1 League season, and also take a look at a few sleepers that could challenge for the title this year.

But first, let’s kick things off by checking out the latest J1 League winner odds for 2021.

Latest 2021 J1 League Winner Odds

Here are the latest betting odds for the 2021 J1 League winner.

It is hardly surprising that the top online sportsbooks view Kawasaki Frontale (2.87) as the clear favorite to win the J1 League title in 2021. After all, the 2020 champion triumphed in style last year, finishing a mammoth 18 points clear at the top of the table.

Kashima Antlers (6.50) – last season’s fifth-place team – is the bookmakers’ second-favorite this time around, while last year’s runner-up – Gamba Osaka (8.00) – is also expected to challenge for the title in 2021.

Nagoya Grampus (9.00) and Cerezo Osaka (10.00) ended the previous campaign in third and fourth place, respectively, with Yokohama F. Marinos (11.00) finishing down in ninth last term.

If you’re betting on the 2021 J1 League season, chances are that you’ll want to know what happened last year. Luckily for you, I review the previous J1 season below.

What Happened in the J1 League Last Season?

Kawasaki secured their third J1 title in four seasons last term, with Toru Oniki’s men continuing their recent domination of Japanese soccer.

However, the trailing teams were only separated by a handful of points. At the end of the campaign, there were only eight points between second-place Gamba Osaka and sixth-place FC Tokyo.

As you can see from the final 2020 J1 standings, nobody came close to the runaway frontrunners last season.

Position Team Games Wins Draws Losses Points
1 Kawasaki Frontale 34 26 5 3 83
2 Gamba Osaka 34 20 5 9 65
3 Nagoya Grampus 34 19 6 9 63
4 Cerezo Osaka 34 18 6 10 60
5 Kashima Antlers 34 18 5 11 59
6 FC Tokyo 34 17 6 11 57

2019 champion Yokohama F. Marinos could only manage a ninth-place finish last term, while eight-time J1 winner Kashima Antlers ended up fifth. Sanfrecce Hiroshima – the joint-record J1 winner – slipped to eighth.

Here are the 2020 J1 League top goalscorers.

  • Michael Olunga (Kashiwa Reysol) – 28
  • Everaldo (Kashima Antlers) – 18
  • Leandro Pereira (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) – 15
  • Yu Kobayashi (Kawasaki Frontale) – 14

After netting a phenomenal 28 goals in 32 appearances last year, Kenyan striker Michael Olunga moved from Kashiwa Reysol to Qatari side Al-Duhail at the end of the season.

Brazilian pair Everaldo and Leandro Pereira also found themselves among the goals for much of the previous campaign, along with former Japan international Yu Kobayashi.

It’s now time to take a look at the 2021 J1 League betting favorites.

Betting Favorites for the 2021 J1 League Season

Planning to bet on the J1 League winner in 2021? Keep reading to find out more about the bookmakers’ favorites.

Will Kawasaki Frontale Go Back-to-Back in 2021?

You only have to look at Kawasaki’s numbers from 2020 to see why the bookies are favoring the defending champion so heavily this year.

Not only did Oniki’s men accumulate 83 points last term, but they also scored 88 goals along the way. To put things into perspective – Yokohama F. Marinos were the second-highest scorers last season, and they only netted 69 goals.

Category Stat
Longest winning run 12 games
Longest unbeaten run 13 games
Biggest away win Consadole Sapporo 1-6 Kawasaki Frontale

On top of that, Kawasaki boasted the second-best defensive record in J1 last year, suffering just three defeats in 34 games.

Kawasaki won the 2017 title on goal difference, finishing level with Antlers on that occasion. The following year, Oniki’s side ended up 12 ahead of second place. But having finished 18 points clear last season, it feels like the gulf between Kawasaki and the rest of the league is only getting bigger.

Can Kashima Antlers Rise Again?

No team has won more top-flight titles in Japan than Antlers. The Kashima outfit claimed eight J1 triumphs between 1996 and 2016, along with three second-place finishes.

But last season, Antonio Carlos’ side finished fifth – 24 points behind Kawasaki.

The team boasts some exciting attacking players, with Everaldo the standout overseas star. But after conceding 44 goals in 34 games last season, the Antlers must improve defensively if they are serious about challenging for the title this year.

Antlers’ decline is summed up by their recent J1 League finishes.

  • 2016: 1st
  • 2017: 2nd
  • 2018: 3rd
  • 2019: 3rd
  • 2020: 5th

Will Gamba Osaka Go One Better in 2021?

Gamba Osaka has clinched two runner-up spots since winning the J1 title back in 2014, meaning the Suita outfit has arguably been one of the most consistent teams in the Japanese top-flight in recent years.

However, despite finishing second last season, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto’s men ultimately got nowhere near Kawasaki.

When it comes to betting on the 2021 J1 League winner, I’m sure that plenty of people will be drawn towards Gamba Osaka’s attractive price of 8.00. But the team will have to improve dramatically on last year’s efforts if 2021 is to be their year.

Nagoya Grampus to End Their Barren Spell?

Massimo Ficcadenti’s men can take confidence from the fact that they finished the previous campaign with the best defensive record in J1. Indeed, they only conceded 28 goals in 34 games – three less than Kawasaki.

Still, it is worth noting that 11 teams outscored Nagoya Grampus in 2020.

Australian goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak kept a clean sheet in exactly 50% of his appearances last term, achieving a league-high 17 shutouts. But at the other end of the pitch, Grampus clearly lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Goalkeeper Team Appearances Clean Sheets Clean Sheet %
Mitchell Langerak Nagoya Grampus 34 17 50.0%
Jin-hyeon Kim Cerezo Osaka 34 12 35.3%
Sung-ryong Jung Kawasaki Frontale 34 11 32.4%

If Langerak can emulate his heroics in 2021, Grampus could challenge for their first J1 title since 2010.

2021 J1 League Sleepers to Consider

Can any of the outsiders upset the 2021 J1 League odds? I assess this year’s sleepers below.

Will Cerezo Osaka Continue to Improve?

Cerezo Osaka clinched four J1 titles and four second-place finishes between 1968 and 1982. But since then, the club has struggled to find a route back to the glory days.

However, Levir Culpi’s side managed to record a respectable fourth-place finish last year, pointing towards a resurgence.

Here are Cerezo Osaka’s J1 League finishes since gaining promotion from J2 in 2016.

  • 2017: 3rd
  • 2018: 7th
  • 2019: 5th
  • 2020: 4th

The team struggled to score goals last term. But having signed Socceroos forward Adam Taggart from Suwon Samsung Bluewings during the offseason, Cerezo will almost certainly pose a greater attacking threat in 2021.

Can Yokohama F. Marinos Emulate 2019?

The only team that has prevented Kawasaki from winning the J1 title in the past four seasons, Yokohama F. Marinos, will be hoping to improve on last term’s lowly ninth-place finish this year.

Ange Postecoglou’s men were the second-highest scorers in the league last season, netting 69 goals. But having also conceded 59, only three sides finished the 2020 campaign with a poorer defensive record than Marinos.

Team Goals Conceded
Shimizu S-Pulse 70
Vegalta Sendai 61
Yokohama FC 60
Yokohama F. Marinos 59

It feels like the 2019 champions have a lot of catching up to do this year. Marinos won 22 games on their way to winning the title a couple of years ago. Last season, they only managed to pick up 14 victories.

Could FC Tokyo Upset the J1 Odds in 2021?

FC Tokyo recorded their highest-ever J1 finish in 2019, securing second place in the final standings. The club from the capital slipped to sixth last year, although there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in 2021.

Kenta Hasegawa’s men proved that they could win silverware last season by going all the way in the 2020 J.League Cup. After beating Kashiwa Reysol, 2-1 in the final, FC Tokyo could upset the J1 odds in 2021.

Can Star Power Bring Vissel Kobe Success?

There is no denying that Vissel Kobe boasts the most star-studded squad in the J1 League. I mean, Andreas Iniesta has won every major trophy that soccer has to offer, while Thomas Vermaelen needs no introduction.

Still, the club has never won the top-flight title in Japan, and if last year’s efforts are anything to go by, Vissel will probably have to wait a little while longer to taste J1 glory.

Atsuhiro Miura’s side finished all the way down in fourteenth place last season – nine points ahead of last-place Shonan Bellmare. The club may have some big-name stars, but the chances of Vissel winning the title in 2021 aren’t exactly very big.

Looking Ahead to the 2021 J1 League Season

If you weren’t quite ready for betting on the 2021 J1 League season before reading this post, you should now be right up to speed.

Having finished 18 points clear at the top of the table last term, Kawasaki Frontale is the obvious favorite to retain the title this year – and the 2021 J1 odds clearly reflect that.

At 2.87, wagering on Kawasaki to win this year’s J1 League title will certainly make you a tasty profit. But if you want to win big money, why not back one of the 2021 J1 sleepers?

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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