In a week’s time, Vissel Kobe will return to continental action and resume their bid to win the AFC Champions League. First up is a Round of 16 tie against compatriots Yokohama F. Marinos on Aug. 18 and, with the subsequent two knockout-round stages in the East Zone to be completed by the following seven days, it will not be long before they know if they are headed for next February’s final.
In 24 games already played, Vissel have managed just five wins while suffering a competition-high 13 losses. An 11-game winless start to the 2022 J1 League season — which included seven defeats — has left Vissel Kobe at genuine risk of an unthinkable relegation from Japanese football’s top flight. Masashi Hara/Getty Images
It is impossible to say whether it is more condemning that an attack featuring Osako, Muto and Bojan while being supplied by Iniesta and Yamaguchi has only managed 21 goals, or that a seasoned defence marshalled by experienced campaigners like Sakai and Tomoaki Makino has conceded 32. (For comparison, top-of-the-table Marinos lead the way in goals scored with 51, while Avispa Fukuoka — in just their second year back in the top flight — have the best defensive record of just 20 goals conceded.)
Vissel’s domestic woes have already cost both Atsuhiro Miura and Miguel Angel Lotina their jobs — the latter lasting less than two month — with the club now searching for a third permanent manager of the campaign.