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Friday, March 5, 2010


Jubilo Iwata

Staff writer

Team-by-team previews of the 18 teams competing in the first division.

Last season: 11th

Jubilo looked headed for real trouble after starting last season with two heavy defeats, but the former champion turned things around with such aplomb that relegation was never an issue moving into the final straight.

That was due in no small measure to South Korean striker Lee Keun Ho, who ripped through the J. League like a hurricane after arriving early in the season, then left for a bizarre non-transfer to Paris St. Germain before coming back in the summer.

One man happy to see him return was Ryoichi Maeda, whose prolific partnership with the Korean allowed him to become the league's first Japanese top scorer since 2002 with 20 goals. That was still not enough to convince national team manager Takeshi Okada of Maeda's talents, however, and the 28-year-old will have an extra point to prove with places in Japan's World Cup squad still up for grabs.

But if Jubilo has no trouble scoring goals, a league-worst 60 conceded shows exactly where the team's problem lies. If new South Korean defensive additions Park Joo Ho and Lee Gang Jin can come anywhere near matching their striking countryman's impact, there is no reason why Jubilo's revival should not extend into the top half of the table.

Previews continued:

Yokohama F. Marinos

Jubilo Iwata

Kyoto Sanga

Omiya Ardija

Vissel Kobe

Montedio Yamagata

Vegalta Sendai

Cerezo Osaka

Shonan Bellmare

Kashima Antlers

Kawasaki Frontale

Gamba Osaka

Sanfrecce Hiroshima

FC Tokyo

Urawa Reds

Shimizu S-Pulse

Albirex Niigata

Nagoya Grampus

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