By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Sports Writer
Derby matches are always highly anticipated by players and fans alike and this weekend's J.League schedule sees three of them.
S-Pulse tackle Jubilo in Shizuoka while FC Tokyo face up to Verdy Tokyo 1969 at Ajinomoto Stadium.
North of Tokyo, Omiya Ardija host Urawa Reds at Saitama Stadium 2002.
The Saitama Derby has been somewhat of a rarity in the J.League, simply because the Squirrels from Omiya played in J2 until this season while the Reds have spent all but one season in the top flight.
The intensity at these games is fierce and when the two sides met in J2 five years ago trouble occurred.
A lone Reds fan broke into the away enclosure and threw some punches before a fellow Reds' fan pulled him out. Definitely a case of handbags at 10 paces.
Ardija started this season well but now find themselves in the bottom three facing the real threat of returning to J2.
Reds currently stand in fourth place, 10 points behind leader Gamba.
One player who will have a special interest in Saturday's game will be Ardija forward Tuto. Since coming to Japan in 1998 to join Kawasaki Frontale, the Brazilian has had spells at FC Tokyo, Reds and S-Pulse before moving to Omiya in 2004.
There must be something about the Saitama air that agrees with him as he spent two years with Reds in 2001 and 2002 and is in his second season with Ardija. In 47 Reds games, he netted 17 league goals. This year, the 27-year-old hasn't been quite so prolific, so a sixth goal of the season against his former employers would be very timely.
Reds go into Saturday's game on the back of a 7-0 demolition of Kashiwa Reysol. However, the result was overshadowed by an ugly challenge by Reysol defender Yukio Tsuchiya on Reds' forward Tatsuya Tanaka, which has sidelined him for up to six months.
The injury even shocked Reds' manager Guido Buchwald, a man who should know a thing or two about hard knocks as a World Cup-winning central defender for Germany.
"It looked very bad...It was a very, very hard tackle. Reysol were too motivated today, they had no mental control," Buchwald was quoted as saying after the game.
It was the second time this season Buchwald's side had hit seven goals and it seems that when the team clicks, they're unstoppable.
Unfortunately for their loyal supporters, the 2003 Nabisco Cup winners have failed to hit the mark enough times and look like under-achieving once again.
At Nihondaira, S-Pulse will be looking to ease their relegation fears though Shizuoka rival Jubilo will be a formidable opponent.
Kenta Hasegawa's defense will have to keep an eye out for Jubilo's Bobby Cullen.
The 20-year-old is emerging as one of the J.League's brightest prospects this season and his equalizer against Antlers on Sunday increased his league goal tally to 11 and made him Jubilo's leading goalscorer this season.