It has been a few years since Kashima Antlers could rightly be described as the team to beat in the J. League, but this season’s early form suggests the seven-time champions are fast recovering their old aura.

Antlers lead the table after six games of the season, with Sunday’s 2-0 win over Gamba Osaka giving Toninho Cerezo’s side a record of five wins and one defeat with 14 goals scored and three conceded. It wasn’t until the fourth weekend that Kashima even let in a goal let alone dropped a point, and it is little wonder that Cerezo’s recent postgame press conferences have been so heavily punctuated by laughs and smiles.

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