Right then, it’s back to China and the Chinese Super League for me. The main league that I used to write about over on our old site before we decided to embark on this slightly scary adventure. There were some matches in the CSL last weekend too and if you want to read about that you can do so here.
For once this week it is not a Friday match but rather an early kick-off on a Saturday. That match is between Beijing Renhe and Tianjin TEDA. A proper mid-table match. TEDA are in eight on nine points and Renhe are in 10th on eight points. I think that can be considered as a close gap. TEDA are in slightly better form, but neither team score very much so a draw is highly likely here.
Then it’s reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande up against Jiangsu Suning. Suning are having a much better season this year and are back where they should be. They sit just one point behind Evergrande in third, who actually seem mortal under Fabio Cannavaro this season. Had this been any other version of Evergrande I would have said they were going to win this but the stumbling as of late makes me wonder if Jiangsu can’t pip them here.
The final game on Sunday is between the two major underperformers of the CSL. Tianjin Quanjian welcome Hebei China Fortune to town. Last year this was a game between third and fourth but this season it is between 13th and 11th! Both teams have completely fallen by the wayside and last time out Tianjin drew with bottom of the table Dalian to make matters even worse. Had they won that they could have been all the way up in sixth. A win for either side is an absolute must. A draw is no good for anyone and a loss is a disaster as they will be completely out of any Champions League battle, I’m calling it now.
On Sunday the early match is between Changchun Yatai and Shanghai SIPG. Is this finally going to be SIPG’s year? A win here lets them at least keep their four-point gap, however Yatai are no pushovers. They have two wins on the bounce now, against Henan and Guizhou, and confidence should be sky high in the Changchun dressing room.
The main part of the round takes place around 12:30 UK time on Sunday and Beijing Guoan play Guizhou Hengfeng. Beijing need a win to keep up with the teams above them and for the first time in what seems like forever they are actually somewhat in the title fight, at the very least in the fight for second and third, from an early stage instead of trying to stage mid-to-late season comebacks which has been the case in recent seasons. Guizhou are in poor form and have only one win this season. This should be a win for Beijing, but this is Beijing, a team that is an awful lot like Arsenal in England, lose matches they should easily win and win matches against the top sides.
The last of the underperforming top sides is Guangzhou R&F. Despite Eran Zahavi being on form (although not as godlike as last year) they can’t seem to get a run of form going and their defence is the second worst in the league, only behind Dalian Yifang on conceded goals. This week sees them play Chongqing Lifan who are in good form, with only one loss in the last five. Lifan are still in the fight for Champions League and they have continued the impressive performances that we saw at the end of last season.
Shanghai Shenhua got knocked out of the CFA Cup by third-tier Nantong Zhiyun and will be out for revenge against poor Dalian Yifang. Yifang have yet to win this season but have picked up draws against decent opposition. This will go one of two ways. Shanghai will either batter Dalian or they will get their first win this season as Shanghai are still shell-shocked. A win here could see Shenhua climb up to third place, while a win will probably see Dalian come off the bottom spot.
The final game this weekend is between second-placed Shandong Luneng and Henan Jianye. Henan are the worst offensive team in the league, with only three scored goals from seven games. Shandong have two wins in a row and this really should be their third. A slip-up here from Shandong could mean a serious setback in the hunt for SIPG and could send them as far down as fourth place. If Henan fail to win and the two teams behind them on the table, Guizhou and Dalian, do they will be rock bottom and, unsurprisingly, that would be a very bad thing.