As a Guoan fan, I was nervous about this match to begin with, but now that both Yang Zhi and Xu Liang are gametime decisions, I’m downright worried about what the squad’s going to look like when they step on the pitch tonight. Ahead of the Hangzhou match, I said it was a test to see how good this Guoan side really was, if that was the case, they positively failed, but fortunately (or not), they don’t have to wait long before another real test.
There’s a lot of familiarity between these two sides, Lee Jangsoo gave Guoan 3 of its best ever seasons and their offseason signing Yang Hao grew up with the club, at the same time, Xu Liang spent the better part of his career at Guangzhou and captained the side for multiple seasons. Especially coming off a draw at Nanchang, it’s a guarantee Lee will have his side prepared and ready for anything Guoan can throw at them, so the Men in Green are going to have to be on their game. Beijing will need to play like the team that gave fits to Jiangsu in the 2nd half of the 1st match, not the team that gifted Hangzhou 3 goals in the 2nd half of the 2nd match.
Going up against multimillion euro signing Cleo would be hard for any defender, but Lang Zheng had his confidence destroyed by Luis Ramirez and Hangzhou, will he still be given the start? Guangzhou isn’t a team where height is an issue, so Jamie Pacheco could use Zhang Yonghai over Lang Zheng, but that’s about the extent of his options. If Xu Liang isn’t ready to go, who can handle the defensive duties (and offer the necessary protection for Lang)? Zhu Yifan, Piao Cheng, and Zhang Xizhe all have more of a mind for going forward than playing defense, though Piao’s physicality may mean he’s the most appropriate, though no matter what option Pacheco chooses, it will be a hard job for a young kid.
A lot also depends on which Guangzhou side shows up, they’ve played okay so far this season, but have yet to look like the side that signed pretty much every player out there in the offseason. Obviously it was (is?) going to take some time for Lee to combine all those players and make them into a team, I disagree with those who believe he can do it this season. At the same time, there are plenty who believe he’s on a very short leash, especially after the unexpected draw at Nanchang, and a failure to defeat Guoan would mean Lee’s on the hot seat after only 3 matches.
As often is the case with the Chinese Super League, surprises are to be expected, but I can’t see Guoan going to Guangzhou and coming away with a win. In 4 tries, Guangzhou has not been able to beat Guoan, though the previous two contests in Guangzhou have ended in 1-1 draws. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens this time around.
Prediction: Guoan 1 – 1 Guangzhou