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CSL Predictions That Are Sure to Go Wrong

Every year we Chinese Super League predictions and every year there are a number that are completely wrong. That’s just the nature of the Chinese game, it’s really just a guessing game. In part, that’s because we don’t have any access to the club’s preseason matches to gauge how good (or bad) the club is going to be. It’s also due to the summer transfer window, more so than anywhere else, the addition of one or two key players can totally change a team and their fate. With that said, here are our “educated guesses”:

Guangzhou Evergrande

Bcheng: Champions

It pains me to say this, but yeah, it’s hard to look past Evergrande to be the first ever Chinese Super League team to repeat as champions, especially after they tore apart Jeonbuk Hyundai last week. I don’t expect them to stay undefeated as long as they did last season (in fact I expect they’ll lose in the first two months) and I do think they have some weaknesses, but the South American trio of Cleo, Conca, and Muriqui are just going to be too much for most Chinese Super League sides. Consistency is the key and with Guangzhou’s squad, they should be able to stay consistent.

Cameron: Champions.

I think Guangzhou are going to do it again simply because they have the same group of foreign players who are full of class as well as some of the best Chinese players. Everyone is surprised that they didn’t move in the transfer market again – but I wasn’t, because they simply didn’t need to. Their 5-1 victory over Jeonbuk is a sign of things to come, and the continuity they have with Lee still at the helm and their foreign legion still intact, I think they are going to be the Chinese Super League’s first side to defend a title successfully.

Beijing Guoan

Bcheng: Title contenders

The team with the strongest defense last season has all the same defenders coming back (though Yang Zhi won’t be ready for the first month or two). In the attack, they appear to have gotten stronger, though a lot will depend on how their two new imports adjust to the Chinese league and its intricacies. They will need to have more fight in them this year, to get better results on the road and turn draws into wins, but they should be in the title race all season long.

Cameron: Title contenders

I like the look of Beijing’s new striker AK 15 – his goals-to-dollars ratio may well be much higher than Anelka’s this season, plus with Pacheco back at the helm, there’s continuity and a very astute manager who took a decent team and made them championship contenders last season. But Yang Zhi being out for a while is a big blow, a good keeper in the Chinese Super League can make the world of difference to a side. Beijing will be there or there abouts, but they aren’t going to win anything this year.

Jiangsu Sainty

Bcheng: Title contenders

This is one side that shows how much an incoming player can change things, they spent big during the summer transfer window and brought in Alexander Jevtic who turned the side from a relegation zone team to a side that contended for an ACL spot. This year having Jevtic and his strike mate Danalache together for an entire season should mean this team can mount a shot at the title. Offseason signings Deng Zhuoxiang (if he can get healthy soon) and Jiang Jiajun should also help to make the team stronger, it’s going to be an interesting year in Nanjing.

Cameron: ACL contenders

Sainty were definitely last season’s over-achievers, but this season they will have lost the element of surprise, and whilst they have all their good foreign players back, and Jiang Jiajun who is a solid signing, I can’t see them doing better than last year simply because other teams have upped their game in the transfer market. An ACL place is a realistic hope for the men from Nanjing.

Shandong Luneng

Bcheng: Title contenders

In the offseason, this side dumped some of its aging players and went young, with Han Peng as one of the oldest members of the squad at only 29. This side’s struggles last year was one of the biggest surprises of the season, as few teams look as strong as they do. The aforementioned Han as well as Brazilian Obina and Gilberto Macena will handle the scoring, while few teams can match their midfield, which includes Hao Junmin, Zhang Haibin, fatty Wang Yongpo, and Chinese Super League player-who-I’d-most-want-on-my-team, Roda Antar. Fabiano and national team starlet Zheng Zheng will combine to keep the defense intact and have this club contending for the ACL.

Cameron: ACL contenders

Shandong are a powerful side and are always capable of beating anyone on their day. But they had a poor season in 2011 and I think the signings they picked up this year don’t look like being enough to catch up most of the sides who finished above them last year. Definite ACL place if they play to their best.

Liaoning Whowin

Bcheng: ACL contenders

Last year this side came out of nowhere to finish in third place, it’s hard to imagine a repeat performance this season, but they should be able to get into the top five due to their unbelievable young pair of Yu Hanchao and Yang Xu. Their new foreign imports look to be even better than what they had last season, especially Pablo Brandan and Milos Trifunovic, a major step up from last season’s useless Otto. Expect any side having to travel to the northeast getting a rude awakening, especially in March-April and toward the end of the season.n

Cameron: Top ten finish

Liaoning had a great season this year but I can’t help but think that was due to over teams being bad as much as themselves playing well. They will cause a few upsets, and I will be happy to see a young team such as this do well, but there is no way they will finish third again.

Shanghai Shenhua

Bcheng: ACL contender

It’s time to put Shanghai in here, yes. You can’t talk about that team without mentioning Nicolas Anelka, who is sure to score a lot of goals for them. However while everyone’s looking at Anelka, they are ignoring how horribly bad Shanghai’s defense and goaltending was and remains this season. Zhu Jun is about hype over substance, he has his hype, but what he doesn’t have is a team that is capable of contending for the title, instead they have an outside shot of slipping into the top 3, especially if they get stronger in June.

Cameron: Runners-up

I think Bcheng’s glasses aren’t so much green-tinted here, more just completely fogged up. Whilst I don’t think Shenhua have strengthened their defence enough to win the title, instead making the ridiculous decision to sign three foreign strikers, I think they will give Guangzhou a run for their money and if their new midfielder and defender are quality, they might just edge the championship. Anelka will be a hit, the rest of the Chinese Super League will fear him. And don’t forget – Shenhua don’t have to compete in the ACL this year, whilst Beijing and Guangzhou do, so that is a definite advantage.

Guizhou Renhe

Bcheng: Top 10 finishers

Having left Xian and a massive support base, the team will surely be welcomed in Guizhou with a new, large support base happy that the Chinese Super League has finally made its way to Guiyang. This side has the potential to do good things with manager Gao Hongbo one of the league’s best, but they are still a few players away from mounting a challenge of the top sides. National teamers Qu Bo and Yu Hai are sure to have an impact, especially when assisted by star Yang Hao, who got a raw deal in Guangzhou. Yang’s reuniting with Gao could help him return to his days of dominant play and help Renhe fly high.

Cameron: Top 10 finishers

The only good thing about the obscene decision to move to Guizhou is that the team is now based in an area where the Chinese Super League has never been before, the new enthusiasm and support for the team will help them along, but they won’t make the ACL or even be in the running for it.

Hangzhou Greentown

Bcheng: Top ten finishers

This could be the hardest side to predict as they ended last season with so much turmoil. Bringing in Takeshi Okada, the league’s first Japanese manager, should straighten those issues out and when you look at their squad, it’s full of talent. Here’s hoping that Bari Mamatil finally has a breakout season, he’ll be playing alongside a trio of Brazilians and a pair of South Koreans, like their manager they’re all newcomers to the league, but if they can adjust, Hangzhou has the pieces to move into an ACL spot challenge.

Cameron: Top ten finishers

I think Hangzhou are the Chinese Super League dark horses this year, after the stupidity of them having to move out of Hangzhou last year, they are back in their hometown and pulled off quite a coup by getting Okada onboard. Generally they are a bit of an unknown quantity this year, they could theoretically make the ACL or they could tank and finish just above the relegation zone. But I’m putting them for a top-ten finish, that seems like their most likely outcome.

Henan Construction

Bcheng: Top ten finishers

They held on to Zeng Cheng, the second best goalie in China, and defender Zhou Peng (despite his horrible outings for the national team, he was worth RMB3 million a year to them to keep him in Zhengzhou) in the offseason and brought in Zambia captain Christopher Katango to strengthen the side. Having him alongside Marco Flores and Netto should help to produce a lot of goals and their new Dutch manager Jan Versleijin should be able to help this side get into the top 10.

Cameron: Top ten finishers

Not much to add to Bcheng’s prediction, Henan are one of those solid mid-to-upper level teams who never really shock nor never really look too shaky. I’m not up on their new signings, but I think a top ten prediction is a safe one for the Zhengzhou side.

Dalian Aerbin

Bcheng: Midtable mediocrity

They brought in Yu Dabao and some very impressive foreign talent, but they don’t have enough domestic talent to pick up the slack. However, Chang Woe-Ryong worked his magic with a weak Qingdao side last season, can we see a repeat performance in the northeast this year? Their ownership is dedicated to winning and willing to spend money, I have a feeling this prediction could be a bit too low, especially as we regularly see a newly promoted side in the top half of the table.

Cameron: Top ten finishers

New teams are always a bit hard to predict, but Aerbin are even more so since they have invested heavily in their playing side and Yu Dabao is a huge capture. I think they will certainly finish above their cross-town rivals, which is a pity, Dalian really is not big enough to support two Chinese Super League sides, Aerbin’s investors should have just bought into Shide instead.

Dalian Shide

Bcheng: Midtable mediocrity

Sharing Jinzhou Stadium for the first time ever, Shide will have competition to win over local fans. They didn’t really lose anybody in the offseason, but they also didn’t do much to strengthen their side, I can’t see them finishing in the top 10 and could very easily see them getting dragged into the relegation zone again.

Cameron: Relegation zone

They lost Ahn Jung-Hwan who retired at the end of last season, and they’ve done nothing to suggest looking like they can improve on last years poor finish. Dalian will need to be careful especially if they get psyched-out by their new city rivals doing better than them. Sorry to say this for a once great side, but I feel Shide just don’t have enough in the tank to do much beyond staying out of relegation trouble this year.

Changchun Yatai

Bcheng:Midtable mediocrity

Like fellow northeasterns Shide, this side looks much like it did in 2011. Last season, they drew way too many matches and had to deal with injuries to Wang Dong and Du Zhenyu, which kept the pair out for much of the season. Shen Xiangfu, last year’s manager, had to deal with calls to fire him at pretty much every turn, the management finally decided to do just that in the offseason, bringing in new to China (and Asia) Serb manager Svetozar Šapurić. I have a feeling they’ll regret firing Shen.

Cameron: Midtable mediocrity

Again, another side who don’t look like being a challenger for the ACL places this year, but too strong to go down I think. Their new manager will face a steep learning curve, they’d have been better served by going for continuity and holding onto Shen, because they aren’t going to do any better this year than they did last.

Guangzhou Fuli

Bcheng: Midtable mediocrity

We’ll have a much better idea how good Fuli is in a few hours when they face off against last year’s runners-up Beijing, but I think I have them just about right, not really contending for anything, but also staying above the drop zone. They are trying to win over the local fans by bringing in Cantonese “legends” Wu Wei’an and Lu Lin, and hope to have Yang Zhi in goal, though that will have to wait until at least the summer. They’ve brought in four Brazilians and also Aussie youngster Rostyn Griffiths, some good talent, but the rest of their talent looks pretty average.

Cameron: Midtable mediocrity

Another hard-to-predict just promoted side. They’ve got some money behind them and a host of interesting-looking signings, but the only sensible prediction for them is mid-table I think. I’ll be interested to see how their derby develops with Evergrande, hopefully Fuli will attract more fans to the Chinese Super League down there rather than siphoning off Evergrande’s.

Tianjin Teda

Bcheng: Relegation zone

Remember, I’m a Beijing fan, so take what I say with a grain of salt and also know that it’s very difficult to figure out how good a side will be just by looking at them on paper and seeing what they’ve added and lost, but with all that in mind, I think Tianjin will be in the bottom half of the table and may even get drawn into a relegation battle. Last season they finished a disappointing 10th and were in turmoil for the last month or so, as many players wanted out and the manager was a lame duck. They lost some key players in the offseason and were one of the last teams to find a manager, on top of that they’ll have to deal with the travels (and travails) of the ACL, all reasons why I don’t see a lot of good for Beijing’s rivals.

Cameron: Mid table mediocrity

Bcheng’s green glasses strike again, Tianjin have gone through a lot of changes over the close season, most of them bad, especially losing Yu Tao, but I can’t see them going down, they are solidly mid-table this year I believe. Their ACL participation is unlikely to last beyond the group stage, so their second half of the season may be stronger.

Qingdao Jonoon

Bcheng: Relegation zone

They lost their manager to Aerbin and despite their surprise 6th place finish last season, they don’t have much talent beyond young stars Zheng Long and Zhu Jianrong, two players who will be highly in demand when the transfer window reopens. It’s really hard to say who is going to go down, but if I’m forced to pick, I’d have to put Qingdao up there as a side likely to face the drop.

Cameron: Relegation zone

Another team who did well last year on the back of other teams under-achievements – I put Qingdao at odds-on to go down, the Chinese Super League is much stronger this year and I don’t think there are many other teams who will be weaker this year.

Shanghai Shenxin

Bcheng: Relegation zone

Welcome to Shanghai, now join the China League? It’s a little harsh, but this group that narrowly avoided the drop last year hasa to be the easiest pick to go down this year. They failed to bring in much new talent in the offseason and lost their keeper, a relegation battle isn’t the way to win over Shanghai fans, especially with Shenhua bound to be at the other end of the table, it’s going to be a hard year for Shenxin.

Cameron: Relegation zone

A stupid shift back to Shanghai and abandoning strong support in Jiangxi, their next move will be of a downwards nature, although Shenhua always struggled against them in their Nanchang form, but this year I can’t see the new derby being much of a contest. A trip to the “seaside” down in Jinshan suburb will be a fun day out for Shenhua and probably for most other Chinese Super League fans who want to check out Shanzhai Shenhua’s Shanzhai beach whilst they are at it.


Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



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