Shanghai East Asia (1st)- Shenzhen Ruby (7th)
The clash between these two team could not have come at a better time occasion in terms of a sporting narrative. Shanghai East Asia need to both restore their confidence and preserve their lead at the top of the table whilst Shenzhen Ruby are struggling to keep their heads above the water in the dash for promotion out of China League One.
Indeed, East Asia, having been given time to lick their wounds after their 3-1 loss away at Chongqing Lifan, now have to come out all guns blazing to rediscover the swagger that allowed them to go on a recent six game winning streak. Wu Lei will be critical if his team are to get back to winning ways and his skills in the middle of the park will the key to getting through an often crowded Ruby midfield.
For Shenzhen however, Friday’s visit to Shenhua represents another visit to the last chance saloon and a loss to East Asia could send them down to as low as ninth place in the table. Last week’s embarrassing home defeat to Beijing Baxy was the latest in a line of slip ups and the job security of Shenzhen’s manager, Phillippe Troussier, is becoming increasingly fragile and a third loss in five games could be the end of the White Witchdoctor’s reign at the club.
A betting man would opt for East Asia in this game but with such high stakes, any result is possible now teams know their seasons could end with one or two costly defeats.
Tianjin Songjiang (3rd) – Chongqing Lifan (5th)
As the landscape in CL1 continues to change, the clash between Songjiang and Lifan sticks out as another massive game that has huge repercussions for the entire division.
Tianjin have had a curious run of games in the last few weeks. Going into the game against Guangdong Sunray Cave, the former had turned in two losses, a draw and a lone victory against Chengdu Blades. Even against Guangdong, Tianjin only managed to scrap through with a victory after a last-minute winner from defender Liu Tao and Songjiang are clinging on to third place by the skin of their teeth.
Lifan, on the other hand, have overcome a poor start to the season to now potentially mounting a charge towards a promotion spot. Whilst they concede goals (only four teams have allowed more this season), they also have an impressive habit of managing to score one more than their opposition.The visitors have emerged as a useful measuring stick for a team’s promotion credentials (although East Asia might disagree). The good teams tend to beat Chongqing whilst the rest are eventually overwhelmed by Lifan’s tenacity.
The trouble with Songjiang though is that they are impossible to predict. In some games they will romp to victory whilst in others, they will struggle to trouble the scoresheet. Moreover, in their last three games against decent opposition, they have a loss (Harbin), a draw (Wuhan) and a nervy win (Guangdong) so its difficult to back them with any confidence and as such, this writer expects a win for the visitors- but not by much.
Shenyang Shenbei (15th)- Beijing Baxy (14th)
A win against Shenbei would extend the distance between Beijing Baxy and the drop zone to six points, which is huge considering just how poor the three teams in or around the relegation places (Baxy, Shenyang and Hohot Dongjin) have been so far this season.
After their improbable away win at Shenzhen, Baxy have the wind in their sails and will hope for another victory on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile Shenyang have drawn their last three games (including against second place Hunan Xiangtao) and might hope to spring a surprise on the visitors, although this is somewhat unlikely, their last win came all the way back in early May.
This certainly won’t be a pretty match but for Baxy fans, this could and probably should be the biggest game of their season.