Fujian Smart Hero (10th) – Shanghai East Asia (1st)
Having officially become the most unpredictable outfit in China League One, Shanghai East Asia are now an absolute nightmare to evaluate and assess before each new round of games. The same team with almost the same personnel that is one week coolly dismantling most of the top sides in the division are currently lurching from one erratic result to another and this week should be no different.
Fujian- who recorded three wins and a draw in their last five games- are therefore going to be a real test. Indeed, Smart Hero have already beaten second place Hunan Xiangtao in recent weeks so they can certainly knock one of the big boys down to size but equally, their form at home is patchy and this inconsistency has tripped them up on several occasions so far this season.
Moreover, neither side will have forgotten their previous encounter this season, which saw two red cards dished out amid a fiery and often controversial 1-1 draw so this match represents the chance for both teams to get revenge. East Asia’s forward line should be enough for at least a draw but right now, any result is possible.
Shenzhen Ruby (7th)- Harbin Yiteng (6th)
Two teams needing victory to keep their promotion pushes alive meet at Shenzhen and with nine games left in the season, the hosts can’t afford to drop points against a side that’s above them in the table.
Having lost on the road to Wuhan Zull last week, Shenzhen are now nine points away from the promotion spots and need to get a string of decent results together and pronto. Central to their problems has been an extremely leaky defense and that certainly isn’t going to help against a tricky Harbin side that can be utterly ruthless if midfield schemer, Lu Yongdi is allowed to get going.
That said, Shenzhen do have an impressive home record and playing in front of their own fans may be enough to give Ruby a slight advantage against a team that will be travelling an awfully long way for this game. A score draw would be the safest bet but don’t rule out a narrow Shenzhen victory.
Hunan Xiangtao (2nd) vs Chongqing FC (8th)
This should be easy for Hunan and on paper, anything short of a win would be unthinkable. The hosts are second in the league and playing against a team with one of the worst away records in the division.
However this game, as meek as it might seem, has a strong whiff of ‘upset’ about it because the pressure is on the home side and Hunan have at-times struggled with the exposure that comes with being one of the front-runners in a promotion chase.
Though their recent victory against East Asia might suggest a team in control of its destiny, other results have been less flattering (back to back losses against Yanbian and Fujian come to mind) so it’s not impossible for the hosts to slip up. Indeed, Chongqing FC can be a stubborn team to break down and have caused trouble for a number of teams in recent weeks. Hunan should still win but keep your eyes peeled on this result.