Shanghai East Asia (1st) – Tianjin Songjiang (2nd)
Uh-oh. Could this finally be the week that East Asia’s luck runs out? Still four points ahead of their rivals, Shanghai East Asia might struggle to keep things that way with the visit of Tianjin Songjiang, currently second in the table but desperately needing a win themselves given that Hunan Xiangtao and Chongqing Lifan are breathing down their necks.
This game could be a real marker for where East Asia actually finishes in October. Having lost to Shenyang Shenbei and drawn at home to bottom side Bejing Baxy in recent games, the home side need to find some form in their hour of need. Zhen Zhengrong is coming into this game in fine scoring form and will the number one option for Wu Lei’s raking passes.
Songjiang, whilst with a decent run of form behind them, don’t have a tremendous amount of firepower and have only managed to win three games all season by more than a single goal advantage. However, one of those games was against East Asia all the way back in May (a 3-0 win for Songjiang in Tianjin) and having already unlocked the home defence once, the guests will be looking to do it all over again on Sunday. Moreover, in midfielder Rong Yu and the experienced Brazilian striker, Anderson, Tianjin possess their own dangerous tandem that could easily wreck havoc amongst an East Asia backline that has looked very uncertain in recent weeks.
With the finishing line coming into view, this is a game neither side can afford to lose so it remains to be seen how the teams will set up. East Asia”s natural instinct will be to come forward and bring the game to Tianjin so it will be interesting to see how the away side respond to this. This writer is opting for a narrow East Asia win but who knows given that this is a clash between two unpredictable and infuriating teams.
Chengdu Blades (11th) – Shenzhen Ruby (7th)
Having beaten Harbin Yiteng the previous week, Shenzhen have to keep on winning to keep themselves close to the promotion spots. The problem is that Shenzhen are awful on the road and have only won a single game away from home all season. This looks like a dangerous omen as they travel to Chengdu to take on a Blades side that seems stuck in midtable but would like a victory to avoid any late slips towards the relegation zone.
Chengdu will therefore go into this game feeling upbeat but still know they have a lot of work on their hands. Scoring or stopping goals has been a problem for them throughout this season and with Shenzhen prone to trying to dictate the tempo and possession, the hosts will have to be as clinical as possible with their chances.
This game certainly doesn’t have the feel of a seven goal thriller but with his job on the line, Phillippe Trousier may well go for broke in this game and squeak his way to a narrow 1-0 victory.
Hohhot Dongjin (15th) – Hunan Xiangtao (3rd)
Like all the games this late in the year, the stakes are extremely high but Hunan’s visit to Inner Mongolia has particular drama attached to it as a loss to either of them could throw their season’s into complete disarray.
Hohhot, who looked destined for the drop earlier on in the season, briefly escaped the relegation spots for a week or two before bad form dragged them back in. They know a win at home would lift them back into safety and with time running out, every point is critical.
Hunan, who also obviously need victory to keep themselves, can be a little shaky in high pressure situations and coming up against a side that will be up for it as well as having to travel a fairly hefty distance to get to Hohhot. As the home side are utterly toothless going forward (in 21 games, Hohhot have scored only 18 goals), Hunan will be almost certainly be home and dry should they get the first goal but they still cannot allow themselves to get complaint against a desperate side that’s running out of time to save itself.