Shanghai East Asia (1st) vs. Chongqing FC (10th)
Having put second place Tianjin Songjiang to the sword in their previous game, Shanghai East Asia now have to keep things going against their guests from Chongqing. The league leaders are now seven games away from promotion but need to make the most of their next three home games as they look to solidify their place in the two automatic promotion spots.
The biggest concern for East Asia will be replacing the suspended Ransford Addo, who has been one of the team’s best players this season but will presumably be banned for at least two games following his red card against Songjiang. The most likely solution will be to move left back Wang Shenchao into the middle of defence and have Sun Kai fill in along the flank but it remains to seen how the backline will respond without their unquestioned leader. Bruno Camacho has had a mixed spell since his arrival but he was excellent after Addo’s early dismissal in the Tianjin game and will be expected to turn in the same kind of performance in this game.
Chongqing will be coming to the Shanghai stadium in relatively poor form having only take two points out of a possible twelve in recent weeks and desperately need a win to avoid sinking further down the table. That said, Chongqing won’t be a pushover and Shenzhen can vouch for what happens when teams take them lightly. Chris Killen has been a decent acquisition for the visitors and his height could be a problem for the East Asia defence unless he is marshalled appropriately.
All things said though, East Asia should have enough to see off Chongqing and with Wu Lei and Lv Wenjun in fine form, the home side possess the firepower to get the job done so long as the defence can keep things tight at the back.
Fujian Smart Hero (8th) – Tianjin Songjiang (4th)
After destroying Guangzhou Sunray Cave 5-1 (in Guangdong, no less), a resurgent Fujian Smart Hero are probably the worst team to play for Tianjin Songjiang after their 3-0 collapse last Sunday in Shanghai. The home side know that another couple of wins will assure themselves of their place in next year’s CL1 and having scored a hat trick in his previous game, Fujian’s Costa Rican star Johnny Woodly will be the man expected to cause the damage.
Tianjin on the other hand need to regroup quickly but will go into a game they obviously have to win without their captain and key striker, Aleksander Rodic after the Slovenian was the other player sent off in the East Asia/Songjiang game. More seriously, manager Hao Haitao will have to urgently bang heads in the dressing room after his team effectively gave up after the second goal and such a lack of effort could cause them real problems against a home side who have a striker in tremendous form of late.
Tianjin will start as the favourites but will hope for an early goal to put the hosts in their place. If that doesn’t happen, expect Fujian to get more and more confident. Regardless of the result, there should be goals in this clash.
Hunan Xiangtao (3rd) – Wuhan Zull (5th)
The fight for the promotion places is becoming crazier by the week and with Hunan, Tianjin, Chonqing Lifan and Wuhan all tied for 2nd place with 38 points, something has to give as a proverbial ‘six pointer’ comes into focus with Zull making the journey to Changsha.
The home side, despite some formidable attacking talent including Emil Martinez and Claudio Cardozo, haven’t been in the best of form in the last couple of weeks and a highly embarrassing defeat to Hohhot Dongjin has once again asked questions of Hunan’s ability to get the job done in the business end of the CL1 season.
That said, Wuhan have also be stuck in a funk in recent weeks and equally bad defeats to Guangzhou Sunray Cave and Shenyang Shenbei mean that their once watertight defence can no longer be relied upon to soak up pressure until one of their strikers can nick a goal.
With that in mind, both teams have to go all out in this encounter and hope that they can come away with the three points or else their promotion aspirations could be toast. Hunan will be the nominal favorites thanks to their squad depth and impressive home form over the last few years but with the season on the line, anything feels possible.