Wuhan Zull (2nd) – Beijing Baxy (16th)
Baxy are beginning to sink into the mire at the bottom of China League One and with a four point difference between themselves and the teams above them in the relegation dogfight, things are becoming increasingly desperate for the Beijing outfit. Though their results haven’t been that bad in recent weeks (they have only lost one in the last five games), other teams fighting to survive in CL1 have been pulling out critical victories.
Going on the road to face a Wuhan side that is in fine form has the feeling of ‘do or die’ about it for the visitors. Baxy’s away record has been fairly good in the last couple of months and they have taken all three points on the road at both Shenzhen and Fujian as well as holding Shanghai East Asia to a 2-2 draw. Put simply, the Beijing outfit have to keep that consistency up or else they could find themselves a lame duck for the final few round of the league.
Zull on the other hand will be licking their lips at the timely arrival of Baxy. Following the hosts’ victory against the previously formidable Harbin Yiteng, Wuhan could actually overtake East Asia at the top should the former win its game and the latter lose. The league’s second place team also needs to win this game to build up momentum for their massive meeting with East Asia next Sunday.
Shanghai East Asia (1st) – Hohhot Dongjin (15th)
A must-win game for both sides, East Asia will come into this game knowing that should results go against them, they could be displaced from the top of CL1 for the first time since Week Four.
On paper, this should be an easy victory for the home side against a side that is floundering near the foot of the table but the same could have been said for the last team to come to the Shanghai Stadium, Chongqing FC. Instead, the visitors put in a physical performance that unsettled East Asia, who failed to convert their many chances and resorted to play acting whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Looking forward to the game against Hohhot, it is clear things need to change, most notably upfront. Luis Carlos Cabezas hasn’t produced much of any real note in recent weeks and he needs to find some form at a critical point in his team’s season. With Wu Lei, Lv Wenjun and Zhen Zhengrong all capable of producing chances for the home side, the on-loan Columbian needs to finish off the opportunities to keep East Asia at the top of the table.
That said, Hohhot will be coming into this game equally aware its significance. Including Dongjin, there are four teams either in or within a point of the relegation zone so even a draw would help the visitors in their efforts to escape the drop into China League Two.
East Asia should have the stuff to beat Dongjin, having already dismantled them 3-1 in Inner Mongolia earlier in the season. An early goal would do wonders for the home side’s confidence but ultimately, they have to win by any means possible.
Chongqing Lifan (3rd) – Fujian Smart Hero (7th)
The newest dark horse on the scene travels to Chongqing to try and continue its fantastic recent run of form. A month ago, Fujian Smart Hero had only been the winning team five times all season before they suddenly won four out of their next five games (the other was a come-from-behind draw with East Asia). Solid victories against Tianjin Songjiang and Harbin Yiteng have underlined their ability to upset stronger teams and they will come into the game against Lifan eight points from a promotion place with six games remaining.
Lifan will be more than aware of the problem coming their way on Saturday. Fujian have a fearlessness that a suddenly nervy home side lack and anything less than a victory could cause real problems for the Chongqing outfits’ promotion chances. Having not won a game since July, Lifan have begun to find themselves dangerously off the boil and seem unable to outscore opponents like they once did so easily. The dangerous strike force of Brendan Santalab and Augusto aren’t scoring the goals and suddenly the situation is critical.
The hosts still have the players to win but Fujian absolutely have the form to cause an upset. A lot comes down to whose strikers can be the more clinical because this game should see a lot of goals being scored. If Chongqing’s players find their feet, they should win but things could get very ugly if Lifan’s lethagy continues against a determined and dangerous visiting team.