Hunan Xiangtao (10th) – Shenzhen Ruby (8th)
Hunan are in complete and utter freefall, and their astounding collapse in the last few months has caught many by surprise. The team who was in second place in the table at the midway point in the season and had one of the best home records going back several years in China League One have since lost their last seven games and have not won a game since the first weekend of August (which was ironically against league champions, Shanghai East Asia)
Last week, the club was in such disarray that the entire Hunan front office met including manager Zhang Xu met with fans to apologize for the debacle but the meeting clearly didn’t help matters and the team promptly lost 3-0 to Chongqing Lifan.
The visiting Shenzhen side will be licking their lips at the devastation in their midst and Babacar Gueye, the league’s joint top scorer will be hoping to increase his tally. The Senegalese front man will have already alerted Chinese Super League teams to his talents but a couple more goals aren’t going to hurt his wage demands.
Shenzhen should see themselves as the favorites in this game and rightly so- Hunan are broken and are only ninety minutes away from ending their suffering for 2012.
Fujian Smart Hero (5th) – Wuhan Zall (2nd)
Having been promoted in the previous season, new boys Fujian Smart Hero have done well to finish so high in their debut year in the Chinese second tier. Their final position though owes a lot to the outstanding form of Johnny Woodly, the veteran Costa Rican forward, whose is tied with Gueye as the league’s best finisher with 21 goals.
Whilst Gueye will be angling for a move to the CSL, Woodly, who will be thirty-three next season, probably isn’t as exciting a target to higher placed Chinese clubs. Instead, the burly striker can achieve the nifty feat of being the CL1’s top scorer for two seasons in a row (he was tied last year with Hunan’s Mitchell Brown in 2011) and get himself one more juicy contract out of Fujian, a club that has taken him to heart since signing him eighteen months ago.
Zall on the other hand are presumably tired from celebrating promotion and therefore will probably not play the game as hard as a Fujian team filled with players looking to earn new contracts or moves elsewhere. Expect a win for the home crowd and for Woodly to take home the scoring crown.
Beijing Baxy (15th) – Chongqing Lifan (3rd)
With rumours growing about a possible Dalian merger, suddenly third place in the league has a little more value and Lifan would do well to keep themselves in third place just incase something big happens in the north.
Lifan, lead by Brendan Santalab hold third place by a point and a win against the already relegated Baxy means the visitors should be the most likely team to move up to fill the void. Obviously a merger and then the third place team in CL1 filling the empty slot in the CSL is currently a scenario rather than a fact but Lifan still cannot afford to take any chances and will come out all guns blazing.