The last of Guangzhou Evergrande’s trio of opening home games sees them face Changchun Yatai, the fourteenth placed team in the 2013 CSL.
Muriqui and Zhao Xuri were named in the starting line-up for Evergrande’s midweek ACL match against Jeonbuk Motors, but both aggravated calf injuries that have been dogging them of late in the warm-up. It all worked out remarkably well though, with their last-minute replacements Gao Lin and Liao Lisheng scoring all their team’s goals between them, and local boy Liao also providing the assist for the first.
Last Time Out
“Fifth foreigner” Rene Junior opened the scoring for the second game running and Gao Lin broke his self-described four and a bit month goal drought as Guangzhou ran out 4-1 winners over CSL newcomers Harbin Yiteng. Huang Bowen and substitute Diamanti got the others after Changchun’s striker Dori had been harshly sent off. The scoreline somewhat flattered the understrength host side but the points were only ever going one way.
Causes for Optimism…
Evergrande haven’t settled down from Conca’s departure yet but have been scintillating in passages, most notably at home in the ACL. The weakened teams played in the CSL have understandably impressed less, but have delivered the results without too much trouble. The tight opening schedule has necessitated more rotation than Lippi usually likes, but this one comes after five days of rest, and five more to come before the next fixture. Changchun have only conceded once in their opening two games, but have failed to score in either. They lost 6-1 here last year, and certainly don’t seem to have moved forward.
… and for Concern
Diamanti is a very different beast from Conca. The relatively withdrawn playmaker has been replaced by a whirlwind of single-minded determination, who often tries to hold onto the ball as long as he possibly can. This does result in copious numbers of free kicks (and goals), but there are worrying signs that this rather ostentatious style of play is already infecting his teammates, just as Conca’s steady rhythm had before. Unless order is quickly restored, this could unsettle the delicately crafted balance of the team. Rafael Coelho moved to the icy North from neighbours R&F in the winter and may feel a point to prove up front but isn’t guaranteed selection.
Watch Out For
Liao Lisheng is the star of the show so far this season. Thrust into the limelight at half-time in the season opener against Melbourne Victory, the 20 year old Cantonese midfielder produced an impressive performance that included assisting Elkeson to take the lead after Guangzhou had gone in 2-0 down at half-time. Since then he has been one of six players to feature in all five of the clubs games so far this season (only Zhang Linpeng has started them all), and his confidence will have been massively bouyed by his performance against Jeonbuk. With Rene Junior available he may not start, but he should play a part.
I would be very surprised if Changchun posed much of an offensive challenge, and the home team have continued their scoring record of last season. I’ll go 3-0 again (and hopefully save up some goal difference for a rainy day).
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Changchun Yatai kicks off at 8:00pm, this Sunday 23rd March, at Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou.