Guangzhou Evergrande’s opening run of three consecutive home games against lesser CSL clubs continues as they this week welcome the other promoted side, Harbin Yiteng.
Against Yokohama F-Marinos on Wednesday evening, there were first appearances of the season for Feng Xiaoting and, as a substitute, Zhao Xuri. Muriqui and Zeng Cheng also returned to action, though the former is still struggling with a calf injury. Some players, especially those who were with the Chinese national squad in Iraq last week, may be rested due to the recent hectic schedule and with the ACL visit of Jeonbuk Motors on Tuesday in mind; pushing mid-thirties Zheng Zhi, for example, has played three full games in three different countries over the past week and a half.
Last Time Out
With neither Brazilian forward available, Evergrande’s win against Henan Jianye last weekend was achieved via goals from three men who had never scored for the club before – the two debutants, Rene Junior and Dong Xuesheng, and Mr. Pitiful, Feng Renliang. Henan were formidable enough, but the usual home template of muted first half/ goal-blitzed second was followed for a 3-0 win (and still no goals at the south end of Tianhe).
Causes for Optimism…
The Cantonese side didn’t look entirely sharp against Henan, but it wasn’t a full strength line-up and they didn’t need to be anyway. Harbin Yiteng are on paper weaker than Henan – they only won promotion to the CSL last year when Guangdong Sunray Cave slumped at the final hurdle. It’s also their first time in the top flight, they haven’t spent much in the interim, and many fans expect a swift return to the second tier. This will be their second of seven straight games on the road thanks to inhospitable conditions at home.
… and for Concern
Despite being expected to roll over last weekend for conventional wisdom’s title contenders Shandong Luneng, Harbin surprised everyone by forcing them to wait until practically the last minute before squeezing in their winner. Shandong lacked cohesion, but Harbin were still a lot tougher than many expected.
Watch Out For
As integral to the side as Zheng Zhi is, with a big game at home to Joenbuk coming up on Tuesday he surely needs to be rested. Rene Junior will presumably start in his place with either surprise package Liao Lisheng or Zhao Xuri alongside, meaning Elkeson, who served out the last match of his Cup final red card ban against Henan, will likely be chosen in attack at the expense of Muriqui. When 2013’s AFC Foreign Player of the Year went off at half-time against Melbourne and Diamanti joined Elkeson in attack, Evergrande ran rampant. It will be interesting to see how closely (and how well) they combine from the start here, assuming Diamanti is not also rested!
I don’t think Harbin will pose a greater challenge to Guangzhou than Henan. I’m going with another 3-0 win.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Harbin Yiteng kicks off at 8:00pm, this Saturday 15th March, at Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou.