Guangzhou Evergrande return home after the previous round’s 2-0 win in Nanjing to face Dalian Aerbin. 2013’s fifth placed CSL team haven’t had a great start, only claiming their first win of the season last weekend, but defeat midweek in Korea leaves Evergrande with two losses from three in all competitions and looking more vulnerable than they have in quite some time.
For last weekend letting Jiangsu’s Liu Jianye know, via a common hand gesture, that he didn’t like him very much, Rene Junior has been banned by the CFA from the next four CSL games. That this wildly disproportionate punishment was at least consistent with precedent may have tempered fans’ disgust somewhat (which nods to the arbitrary standards of justice they’ve learned to expect), but the ban will hit Guangzhou hard – Rene has settled in quickly and, with the frontline stuttering, is currently their top league scorer. Moreover his defensive midfield position has the least cover, thanks to injuries and the blocking of Liu Jian’s planned free transfer from fake-contract-extension-wielding Qingdao Jonoon. Word has leaked out this week that the resulting CFA investigation will find Jonoon guilty of forging the obstructive document, but it remains to be seen if Liu will be allowed to play for his new side before the World Cup break.
Last Time Out
After the unexpected home loss to Changchun Yatai the previous weekend, Evergrande’s win over Jiangsu Sainty seemed to supply some much-needed tonic, with Elkeson’s goal and excellent assist hinting at a return to his dominant form of early last season. The game against Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday however saw another performance lacking in bite or wit as they fell to a 1-0 loss despite seeing more of the ball than their opponents.
Causes for Optimism…
The home side look almost as befuddled by their recent lack of form as the fans, so hope is perhaps better sought in the weaknesses of the opposition, 3-0 losers here last year. Before the previous round, Dalian had this season lost at home to Beijing and drawn at Henan and Hangzhou, neither opponents that really should be holding teams with ACL aspirations. Their brand new foreign contingent is, on paper at least, a significant mark-down on last year’s batch, and new manager Ma Lin’s Liaoning side didn’t exactly stir loins in recent CSL seasons.
… and for Concern
That first win of the season Aerbin got last weekend? Picked up against Changchun Yatai, the team that a fortnight ago delivered Tianhe stadium’s first home CSL loss in nearly two years. Also they have had a week to prepare while Evergrande played in Korea on Wednesday evening. And I could harp on again some about how Lippi’s men are finding the transition to Diamanti as guiding light difficult, but I can’t do that every week.
Watch Out For
New signing Bruno Meneghel has scored half of Dalian’s six goals so far this season, and the ex-Jonoon striker (who always seemed too good for the unambitious Shandong club) will be confident of adding to his tally this evening having scored every time he has faced Guangzhou in the past. The Brazilian had his own troubles trying to escape from Qingdao and now seems to be reveling in his new surroundings – the home defense will need to be much sharper than they have been of late to stop him extending his run to four games against them.
I expect a troublesome Bruno and relative fatigue to preclude any dramatic statement of intent from Evergrande. I still expect them to muddle through though, maybe to a win, but more likely to a 1-1 draw.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Dalian Aerbin kicks off at 8:00pm, this Sunday 6th April, at Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou.