Fourtheen placed Dalian Aerbin play host to Shanghai East Asia on Sunday, with the visitors looking for a win to keep the pressure on the teams above them at the top of the table. Following last week’s nervy victory over Changchun Yatai, East Asia must stamp their authority on a game against a side with only one solitary win to their name – also versus Changchun – so far this season.
Wu Lei is a doubt for Shanghai, having been forced off the pitch with a knee injury in the closing stages of last week’s game against Changchun. The midfield ace was the victim of a number of robust challenges from the visitors and looks unlikely to feature this weekend, having only taken part in light training this week. Some positive news comes in the form of Lv Wenjun’s return from suspension, having served his four match ban for swearing at his own bench. With Wu’s appearance looking unlikely, Xi Zhikang may well consider a straight swap for Lv; the manager declaring this week that he had been impressed with the suspended winger’s performances in recent reserve team fixtures.
Last Time Out
East Asia saw mid-table Changchun Yatai visit Shanghai Stadium last week, and started the game in emphatic style; taking the lead through Wang Jiayu in the 6th minute, after some excellent creative play by Wu Lei. The visitors rallied, however, and put in a commendable effort in searching for an equaliser. Indeed, it was only the superb efforts of the in-form Yan Junling in goal for Shanghai, that kept Changchun from finding their way back into the game.
Dalian, meanwhile, came up against another Shanghai side last week, as they travelled to Hongkou Stadium to face Shenhua. Sergio Batista’s men proved far too much for Aerbin to handle, however, as goals from Gio Moreno in each half gave the home side an easy 2-0 victory. The only slither of comfort for Dalian after such a disappointing performance, is that they can surely only improve – especially back in front of their own fans.
Causes for Optimism…
Despite a number of nail-biting moments in the second half against Changchun, East Asia showed efficiency in grinding out a result which belies their top flight experience last Saturday. Yan Junling stood out as the home side’s star performer – this being just one of many eye catching displays so far this campaign – and it appears the man now mentored by ex-England international goalkeeper, Ian Walker, may prove capable of securing points all by himself.
… and for Concern
If Wu Lei is unable to recover, East Asia could struggle to create as many chances as they have in previous outings this year. Wu has proven to be indispensable this term, and has been at the heart of Shanghai’s exciting attacking play that has impressed so much thus far. Wu has developed a promising understanding with striker Tobias Hysen, which saw the pair bag 7 goals between them in the first four games. With Wu gone, Daniel McBreen must work even harder to connect Hysen with the midfield, and Wang Jiayu will also need to assume greater responsibility going forward. Replacing Wu will undoubtedly be difficult, although with the timely return of Lv Wenjun, East Asia may just have enough to cover the creative losses caused by Wu’s absence.
Watch Out For
With the prodigious Wu Lei potentially sidelined, the onus of creativity in midfield could well rest on the shoulders of Wang Jiayu. Having netted his first goal of the season last time out, Wang must now fill the considerably sized shoes of Wu. The midfielder has looked increasingly sharp and dangerous across the opening six fixtures; his movement, vision and incisive passing invaluable in providing teammates with opportunities in attack. However, in the absence of Wu, and having opened his 2014 CSL goalscoring account last week, Wang will need to present a greater goal-threat than ever, if East Asia are to perform without their most influential player.
Regardless of Wu Lei’s prospective spell on the bench, Shanghai should still have more than enough to take 3 points away from Dalian on Sunday. East Asia can make a statement of intent here by winning without their eminent number 7. Providing Wang Jiayu – and whoever Xi Zhikang decides to bring in to replace Wu – can continue carving out chances, and supplying and supporting Tobias Hysen, the visitors should be set for a comfortable win. 2-0 Shanghai.