In their last home game before the summer break, Guangzhou Evergrande host the side that beat them in last year’s CFA Cup final and this year’s Super Cup. Guizhou Renhe have had a relatively poor start to this season, being the first Chinese team dumped out of the Champions’ League and sitting in seventh in the CSL table, but they know better than most of the teams around them how to take on Evergrande; can they depart Tianhe Stadium with something to show from their trip?
Reports in the South Korean media have suggested central defender Kim Young-Gwon may be lining up a move to Europe after the World Cup, with Evergrande apparently considering replacing him with his international partner Hwang Seok-Ho, currently at Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan.
There was more positive news this week for Evergrande fans regarding their two (arguably) best Chinese players. Zhang Linpeng has hinted that he sees his long-term future at the Cantonese side, stating that he thinks he may now be too old to adjust to the game in Europe. Meanwhile the club’s ‘executive coach’ Massimiliano Maddaloni has commented that the club sees Zheng Zhi maintaining the captaincy and his pivotal role in the first team well into the future, after rumours that his recent injury battles may push him towards retirement.
Last Time Out
Evergrande bounced back from losing at home to local rivals R&F in the previous round to record a 4-1 away victory over Hangzhou Greentown last Sunday, Elkeson achieving his second perfect hat-trick for the club in the process. The previous day Guizhou had seen off Guangzhou R&F at home 2-1 via two goals from winter signing Hyuri, though they were helped by their opponents being reduced to ten men before half-time.
Causes for Optimism
Guizhou will be absent their hugely influential Bosnian midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic, who has gone to Sarajevo to join his international teammates in preparation for their maiden World Cup appearance. His compatriot Zlatan Muslimovic had his dim hopes for a call-up extinguished by an injury-blighted few months – probably mostly due to Liu Jianbin’s horrendous tackle on him in the Super Cup match -that has seen him make just a handful of substitute appearances for his club since that curtain-raiser.
… and for Concern
With the recent heavy fixture list, fatigue will be again an issue for Evergrande. The result against Hangzhou somewhat flattered them, as much of the second half was spent under heavy bombardment as they tried to conserve energy, and they were lucky not to concede more. With the huge game at Beijing Guoan’s Workers Stadium the following Monday, we can expect the Cantonese side’s players to again be operating at less than 100%, but Guizhou’s defence is much less generous than Hangzhou’s. This is, after all, the team that denied Evergrande the treble last season by triumphing in the CFA Cup final.
Watch Out For
22 year old Brazilian forward Hyuri took seven games to open his account for his new side but has added four more in the four games he has featured in since. Evergrande’s defence will need to be on top form to keep the skillful and dangerous no.11 from adding to his tally here.
Guizhou will use their physicality (hello Sun Jihai!) to try to upset Guangzhou’s rhythm, but I expect Lippi to have learned enough from the previous losses to avoid a repeat against a team that seems weaker than last season’s version. I’m going for a 2-1 home win.