With their top of the table showdown against the other boys in green looming large, Evergrande travel to Hangzhou to face a club buoyed by this week’s big CSL news – the visitors’ owner Xu Jiayin has apparently inspired Alibaba founder Jack Ma to invest some of his corporation’s considerable reserves into the Zhejiang side. Will Greentown’s youthful team be inspired enough to inflict a first ever third consecutive defeat of the Evergrande era?
Zhang Linpeng (who scored the winner in this fixture last year) and Kim Young-Gwon are suspended after receiving fourth yellow cards of the season in the loss against neighbours R&F last weekend – the next action the latter will see will be at the World Cup in Brazil. To help shield the weakened defence, Liao Lisheng will have to put behind him the trauma of scoring the losing own goal at home to Japanese opposition on Tuesday. Fellow youngster Liu Haidong could also feature.
(Error Correction: Guess who was in Hong Kong that Friday and unable to find a single bar in Lang Kwai Fong showing the Canton Derby? I don’t know why I thought Kim Young-Gwon was booked against R+F, but he wasn’t. He is available for this fixture and will join the South Korean squad for their world cup preparations afterwards.)
Injury-wise, Muriqui is a doubt after being withdrawn late in the first half of that ACL rubber-stamp no-match against Cerezo Osaka, and Zheng Long and Dong Xuesheng will remain unavailable until after the summer break.
Last Time Out
Evergrande’s Guangzhou had never lost two consecutive games at home before last week’s pair of 1-0 defeats. In fact it’s only the third time they’ve suffered two losses in a row in competitive football, the other instances being the Club World Cup last December, and March 2012 when R&F (again) beat them at Yuexiu Park before Buriram United’s shock ACL win at Tianhe.
Rather than blame the fatigue induced by playing ten games over a mere 32 days, Lippi had harsh words for his players after the second loss:
“This game will be worth reviewing, and it also proved that Guangzhou Evergrande is not a great team because a great team wouldn’t show such a loose attitude in an important match like this. Sometimes our players seem lost, even though we are at the top in the domestic league and have also qualified in the AFC Champions League. But we need more and to improve continuously, and that is how we can become a great team.”
Causes for Optimism…
Guangzhou come into this fixture having had their first five day respite in ten matches – they could do with a longer break, but hopefully it will be enough for them to muster a more lively performance than the bare minimum effort against Cerezo.
Greentown should be lauded for promoting so many young players into the regular first team, with 21 year old centre back Shi Ke especially showing promise. However inexperience, particularly in the unsettled right back spot, has left them with the second worst defensive record in the division, and Evergrande tend to prey mercilessly on any rearguard weaknesses.
… and for Concern
These players were regularly scoring four or five at a time a few weeks ago, but a fixture list more intensive than any CSL side has possibly ever had to deal with will make these last three contests before the break a real challenge to Lippi’s men. Hangzhou are unbeaten at home in almost two months and have Davy Angan, impressive up front in early season, back from injury.
Watch Out For
In Angan’s absence winter signing from Cruzeiro, Anselmo Ramon, has burst into form after a tepid start to life in the CSL. Six goals in his last five games sees him just two below Elkeson in the top goalscorer stakes (now topped with nine by R&F’s Abderazzak Hamdallah and Shanghai East Asia’s Tobias Hysen), so a stern test awaits a Guangzhou backline shorn of its two best players.
Hangzhou may be dangerous in attack, but you need a strong backbone to have much chance of outscoring the Asian champions. I think Evergrande will shake off their recent setbacks to record a 3-2 away win.
Hangzhou Greentown v Guangzhou Evergrande kicks off at 7:35pm, this Sunday 18th May, at the Huanglong Stadium, Hangzhou.