This weekend for Marcello Lippi’s hundredth game in charge Guangzhou Evergrande travel to Shanghai to face boremeisters Shenxin, unbeaten in four games despite only scoring twice, both times from the penalty spot. Is their bus big and strong enough to hold back a Cantonese juggernaut out to make the occasion one to remember?
Zheng Zhi is still in a race to regain fitness for Tuesday night’s ACL match against Cerezo Osaka and is unlikely to travel to Shanghai. Gao Lin and Zha0 Peng missed the midweek matchday squad with minor knocks; it is unclear whether they will be available again here. Much focus will be on defender Zhang Linpeng, who sparked controversy during the week with critical comments on the Chinese national squad set-up made on Hong Kong radio. Given that he has played every minute of every game so far in 2014, Lippi may decide this is an opportune time to give him a well-earned rest.
Last Time Out
Evergrande put Shenxin’s neighbours East Asia to the sword at Tianhe Stadium last Wednesday, breaking down the visitors’ initial resistance before eventually notching up five goals against them. Muriqui and Zhao Xuri continued their impressive return to form in the wake of injury lay-offs with a goal apiece, Rene Junior marked his return from suspension with one of his own, while Elkeson’s double took his CSL tally for 2014 to eight, putting him level with at the top of the CSL goalscoring charts with neighbouring R&F’s new Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah.
Causes for Optimism…
Nine goals without reply in their last two games tells its own story. Guangzhou are on fire again, and few teams in the CSL look less able to douse them than Shenxin, who conceded eight and scored one over the two fixtures against Evergrande last season.
… and for Concern
With the huge ACL fixture in Osaka coming up on Wednesday, Lippi is sure to field a number of fringe players. Given how well a second string side performed against Shanghai Shenhua a fortnight ago this shouldn’t be too great a worry, but after letting in 10 goals in their opening three CSL fixtures Shenxin have conceded just 2 in the six since, so are likely to prove difficult to break down.
Watch Out For
With the Brazilians needed in top form in Japan, it would be a surprise to see both start here. Gao Lin has been omitted from the last two match day squads so must also be a doubt. With options limited Lippi will be looking to ACL-excluded striker Dong Xuesheng to build upon his unexpectedly strong start to his career in Canton. Having already matched in less than two months his goal tally in two seasons at Dalian Aerbin the striker’s confidence is sky-high, so his battle against Shenxin’s miserly backline will be interesting to watch.
Shenxin’s defensive approach may have kept out Harbin Yiteng, Tianjing Teda, and Liaoning Whowin, but it would be a brave individual who would bet on them holding firm in the face of the offensive Evergrande are bound to launch. I’m going for a repeat of last year’s 3-0 away win.
Shanghai Shenxin v Guangzhou Evergrande kicks off at 7:45pm, this Saturday 3rd May, at the Jinshan Soccer Stadium, Shanghai.