Shanghai East Asia welcome Guizhou Renhe to Shanghai Stadium this week, in search of a first win in five games. Still unbeaten at home this year, Xi Zhikang’s side must secure a vital 3 points to keep up with the current CSL top four.
Wu Lei’s on-going injury troubles look likely to keep him out of this weekend’s fixture. The 22-year-old has not participated in team training all week, as the club monitored the knee injury that has visibly hampered his impact in recent fixtures. On top of Wu’s absence, East Asia’s fast-growing list of suspensions sees Wu Yuyin join Yang Shiyuan on the sidelines, having seen red for his part in the tussle with Jiang Ning last week. On the plus side, Fu Huan should return having served his one-game suspension, after picking up two yellow cards at Guangzhou Evergrande.
Last Time Out
Following a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, it appeared as though East Asia’s stay in Guangdong would be as glum as the weather that accompanied them on their trip, as they took on R&F last Sunday. However, with the return of key trio, Cai Huikang, Wang Jiayu, and Daniel McBreen, the reds turned in a greatly improved attacking display that earned them a very respectable 2-2 draw against Sven’s men. With pre-match expectations tempered, this could have felt like a very well earned point against a rival ACL-chasing side. However, with Wang having a fine strike ruled out incorrectly for offside and R&F ‘keeper, Yuelei Cheng somehow escaping a red card for a reckless challenge on Tobias Hysen, East Asia have every right to feel somewhat aggrieved not to have returned to Shanghai with three points.
Guizhou, on the other hand, hosted Shanghai Shenhua last Saturday, and found themselves in an altogether comfortable evening, as Shenhua faltered to a 3-0 defeat. Brazilian forward Hyuri’s third goal of the season, along with a brace from midfielder Krzysztof Mączyński, gave the home side total control. Shenhua, for their part, seemingly did their best to make the win as straightforward as possible – the much maligned Jiang Kun in particular performing to ever shocking standards.
Causes for Optimism…
The end of Tobias Hysen’s 5-match goal drought was of great relief to the East Asia faithful; that the Swede did so in such fine style will be all the more satisfying. Hysen caused problems for the R&F defence all evening, and with confidence restored as a result, East Asia will need him to display this kind of lethal performance again this week.
… and for Concern
Guizhou have only lost once on the road in the CSL this year, picking up respectable points at both Changchun and Dalian, and turning over Henan Jianye on their own turf. With a miserly defence that has shipped just 8 goals in their first 10 games, and featuring the vastly experienced Sun Jihai, Guizhou certainly have what it takes to deny their hosts a winning goal for the first time at home this year.
Watch Out For
It will be interesting to see how Tobias Hysen gets on if Wu Lei does indeed miss out this week. Despite playing at less than 100% in recent matches, Wu’s blossoming understanding with Hysen has been a pleasure to watch. Without him, ultimately Wang Jiayu will be the one tasked with becoming the creative driving force, and following a bright showing at R&F, will have the chance to impress once again. Daniel McBreen’s recent improvement in form will also be of relief to Shanghai fans, who might have expected a more clinical touch in front of goal following his A-League top goal scorer award only two seasons ago. If he can build on his spectacular first goal of the season in East Asia’s last home game, Xi Zhikang may not suffer Wu’s absence too much.
While results in recent weeks have not lived up to the early season optimism, East Asia remain unbeaten at home with a record of 1 draw and 3 wins. The reds are markedly more comfortable in front of their own fans, and although Guizhou come to Shanghai with an impressive defensive record, if McBreen and Hysen can maintain their eye for goal, and find ample support from the likes of Wang Jiayu and Lv Wenjun, they should find a way past Zhang Lie in goal. I can see this being a close encounter, but a home win nonetheless. 1-0.