New signing Imad Khalili could be in line for a first start for Shanghai East Asia this weekend, having started on the bench against Tianjin last week. The Palestinian forward looked comfortable on the ball against TEDA, if slightly off the pace of full fitness – something to be expected given the striker’s extended break from playing since the close of the Swedish season. With Khalili now providing even more competition up front, Xi Zhikang will be happy with this particular selection headache, given the full compliment of players available to him this week.
Last Time Out
Despite managing to keep their unbeaten home record intact, Shanghai East Asia will be disappointed to have only picked up a point at home to Tianjin TEDA last week. East Asia’s dominant home displays had been a prominent feature throughout the first half of the season, however, they were unable to find the cutting edge witnessed in the emphatic victories of the likes of Shanghai Shenxin and Guizhou Renhe. East Asia took the lead through Daniel McBreen, who’s shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection off Eder Lima and looped it’s way over the helpless Zong Lei. However, their lead was to last just 4 minutes, as a perfectly executed Bai Yuefeng cross was matched by Carmelo Valencia’s excellently timed run and powerful header, to put the two sides level.
Liaoning, on the other hand, faced Shanghai Shenhua at Hongkou Stadium, in a frantic game which saw the visitors almost snatch an unexpected draw having gone down to 10 men early in the second half. However, some truly shambolic defending underpinned Liaoning’s 90 minutes, and the visiting side eventually succumbed to a Lucas Viatri finish with just 8 minutes remaining.
Causes for Optimism…
Liaoning appeared thoroughly disorganised throughout last week’s encounter with Shenhua, and despite finding two goals – thanks in no small part to the efforts of James Chamanga – always looked second best to their hosts. Taking into account East Asia’s undefeated home record, this looks as though it will be another struggle for the travelling side. With new signing Imad Khalili – who made his debut from the bench last week – set to add more firepower to an already potent strikeforce, we could well witness another resounding victory at Shanghai Stadium.
… and for Concern
Despite being second best to Shanghai Shenhua last weekend, Liaoning had the wherewithal to claw back two goals to level proceedings in the second half, having already seen Kim Tae-Yan harshly sent off for a clumsy challenge on Paulo Henrique. Despite eventually falling to a late Viatri winner, East Asia must heed the warnings that their neighbour’s clash served up, and maintain their focus defensively – particularly the threat of Chamanga up front.
Watch Out For
Although they only managed to find the back of the net just once against Tianjin last week, East Asia were once again dominant in the final third. Wu Lei looked to be back to somewhere near to his best form, however the cutting edge of previous home games was not apparent, and the fortunate nature of Shanghai’s opener epitomised a frustrating performance. With Liaoning having conceded 8 goals in 7 games on the road this year, and East Asia eager to return to winning ways at home, the attacking options of Tobias Hysén, McBreen, Khalili and Wu Lei (not to mention the commendable Wang Jiayu) should be relishing this clash.
With Liaoning struggling at the wrong end of the table, this should be another routine three points for East Asia to secure. While the hosts must be wary of the danger posed by Liaoning frontman, James Chamanga; going forward they really should have too much for the visitors to handle. With Wu Lei showing signs of having been released from the shackles of injury last week, and the impact of reigning Allsvenskan top goalscorer Khalili to be added to the increasingly fruitful partnership of McBreen and Tobias Hysén, this should be a day to boost the goal difference. 3-0.