Xi Xhikang’s side make the short cross-city trip to neighbours Shanghai Shenxin this Wednesday evening, in search of their first win since the summer break. Having battered their city rivals 5-1 the at Shanghai Stadium last time the two teams met, this clash should be considered a must-win if East Asia are to be considered genuine top four contenders.
Cai Huikang could be rested this week, as Shanghai East Asia face the second of three games in eight days. The midfielder revealed this week that his substitutions in the previous two matches had been a result of fatigue – an issue brought to light in his recent call up to the national side. Captain Wang Shenchao also spoke ahead of the derby; assuring fans that the teams defensive frailties were being addressed, and claiming it was the responsibility of the whole team to work together and close down opponents more efficiently. Head coach Xi Zhikang, meanwhile, admitted that although East Asia were firm favourites going into the derby, his side mustn’t underestimate their opponents, particularly having added Beijing’s Peter Utaka and Brazilian winger Everton to their forward line.
Last Time Out
A classic ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ performance from East Asia last Sunday gave spectators everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Having found themselves down thanks to a combination of costly individual errors and swift, incisive counterattacking from visitors Liaoning, the side possessed both the resolve and skill necessary – thanks largely to the excellent performance of Wu Lei – to pull themselves back into the game.
For Shenxin, their trip to Hongkou Stadium to face Shenhua ended in a third consecutive league defeat, as goals from Paulo Henrique and Gio Moreno settled a rather tight clash.
Causes for Optimism…
Shanghai East Asia know their opponents well, with close ties between the two teams – so much so that midfielder Wang Jiayu’s recent wedding was attended by a large contingent of both sets of players and staff. East Asia won 6-1 at Shenxin last year, whilst their opening home game of the season saw them put another 5 past their city rivals. With the goalscoring potential in this East Asia side and Shenxin’s recent form, they must be confident going into the midweek tie.
… and for Concern
Despite the two heavy defeats dished out to Shenxin, East Asia must be aware of the dangers of underestimating an opponent that turned them over 1-0 at home last year. They must also be alert to the threats of new signings Utaka and Everton. Utaka, although not prolific, will surely improve an attack that has so far only mustered a mere 12 goals so far this year. Everton on the other hand, is more of an unknown quantity, but with a steady goalscoring record in the Eredivisie, must be carefully monitored.
Watch Out For
Wu Lei’s return to form last week came as a huge relief for East Asia fans, having been so persistently off-key in the first half of the season. Wu single-handedly rescued a point for his side; supplying the cross for Tobias Hysén’s spectacular first half goal, and producing a stunning performance in the final 15 minutes that dragged his team back level. Having bagged a hat-trick in the same encounter last year; he must to keep the momentum of last week going with a similar performance this time out.
Recent matches have highlighted the vulnerabilities in East Asia’s defence, and with a new-look attacking lineup, Shenxin will look to exploit any evident weaknesses. However, the reds possess the ability to outscore almost any opponent. If Hysén and Wu Lei can pick up from where they left off last week, and new signing Imad Khalili can build on his two brief but encouraging displays as a substitute, then we could see another high scoring tie. 1-3.