It’s been a very difficult two weeks for the capital side, a historic win in Shanghai was followed up by a disappointing penalty shoot out loss to Shandong in the CFA Cup. A weekend win over Shanghai East Asia was dampened by a midweek loss to Guangzhou R&F (for the third time in three years, by a score of 3-1). Monday night’s late win over Guizhou Renhe has things looking up for the time being, but it’s all going to come down to a big clash on Saturday night at Jinan’s Olympic Stadium.
Surviving the rough patch
Guoan has played some of the league’s top sides over the past weeks, going head-to-head against the 4th, 3rd, 5th, and 6th place sides. They struggled away at R&F, whether you want to chalk it up to the travel distance, the weather, fixture congestion, or a bit of all three, it was a humbling defeat by a scoreline that has become all too common when Guoan travels to Yuexiushan. Monday night was a very satisfying victory, snatching all three points thanks to an 87th minute goal from Erton Fejzullahu. He’s been a huge presence for the club so far, with five goals in five appearances. It was the kind of win that Guoan wouldn’t always come up with and it was important in a game where they dominated play to find a way to win.
Where in the world is Piao Cheng?
When Pablo Batalla went down, I thought it would be a great opportunity for one of Guoan’s younger, domestic players to step into the void. Both Piao Cheng and Chen Zhizhao stepped into the void and played well, even contributing goals, but then disappeared from the lineup. Piao hasn’t even been included as a substitute. It seems like whatever Piao did that left him in Manzano’s doghouse, he was finally getting out of it, now it appears he’s right back where he started, this time seemingly even more unfair considering how he’s played when given the chance. The fixture list has made it necessary for some rotation to take place, but it seems the juggling has effected the team’s cooperation.
Get ready for Jinan
Beijing against Shandong is always one of the league’s top fixtures, a face-off between two of the three remaining old guard sides and one full of emotion, especially this season now that Dai Lin, poster boy for this match, is in the Shandong lineup. In the last three matches that Dai has faced off against Guoan, he’s helped Andre Lima and Joffre Guerron both see straight reds and, more recently, assisted Zhou Ting in getting a second yellow, though in the process he saw red himself. Darko Matic will have to sit down with Dejan and Erton to keep them far, far away from Dai, but no matter what he says, something tells me he’ll impact the match in some way. Over the years, this fixture regularly delivers unusual results, including a 3-0 loss for Guoan earlier in the season at Gongti. That defeat, combined with elimination in the CFA Cup a few weeks back is sure to have Guoan revved up, a massive planned away support should help too. On the flip side, Shandong has gone through some serious struggles as of late. Their 4-0 win against Shanghai Shenxin two rounds ago broke a six match streak without a win, but still, looking over their last 13 matches, they’ve only managed two victories. However, meeting up against Beijing Guoan means throwing the records out, so it’s hard to say what to expect in this one.
That’s it for this week, I’m off to Jinan!