Yuexiushan News returns in time for the biggest game to be played at the home of Guangzhou R&F this season as the blue and whites take on city rivals Guangzhou Evergrande in the Canton derby.
Leading the chasing pack
Guangzhou R&F opened up a six point lead over Shanghai East Asia and Shandong after beating the former 2-1 in Shanghai on Sunday. Suspension and injury meant that forward Jiang Ning had to fill in at right back alongside second choice centre back Xu Bo but despite a few scares, East Asia only scored after Hysen pounced at the end of a bout of head tennis. Lu Lin had earlier opened the scoring before Aaron Olanare got that rarest of goals for the Cantonese; a header from a corner.
The win means that blue and whites are best placed to take the last ACL qualification place but are far from assured of qualifying as over the next three rounds they’ll face three of the four teams that represented China in Asia last year, starting with Asian champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
R&F centre back Jang Hyun-Soo is captaining the South Korea side at the Asian Games with not only a gold medal but also exemption from military service on offer if his team wins.
Since getting his long overdue first start of the season against Hangzhou at the beginning of August, local hero Lu Lin has played every game since and finally relegated Zhang Yuan to the bench not a moment too soon, and if anything several moments too late in the view of Yuexiushan News. Zhang is R&F’s most frustrating player to watch and it seems Sven has realised that part of the reason that Lu makes such an impact when used as a sub is not just his willingness to run at defenders but that it’s Zhang he is replacing. Zhang is only 24 but with the younger Chang Feiya, currently at the Asian Games, having made a number of appearances already this season Zhang could find himself on the bench more often in the future.
Local Derby, National Impact
The Canton derby that lacks the passion associated with some of the more established derbies in China, it’s not uncommon to see Evergrande shirts at R&F home matches, but the stakes are raised higher than that of executive drinking games and bragging rights in this match. A loss could be the beginning of R&F’s ACL challenge slipping away at the end of the season again whilst a win for the blue and whites could push Evergrande into a scrap with Beijing for the CSL title. Come Sunday evening eyes across China will be on Yuexiushan.
Be the best forever?
Evergrande may be out of the ACL and CFA Cup but that only adds to their motivation in the league and removes any squad rotation issues for Lippi. Yu Hanchao’s late goal on Saturday extended their winning streak to seven and again proved that even when not firing on all cylinders they are the strongest team in the CSL.
Whilst they are on course to be the best in the country for the fourth year in a row, Evergrande have lost more Canton derby’s than they’ve won. This record will give R&F hope but more important will be their performance at Tianhe in May when they outplayed Evergrande for the first time.
The future’s orange
After playing the reds of Shanghai and Guangzhou, the blue and whites next face the tricky task of playing the orange shirts of Guizhou and Shandong. Guizhou pulled off a thumping win this time last year at Yuexiushan and R&F have never beaten Shandong in Jinan and also lost earlier in the season to them at Yuexiushan in both league and cup games. If Shandong continue their recent good form and R&F stumble then the game in Jinan on 19th October could well be another ‘eight pointer’ for the Cantonese. There’s just the small matter of the derby to negotiate before then…
Guangzhou R&F v Guangzhou Evergrande is on Sunday at 7.30pm at Yuexiushan. For a guide to attending click here