League One Round 12 Preview: Yanbian Face Stiff Challenge in Beijing, Dalian Host Harbin
With the league’s top seven teams now separated by just three points, every point, earned or lost, takes on increasing significance during the twelfth round of action. This week sees the CSL’s 2014 relegatess square off and Yanbian attempt to continue their phenomenal run at a resurgent Beijing BG. Goals should be expected when Wuhan Zall host Beijing Institute of Technology and a couple of struggling sides have a good opportunity to climb the table.
Dalian Aerbin vs Harbin Yiteng
Last season, this fixture was played in the Super League and so it’s not surprising that it takes place with both sides in the thick of the promotion race. However, neither club comes into the game on a major high after Dalain were knocked off of top spot for the first time this season after defeat in Yanbian and Yiteng were held at home by bottom side Tianjin Songjiang.
The visitors remain unbeaten in 2015, but have won just four in eleven. More tellingly, they’ve drawn six straight on the road. Dalian, meanwhile, have dropped just two point in six home games and must still be considered favourites despite last week’s blip. Aerbin did the double over their northeastern rivals in the CSL last season and that run of victories looks set to continue here. Prediction 2-0
Beijing BG vs Yanbian Changbaishan
Prior to the season, BG would have been big favourites to win this game but, with Yanbian’s expectation defying position at the league’s summit, that is clearly no longer the case. Although they made heavy work of city rivals BIT last week, BG have won three from their last four. And, in an indication of how tight the league is, victory over Yanbian could see BG overtake their opponents despite being six places behind them.
However, that will be easier said than done as Yanbian remain unbeaten in 2015 even though seven of their eleven matches have been on the road. The visitors will be missing Gambian forward Steve who continues to serve a suspension, but they showed last week that they can do well without him.
Last season, BG just missed out on promotion, while Yanbian were easily relegated as the division’s bottom side. Despite those disparate fortunes, both meetings between the teams ended in a draw and that could well be what happens again this week. Prediction 1-1
Wuhan Zall vs Beijing Institute of Technology
Wuhan come into this game on a massive high following their 6-0 hammering of Shenzhen, which was also their third consecutive win. In the immediate aftermath, Zall manager Zheng Bin joked that it was the first time he had come into a post-match press conference without any pressure. However, should his side fail to build on their recent form and continue to push towards the top, that pressure will rapidly return.
The good news for Zheng is that Wuhan will be hosting an outfit which has failed to win in four and has the league’s worst defensive record. Interestingly, thanks to Jonoon’s dreadful first half in Hebei, Wuhan now have the league’s best defensive record having shipped just nine in 2015.
All this points to an easy wins for the hosts, but the Wuhan faithful know better than to take such matters for granted. Thanks to the likes of Andres Marquez and Hu Ming, BIT have had little trouble finding the opposition net and should at least keep this game close, even if their leaky back line eventually lets them down. Prediction 3-2.
Qingdao Jonoon vs Guizhou Zhicheng
After their five game winning streak came to a shuddering halt in Hebei last week, Jonoon will be hoping to get back on track against Zhicheng. The visitors’ form on the road this season – two points in six games – implies that they are the perfect opposition against which to do that.
Before last week, Jonoon had the best defensive record in the division and prior to that game had conceded just three goals in nine. With Rodrigo out injured, top scorer Yves Ekwalla Herman will offer Zhicheng their best chance of penetrating the Jonoon back line. However, the Cameroonian’s return to the city he played in last year with Hainiu is unlikely to be a happy one. Prediction 2-0
Jiangxi Liansheng vs Hebei CFFC
Sunday’s only fixture sees Hebei travel to Nanchang to take on a Liansheng side with just one victory all season. That win came all the way back in round 5 against bottom club Songjiang and there is little to suggest that the hosts will be able to turn this around against Hebei.
The visitors win against Jonoon last week confirmed that they have recovered from an earlier wobble. With Nenad Milijas continuing to look a cut above his opponents, it is hard to imagine anything other than an away win. Prediction 0-2
Xinjiang vs Hohhot Zhongyou
Zhongyou travel to Urumqi for what absolutely nobody has dubbed the Autonomous Provinces derby. After a strong start to the season, the Inner Mongolians have gone three games without a win to slip into the bottom half of the table.
For their part, Xinjiang come into the game in even worse form, being winless in four. It’s worth noting, though, that three of those games were on the road and that Xinjiang are unbeaten at home this season.
As he’s scored nine of Xinjiang’s eleven goals this season, Cristian Danalache’s performance will obviously be key. His chances of once again finding the net have been bolstered by the suspension of Hohhot’s veteran centre back Jonas Salley, and that could just make the difference between the sides. Prediction 2-1.
Tianjin Songjiang vs Qingdao Hainiu
Songjiang come into this game unbeaten during the three match tenure of manager Goran Tomic, but all of those contests have ended in draws. A couple of weeks ago, this would have looked like an excellent opportunity for Tomic to claim a first victory, but Hainiu have won their last two to climb into the top half after a slow start to the season. Songjiang have taken just two points in four home games this season and it looks like yet another draw might be on the cards for Tomic’s men. Prediction 1-1
Hunan Billows vs Shenzhen FC
These two teams come into this game on the back of very different results. Hunan ended a 7 game winless streak last week with a victory in Guizhou but Shenzhen were unceremoniously demolished by a Wuhan side that has been far from prolific this year.
Hunan have scored fewer than any other team this season but there are signs that summer signings Li Xiang, Chen Zijie and Igor Burzanovic are starting to develop an understanding. Based on Shenzhen’s last defensive performance, this game provides the perfect opportunity for Billows’ attackers to continue to build confidence. Prediction 3-1
Author: Jamie McIlroy
Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall.
A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing.
Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.