League One Round 13 Preview: Yanbian Face Another Stiff Test as Wuhan Come to Town
There is no international break for League One clubs as they prepare for a round 13 that will certainly be unlucky for some. Yanbian Changbaishan host Wuhan Zall in what is the weekend’s big fixture, but there is also a heavyweight tie between Harbin Yiteng and Beijing BG on the agenda. Guizhou Zhicheng and Jiangxi Liansheng reprise a League Two rivalry and a couple of fading Super League stalwarts do battle in Shenzhen.
Yanbian Changbaishan vs Wuhan Zall
The league’s two stingiest defenses go up against each other as Yanbian look to extend a run of wins against their promotion rivals. Wuhan have won the last four meetings between these sides and this fixture ended in a 4-1 away victory in 2014.
That was the penultimate game of the season and was played with Yanbian long since relegated and Wuhan desperately chasing promotion. A lot has changed since then and Yanbian have reacted to being reinstated to League One in phenomenal fashion. Wins over Dalian Aerbin and Beiing BG have cemented the unbeaten Yanbian’s status as more than just a flash in the pan and Wuhan will have to work very hard to get anything from this fixture this year.
Zall arrive in Yanbian unbeaten in four, although they will have been disappointed to have dropped points at home to Beijing Institute of Technology last week. With both teams conceding an average of less than a goal a game, the impact of their foreign attackers may be key.
As Steve is still suspended, nine-goal Ha Tae-goon remains vital to Yanbian. Meanwhile, the Wuhan duo of Rafa Jorda and Brice Jovial have shown an improved understanding in recent weeks even though they lack the clinical finishing of Ha. Yanbian should probably be slight favourites, but Wuhan have every chance of returning to Hubei with a point thanks to a low scoring draw. Prediction 1-1
Beijing BG vs Harbin Yiteng
This is a game between two sides on the edge of the promotion race that have yet to really kick into gear this season. Harbin have managed to remain unbeaten, despite only winning a third of the games, and BG have frustrated in their efforts to get a consistent run of results together. Last week’s home defeat to Yanbian sums up BG’s travails as their host of winter signings have failed to deliver on a regular basis.
Two of those players, Yan Xiangchuang and Xu Dong, face the club they left after 2014’s relegation. Aside from the financial benefits of moving to the capital, both players probably felt an immediate return to the Super League was more likely to be achieved with their new club. The league table says otherwise and, while a ninth draw is an obvious possibility, Harbin might just have enough to take all three points. Prediction 1-2*
Shenzhen FC vs Qingdao Jonoon
This is a clash between the two current League One sides with the richest history in China’s top flight, but its also a match-up between two sides in decline. Throughout the 2000s these clubs were Jia-A and Super League stalwarts, but recent results demonstrate their current difficulties.
Not long ago, Jonoon looked to be on course for a return to the Super League at the second attempt until defeat in Hebei and a 5-1 home crushing by Guizhou Zhicheng exposed their weaknesses. Meanwhile, Shenzhen’s already difficult season got worse when they were drubbed 6-0 in Wuhan.
The southern outfit staged a partial recovery with a draw in Hunan last week but, aside from a brief two game winning streak, have looked poor throughout 2015. The table and recent history suggest Jonoon are the better side, but they will inevitably be low on confidence thanks to recent results. A draw that does nothing to lift either side’s season looks like a real possibility. Prediction 1-1
Guizhou Zhicheng vs Jiangxi Liansheng
These two sides each scored a home victory when they met one other last season in League Two’s southern division. Zhicheng went on to finish above Liansheng in the table, but the Nanchang side had the last laugh by winning the League Two playoffs and getting promoted without having to wait for a League One side to go out of business.
Despite having three months longer to prepare for life in the second tier, Liansheng find themselves at the bottom of the table and five points behind this week’s opponents. They will be trying to stop a slide of seven league games without a win, but they must travel to take on a Guizhou outfit fresh from their 5-1 destruction of Qingdao Jonoon. The only comfort Jiangxi fans can take is that Zhicheng’s away form is superior to their home performances, but it will take a lot more than that to convince most people that this game will end anything other than home win. Prediction 2-o**
Hebei CFFC vs Xinjiang
Hebei will be big favourites to claim a fourth win in a row when they host Xinjiang in Qinhuangdao. The visitors haven’t won in the league for over a month and are over-reliant on League One top scorer Cristian Danalache for goals.
That dependency will be greater emphasised by the suspension of Brazilian attacker Felipe Ferro who has accumulated four yellow cards. Despite the continuing absence of Miroslav Radovic, a Nenad Milijas inspired Hebei are now the league’s top scorers and everything points to a home victory. Prediction 3-1
Qingdao Hainiu vs Dalian Aerbin
Dalian Aerbin’s crown as promotion favourites has slipped in recent weeks, but they should still have enough to overcome a Hainiu side that looks destined for another season in mid-table. Dalian’s away record, just five points in five games, is not great, but the attacking combination of Bruno Meneghel and Mathias Ranegie means that they are always likely to score goals. As Harbin showed last week, some teams are able to match or outgun Dalian’sforward threat, but Hainiu, who are averaging less than a goal a game, probably aren’t one of them. Prediction 0-2
Hohhot Zhongyou vs Tianjin Songjiang
In 2015 Hohhot are unbeaten at home and Songjiang are winless away. That suggests a victory is likely for the Inner Mongolians, but Songjiang have become masters of the draw under Goran Tomic and he may well “achieve” a fifth straight tie.
A key factor in this encounter will be how each side deals with suspensions to their attacking threats. Hohhot’s Wang Yunlong and Songjiang’s Mario Lucio will both miss the contest but, whereas the visitors also remain without the injured Nei, Hohhot still have an increasingly inform Dori to fall back on. If there is to be any daylight between the sides, it may well be courtesy of the former Harbin Yiteng striker. Prediction 0-0
Beijing Institute of Technology vs Hunan Billows
The league’s most porous defence host it’s joint most impotent attack in a game made more interesting by the return of Hunan’s Li Xiang to the club he scored 15 goals for last season. Li’s five goals in 2015 have made him the brightest spot in what’s been a largely disappointing campaign for Billows and he may find his former teammates very accommodating.
However, BIT also have no trouble finding the opposition net and the six games played at the university campus this season have yielded an impressive 27 goals. Hunan have beaten BIT four times in a row and they may just spring a bit of surprise here by claiming a fifth in an inevitably high scoring contest. Prediction 2-3
*This article originally stated that Harbin were at home, but the clubs agreed to switch the location of the fixture last week.
** Like buses you, you wait around 12 weeks for an error and then two come along at one. This article originally stated that Liansheng head coach Huang Yan had been replaced by player and assistant coach Xin Feng. In fact, Xin has only taken over Huang’s role as administrator of team affairs, and the latter remains in charge of the team.
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.