League One Round 14 Preview: Wuhan Battle Harbin, Big Games at the Bottom and Songjiang Get Transfer Window Going
There are not too many eye-catching games as round 14 of the League One season rolls around, but there’s still plenty going on in the second tier. Wuhan Zall host Harbin Yiteng in what is probably the week’s biggest clash as Yanbian Changbaishan, Hebei CFFC and Qingdao Jonoon all have easy (ish) looking games. There’s plenty going on at the bottom where Shenzhen FC could be propping up the division should they lose in Jiangxi and Xinjiang could join them in the relegation zone should they fall to Tianjin Songjiang. Finally, speaking of Songjiang, the northern club got League One’s summer transfer season under way with a couple of big signings – including an English, former Premier League striker.
Xinjiang vs Tianjin Songjiang
Xinjiang will be hoping to turn around a run of six league games without a win when they host Songjiang. The good news for home fans is that their side remain unbeaten in Xinjiang in 2015. The bad news is that three of those four matches have ended in draws.
Meanwhile, Songjiang arrive in Urumqi having ended an eleven game winless run in Hohhot last week. The 1-0 victory was Songjiang’s first under manager Goran Tomic and means they are now just one point behind this round’s opponents.
There is also somewhat of a buzz around the team after they announced League One’s first new signings of the summer transfer window. Englishman Frank Nouble arrives in Tianjin, having most recently played in League One for Coventry City, and Zhang Shuo comes in on a half season loan from Guangzhou R&F.
Both are strikers and Nouble also has some experience of playing in the Premier League having made his professional debut for West Ham United at the age of 17. The 23-year-old is already training with his new club, but this will have little impact on this week’s game as neither of the new arrivals are eligible to play until after the transfer window officially opens on June 22nd.
With Mario Lucio still suspended and injured Brazilian striker Nei unlikely to ever play for the club again following Nouble’s arrival, Tianjin may once again struggle for goals. However, with Cristian Danalache’s output dipping, Xinjiang are having difficulty finding the net themselves and their supporters may have to accept another draw. Prediction 1-1
Wuhan Zall vs Harbin Yiteng
After suffering their first loss of the season last week against Beijing BG, Harbin travel to face a Wuhan side reeling from an important defeat of their own. The 2-0 reverse in Yanbian means Zall are now six points adrift of the top two. Harbin are in exactly the same boat and whoever drops points here may find themselves looking at a margin that is difficult to overcome.
Dangerous winger Yao Hanlin was absent from Wuhan’s last game thanks to an injury and manager Zheng Bin will be hoping he recovers in time to take on Yiteng. The Zall boss will also be hoping that his side are not on the wrong end of another contentious penalty decision having conceded two dubious spot kicks in their last two games.
This is a game between two sides who finished bottom of the last two editions of the Super League. Both are looking to return to the top flight and a loss here could be very costly. However, despite last week’s set back, Wuhan look to be in better shape than a Harbin side that have won just one of their last seven and are likely exhausted by a punishing travel schedule. Prediction 1-0
Hunan Billows vs Yanbian Changbaishan
Unbeaten league leaders Yanbian travel to Changsha to take on a revitalised Hunan in what should be an interesting game. The clubs’ respective league positions suggest an away win looks likely and Yanbian’s run of three wins over strong opponents without conceding a goal only serves to strengthen that view.
However, Hunan have been on a good run of their own over the last three games which has seen them take seven points against, admittedly, weaker opponents. Yanbian are obvious favourites, but Billows have done just enough in recent weeks to show they may be able to slow the visitors’ momentum. Prediction 1-1
Hebei CFFC vs Guizhou Zhicheng
Hebei will be looking for a fifth straight win when they host the unpredictable Zhicheng. The Guiyang club arrive on the back of a 4-1 home battering at the hands of bottom team Jiangxi Liansheng and look ripe to be beaten. However, it has to remembered that they hammered Jonoon 5-1 in Qingdao the week before and are one of only two teams to avoid defeat in Dalian this season.
With the likes of Nenad Milijas, Song Wenjie and Zhu Haiwei firing on a cylinders in the Hebei attack, it’s hard to bet against the home side. But their veteran manager Radomir Antic ought to be very cautious about taking his inconsistent opponents too lightly. Prediction 2-1
Jiangxi Liansheng vs Shenzhen FC
Shenzhen could replace Jiangxi at the bottom of League One if they suffer defeat in Nanchang. The 2004 CSL winners have taken just one point from their last five games and, with changes apparently going on in the boardroom, look to be in real difficulty. As of June 16th, things seemed to be in a state of flux and players, perhaps unsurprisingly, had said they hadn’t received wages due to be paid on the 15th.
With all that distraction off the field and bad form on it, a match against the team at the foot of the table would seem to offer the ideal opportunity to turn things around. However, Liansheng ended a seven game winless streak in the league in spectacular fashion last week when they slayed Zhicheng 4-1 in Guizhou. That should give the hosts the confidence to overcome their struggling visitors and lift themselves off the bottom of the table. Prediction 2-0
Dalian Aerbin vs Hohhot Zhongyou
Aerbin look likely to keep their unbeaten home record in tact when an out of form Hohhot come to town. The hosts will be without suspended centre forward Mathias Ranegie but, with Bruno Meneghel in excellent form, should still have enough to overcome a Zhongyou side that’s taken just two points from their last six games.
Hohhot had an undefeated home record of their own until they were knocked off by struggling Tianjin Songjiang last week. That loss marked a nadir in Zhongyou’s season and, even with the return of attacker Wang Yunlong from suspension, there’s little chance of them turning things around on the northeast coast. Prediction 2-0
Qingdao Jonoon vs Beijing Institute of Technology
BIT travel to promotion chasing Qingdao Jonoon having collected just seven points in their last eleven games. Now just two points above the relegation zone, the “student army” failed to score last week for only the second time this season and demonstrated how much they miss suspended striker Andres Marquez.
The Uruguayan, who has bagged eight goals this season, is serving a six match ban for making an obscene gesture towards the assistant referee in Wuhan two weeks. Without him, BIT face an uphill struggle and Jonoon should be able to take advantage of a leaky defence to seal a comfortable victory. Prediction 3-1
Beijing BG vs Qingdao Hainiu
BG’s win over Harbin last week kept their promotion hopes alive and they will fancy their chances of another home win over Hainiu. BG manager Aleksander Stanojevic has recently been bemoaning his sides lack of a cutting edge, but they are far more ruthless than Hainiu, who have managed a league low eleven goals in thirteen matches this season. This game is unlikely to be a shoot out, but BG ought to have enough to hold off their toothless opponents. Prediction 1-0
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.