League One reaches it’s halfway point this weekend and there’s a huge game in Yanbian to mark it. Dalian and Hebei take to the road in games that should be very winnable, while Wuhan Zall and Beijing BG face much sterner tests on their travels.
Yanbian Changbaishan vs Qingdao Jonoon
This is undoubtedly the biggest game of the week and is a fitting way to round out the first half of the season. Should Jonoon manage to hand Yanbian their first defeat of the year, they could find themselves at the summit of the mid-season table.
But that will be easier said than done as Yanbian have won their last four games without conceding a goal and have showed no signs of slowing down. Jonoon’s cause will not be helped by the absence of tough tackling Honduran midfielder Jorge Claros who is suspended. Yanbian’s Jailton Paraiba will be missing for the same reason, but that blow will be softened by the return of Gambian forward Steve who has served out a four game ban.
People have been waiting for Yanbian to slip up all season, but with their defensive unit looking formidable, Steve back in action and Ha Tae-goon still banging in the goals, the wait may have to continue until the second half of the year. Prediction 2-1
Tianjin Songjiang vs Dalian Aerbin
After suffering their first home defeat of the year last weekend, Dalian take to the road in an attempt to revive their flagging bid for an immediate Super League return. Their attack will be bolstered by Mathias Ranegie’s return from suspension and they are travelling to face a side that hasn’t won at home in five attempts this season.
Songjiang could potentially field a very different attacking line-up to the one that lost in Xinjiang last week with new signings Frank Nouble and Zhang Shuo eligible for their debuts and winger Mario Lucio returning from suspension. Whether or not they will be joined by Li Xingcan is unknown. The 27-year-old was shown a red card last week for “pushing” the referee but Songjiang have appealed the decision
One piece of transfer news coming out of Dalian this week is that 19-year-old full back Yue Xin has moved to Super League outfit Hangzhou Greentown. The youngster has only started two league games this season, so his departure won’t have much of an immediate impact on the team. But the loss of a talented young player in a position in which the club lacks depth is seen by some as a sign of Dalian’s declining status.
The outcome of this game may hinge on whether Tianjin field their new look attack and how quickly they can gel. However, with Ranegie back, Aerbin may have a bit too much firepower for Songjiang to cope with. Prediction 1-2
Shenzhen FC vs Hebei CFFC
Following last week’s disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Guizhou Zhicheng, Hebei travel south to take on a Shenzhen side that have taken just two points from their last six games. Last season, this fixture ended 4-1 to the hosts, but there’s little chance of that result being repeated this time around.
The diverging fortunes of these teams this season is a clear indication of which one invested well in the winter and which one didn’t. Hebei could be disadvantaged by the rains that have been beating down on the southeast in recent weeks, but that’s unlikely to be enough to save the woeful Shenzhen from a defeat which could see them start the second half of the season in the relegation zone. Prediction 0-2
Beijing Institute of Technology vs Jiangxi Liansheng
Jiangxi could climb above BIT and out of the relegation zone should they win in the capital. And, having scored seven goals in their last two games, the Nanchang side will fancy their chances against a team which has gone seven without a win.
The bad news for Liansheng is that attacking midfielder Jaja and top scorer Adi Rocha are both suspended. BIT will also be missing their leading hitman, Andres Marquez, who is halfway through a six game ban.
Games involving these two sides have produced more goals than any others this season so a thriller looks like a distinct possibility. However, the absence of both teams’ best attacking player may just make the scoreboard operator’s day a little easier. Prediction 1-1
Hohhot Zhongyou vs Beijing BG
Zhongyou and BG meet having experienced very different fortunes last weekend. BG were humbled in the capital by Qingdao Hainiu, while Hohhot handed Dalian their first home loss of the season.
Prior to last week’s win, Hohhot had gone five without a victory, but are about to embark on a run of six consecutive home matches that could see them gather some serious momentum. BG will be without the suspended Yan Xiangchuang and could begin the second half of the season in the bottom half of the table if they lose here.
That would be unacceptable for a club who finished fourth last season and invested heavily on players over the winter. The pressure is really on manager Aleksander Stanojevic to get a result here, but he may return to the capital empty handed and with a lot of explaining to do. Prediction 1-0
Harbin Yiteng vs Hunan Billows
Harbin begin a run of six straight home matches when they host Hunan on Saturday. The pleasant schedule couldn’t come at a better time for a team that has slipped some way behind the top three thanks to a failure to win the last five games.
The visitors arrive on the back of a defeat at home to Yanbian, but have shown enough signs of improvement recently to suggest they will give Harbin a difficult game. That being said, the hosts will be buoyed by their ever impressive home support and a crowd likely to be 20,000+ should be enough to push them on to victory against a team still struggling for goals. Prediction 1-0
Qingdao Hainiu vs Wuhan Zall
Following their surprising win over Beijing BG last week, Hainiu have the opportunity to climb above Wuhan in the table should they win here. The visitors are beginning a four game road trip this week, and arrive in bad form having failed to win in their last three.
There’s little history between these clubs, but Wuhan will want to get revenge on Hainiu for costing them promotion last season. The Shandong side were holding Shijiazhuang Yongchang to a draw on the final day of last season, but they conceded a very late stoppage time penalty that gave Shijiazhuang promotion at the expense of Wuhan.
That by itself should provide a strong enough motivation for Zall to win, but they will also know that a failure to get three points here means they will have little chance of being in the promotion hunt come the final day of this season. Hainiu proved last week that they are no pushovers and both sides may cancel each other out. Prediction 1-1
Guizhou Zhicheng vs Xinjiang
Xinjiang ended a six game winless streak when they defeated Tianjin Songjiang in Urumqi last week. However, they haven’t travelled well this season – picking up just six points in nine games – and face a Zhicheng side who have been very unpredictable in recent weeks.
In their last home game, Zhicheng lost 4-1 to relegation threatened Jiangxi Liansheng but have taken four points on their last two road trips against teams in the top three. Which Zhicheng side turn up for this game is anybody’s guess, but Xinjiang’s struggles away from Urumqi may be enough to give the hosts a three point haul that could take them into the top ten. Prediction 2-0