Round 18 rolls around as the summer transfer window comes to an end and so it’s no surprise that several clubs have made last minute signings. New foreign players could make their debuts in a number of matches and this week has also seen the division’s fifth managerial casualty since the start of the season. On the field Harbin Yiteng and Hebei CFFC battle it out to keep pace with the top two, while Dalian Aerbin and Wuhan Zall clash amidst great upheaval at both clubs. Beijing Institute of Technology return to action after a two week absence and the bottom three all battle for survival on the road.
Harbin Yiteng vs Hebei CFFC
Hebei face a tough task to recover from last weekend’s heavy defeat in Yanbian when they travel to take on a Yiteng side that remain unbeaten at home. In order to help them in their faltering promotion push, Hebei announced this week that China national team assistant manager Li Tie will be joining the club to take on a number of background roles.
Li, who will remain with the Chinese national team, recently left his position as assistant manager at Guangzhou Evergrande where he spent three title winning seasons and Hebei will be hoping he can help take them to the next level. They will also be hoping that their new big money signing Edu makes more of an impact on this game then he managed during his debut last week.
Harbin made a couple of new signings of their own this week in the shape of strikers Juan Nunez and Yang Zi. Nunez is a 29-year-old Colombian who was made a free agent when his last club, Mexican second division club Estudiantes de Altamira, became defunct.
He will replace compatriot Jair Reinoso in the squad, while Yang Zi also comes in after finding himself the victim of a failing club. He was left without a team when Shenyang Zhongze went out of business right at the end of the winter transfer window and will be hoping to resurrect his career in Heilongjiang.
Both of these sides sit four points behind second placed Qingdao Jonoon and will feel that a win is a must in order to continue their promotion charge. If all their players come out firing, Hebei should be able to get a result here but last week’s loss may take it toll on their confidence. That, coupled with Yiteng’s excellent home record could be enough to consign them to a second defeat in a row. Prediction 2-1
Dalian Aerbin vs Wuhan Zall
It’s been a busy week off the field for this pair of struggling clubs trying to turn around their fortunes. Six games without a win has led to the resignation of Zall manager Zheng Bin who has been replaced by general manager Zheng Xiong.
Not long after after that move was made, Wuhan announced a triplet of signings which they will hope can add depth to a thin squad. Midfielder Cheng Jin and right back Yue Xin, both born in 1995, have come in on half season loans from Hangzhou Greentown.
Dalian sold the highly touted prospect Yue to Hangzhou just a few weeks ago and it will be interesting to see if he takes the field against his former club. Zall have also picked up 25-year-old midfielder Zhang Jian who spent much of his earlier career with Chongqing Lifan and also has a single appearance for Beijing Guo’an to his name.
Despite losing their last four, there have been no changes of personnel in Dalian where a high level meeting was called with the goal of motivating the players into a renewed push for the Super League. Most significantly, it has been announced that the team will receive a bonus of 2 million Yuan for each victory and 700,000 Yuan per draw.
The outcome of this game depends largely on which team responds more quickly to their new circumstances, but Wuhan’s woeful away form may prove to be the difference here. The Hubei side have a record of five points and five goals in seven away games and, unless they can turn that around, Dalian’s players may find themselves significantly richer come Saturday night. Prediction 2-1
Hohhot Zhongyou vs Qingdao Jonoon
Since their remarkable 5-1 home spanking at the hands of Guizhou Zhicheng, Jonoon have embarked on a five game unbeaten run which has seen them pull four points clear in second. Hohhot, meanwhile, are hosting their fourth consecutive home match having just strung together back to back wins for the first time this season.
The game could see he debut of new Jonoon signing Rogerinho who most recently played for Brazilian Serie B side Paysandu. The 30-year-old attacking midfielder will apparently replace defensive midfielder Jorge Claros who started twice for Honduras during their first round CONCACAF Gold Cup elimination.
With recent draws in Yanbian and Harbin, Jonoon have shown a penchant for grinding out results on the road and they may have to do something similar here. Zhongyou are not quite as good as those sides, but they have improved in recent weeks and should be good enough to hold Jonoon. Prediction 1-1
Yanbian Changbaishan vs Guizhou Zhicheng
This is a clash between two sides who would have been playing in League Two this season had it not been for the winding up of other clubs and both have, to significantly varying degrees, exceeded expectations. Of course, it’s Yanbian’s table-topping unbeaten season that has grabbed all the headlines, but Zhicheng’s current position of eleventh is also a clear sign that the Guiyang side have over-achieved in 2015.
Zhicheng will be well rested having had a week off in the last round but watching Yanbian breeze past Hebei 3-0 last weekend will have done little to encourage the players. The only goal Yanbian have conceded in their last seven matches came when former Zhicheng right back Jiang Hongquan put through his own net against Jiangxi Liansheng and it’s been a remarkable eleven hours since an opposition player has scored against the league leaders.
Zhicheng have done enough in visits to Dalian Aerbin and Qingdao Jonoon to prove that they are not to be taken lightly, but only a brave man would back them to halt Yanbian’s momentum. Prediction 2-0
Xinjiang vs Beijing BG
BG make the long trip to Xinjiang in a match-up between the only two League One sides in the CFA Cup quarter-finals. Xinjiang haven’t won in any of the five previous meetings between the clubs, but they remain unbeaten at home and have now won three on the bounce in Urumqi. BG arrive in third position and on a good run, having taken seven points from their last three games.
The match may feature the debut of Montenegrin centre back Nicola Vujadinovic who has come to the capital club to replace Eder Lima. The 28-year-old has played in a number of countries – including Serbia, Romania, Austria and Scotland – and was most recently with Osasuna of the Spanish second tier.
Xinjiang could have a debut of their own in the shape of Brazilian striker Rafael who still hasn’t played since moving to the club two weeks ago. BG are on a good run, but Xinjiang’s remote geographic location gives them a big advantage when playing at home. That will make it tough for BG to win, but they may not necessarily lose either. Prediction 1-1
Qingdao Hainiu vs Jiangxi Liansheng
Bottom club Jiangxi continue their quest to turn decent performances into results when they take on Hainiu.
In order to aid them, they have announced the signing of Brazilian striker Leo Itaperuna who arrives from Swiss side FC Sion following a loan spell with Suwon Bluewings. The diminutive 26-year-old had a less than impressive scoring record in the K-League, but did manage to bag a couple in the AFC Champions’ League – including a well taken effort against Beijing Guo’an in the final match of the group stages.
Hainiu have signed a number of Chinese free agent players in recent weeks and Uruguayan midfielder Julio Gutierrez may make his first start after making his debut as a substitute last week. Whether or not either of Hainiu’s other foreign players appear remains to be seen.
This game ended 2-1 to Hainiu earlier in the season – a scoreline which Liansheng have fallen to five times in 2015. However, Hainiu are, understandably still recovering from the effects of Goran Gogic’s death and Jiangxi may be able to claim a point here. Prediction 0-0
Beijing Institute of Technology vs Shenzhen FC
BIT return to action after a two week absence thanks to thirteen of their squad representing China in the World University Games. China achieved a respectable tenth place finish in the tournament, but a grueling schedule of six games in eleven days will have taken its toll, as will the absence of midfielder Julio Gutierrez who has been farmed out on loan to Qingdao Hainiu.
There are two pieces of good news for BIT, though, the first of which is the signing of striker Maureen Franco. The 31-year-old’s arrival continues BIT’s fetish for signing Uruguayans and he should immediately slot into the side in place of top scorer Andres Marquez who still has three games of a six game suspension remaining.
The other piece of good news is that they are playing Shenzhen. The visitors have picked up just three points in nine winless games and an overhaul of their squad over the last few weeks has yet to have any impact on results. If Shenzhen are to achieve that elusive win, a match against an exhausted BIT seems like a good opportunity to do it. However, backing a Shenzhen victory at the moment seems foolhardy and, in light of the both sides’ questionable defences, a high scoring draw could be on the cards. Prediction 2-2
Tianjin Songjiang vs Hunan Billows
For the first time in a while, it’s been a quiet week for Songjiang who host struggling Hunan. Billows won the reverse fixture 2-0 earlier in the season but both sides have changed managers since then, with Songjiang’s having a lot more success.
Goran Tomic has lost just once in ten games since taking over in Tianjin and is unbeaten in five at home. Amidst all the off field hype surrounding Songjiang in recent weeks, their reinvigorated attack proved they could get it done on the pitch in last week’s 3-1 win over Wuhan. With Hunan’s goal scoring rate by far the worst in the league, it is difficult to look beyond a home win. Prediction 2-0