League One Round 20 Preview: Home WIns for Dalian and Hohhot over Jonoon and Hebei Could Shake-up Promotion Race
The Super League may be on a break for the EAFF East Asian Cup, but there is a full programme of League One action this weekend. Dalian Aerbin’s clash with Qingdao Jonoon and Hohhot Zhongyou’s tussle with Hebei CFFC both have serious promotion connotations, but there’s plenty more to keep an eye on. There has been another managerial casualty as Qingdao Hainiu go into a match without Su Maozhen at the helm for the first time in their history. Elsewhere, league leaders Yanbian Changbaishan host struggling Beijing Institute of Technology, Shenhen FC make the long trip to Harbin and Beijing BG try to keep themselves in the promotion hunt when Hunan Billows come to town.
Dalian Aerbin vs Qingdao Jonoon
Dalian ended a run of five without a win with an unconvincing victory in Hunan last weekend, but they have an opportunity to really get back into the promotion mix should they come out on top here. A win would pull them to within one point of second place Jonoon as the two sides who have suffered final day Super League relegations over the last two seasons battle it out.
For their part Jonoon had been on a run of six without defeat until they were shocked at home by Tianjin Songjiang last weekend. Summer signing Rogerinho is yet to take the field for the club and may make his debut here, while Dalian’s own Brazilian, Bruno Meneghel, has the chance to increase his season tally of twelve goals against the club he left at the end of the 2013 season.
In off field news, new Dalian investors Yifang (who count old Dalian club owners Wanda among their shareholders) continue in their efforts to bring the glory days of the late 90s and early 2000s back to Dalian. Ji Mingyi, who won four league titles in his nine seasons with Dalian Shide has been brought in as an assistant manager and reserve team coach, which further solidifies the links between the current Dalian team and their more successful predecessors.
Through the use of advertising and promotions, Aerbin managed to attract a crowd of 17,000 for their last home game, which was their biggest in quite some time. They will be hoping for more of the same this week, but a return to the Super League is vital if many of those fans are to return to supporting the team in the long term.
A win this week will go some way towards achieving that goal, but increased hype off the field is yet to be matched by performances on it. Jonoon have shown a knack for getting draws away to their promotion rivals this year, and we may be in for more of the same here. Prediction 0-0
Hohhot Zhongyou vs Hebei CFFC
A run of good results and the inconsistencies of those above them mean that Hohhot have emerged as an outside bet to achieve back to back promotions. Defeat here, though, would quickly derail those prospects at it would allow Hebei to pull seven points ahead of them.
Last weekend’s 6-1 destruction of Qingdao Hainiu demonstrated the devastating potential of Hebei’s new Edu spearheaded attack, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that they struggled in the previous two games against stronger opposition than Hainiu. Hohhot have midfielder Guo Sheng suspended but, with centre back Jonas Salley returning from a ban of his own, have no reason to fear Hebei.
A win here would be huge for Hohhot, who are playing their sixth straight home game. That may be too much to ask, but they might just be able to keep themselves on the periphery of the promotion race by stopping Hebei from taking all three points. Prediction 1-1
Beijing BG vs Hunan Billows
BG missed out on the chance to go second last weekend when they fell to defeat in Wuhan, but they have a good chance to get their promotion push back on track when they host Hunan. Captain Lu Jiang picked up a serious injury in Wuhan and may be out for some time, but new Montenegrin centre back Nikola Vujadinovic may debut after spending last week watching from the bench.
Hunan lost again last weekend and remain a perilous one point above the relegation zone. Their away record is actually better than their home record, but that probably won’t be enough for them to get anything from their trip to the capital. Prediction 2-0
Yanbian Changbaishan vs Beijing Institute of Technology
In a surprising result, Yanbian were held in Shenzhen last week, but have the perfect opportunity to restore their winning ways when BIT role into town. Since most of their players came back from the World University Games, the club has slipped into the relegation zone with little indication of where a recovery will come from.
Their only win in their last ten matches came at home to bottom club Jiangxi Liansheng and they have conceded more goals per game than any other League One club this season. Yanbian’s previously impervious looking defence has shown signs of vulnerability in recent weeks, but their attacking trio of Ha Tae-goon, Steve and Jailton Paraiba should be licking their lips at the prospect of going up against BIT’s defence. Anything other than an easy home win will be a surprise. Prediction 3-1
Guizhou Zhicheng vs Qingdao Hainiu
Zhicheng take on a Hainiu side in disarray after the resignation of manager Su Maozhen on Tuesday. Following last weekend’s 6-1 demolition by Hebei CFFC, Su hinted that he may call it quits and he did so just 48 hours later.
China’s second highest ever international goal scorer is the only manager Hainiu have had in their short two and a half year history and he will be replaced by assistant Sun Xingbo. Su cited personal reasons for his resignation and it could have a detrimental effect on a club on a run of five without a win.
Their opponents continued to surprise last week when they earned a 0-0 draw in Harbin, despite playing 65 minutes with ten men. Considering the late notice with which they entered the second tier, Zhicheng have done remarkably well this season and can climb above Hainiu if they beat them here. Given the Shandong club’s recent form and managerial upheaval, that should be something that’s very achievable. Prediction 2-1
Tianjing Songjiang vs Jiangxi Liansheng
The Jiangxi Liansheng road show continues as the club plays its sixth straight game away from Nanchang. A 0-0 draw with Qingdao Hainiu is the only thing they have to show from their previous five trips and they remain rock bottom – four points adrift of fifteenth place Beijing Institute of Technology.
After tasting his first home defeat as Songjiang manager against Hunan Billows two weeks ago, Goran Tomic achieved a huge win last week when he led his side to a 2-0 victory over Jonoon in Qingdao. Songjiang haven’t won back to back games this season, but they will never have a better chance against a Jiangxi side that’s taken just five points on the road all season. The expected win here will go some way towards ensuring Songjiang’s League One status, which will allow owners Quanjian Natural Medicine to invest heavily in the club come the off-season. Prediction 2-0
Harbin Yiteng vs Shenzhen FC
An impressive home draw with league leaders Yanbian Changbaishan last week demonstrated that all is not lost for Shenzhen, although they still have a lot of work to do to avoid relegation. Making the very long trip north to Harbin isn’t ideal for anybody, but at least Shenzhen can take some comfort in the fact that their opponents have failed to win their last two games in the Ice City.
In theory, captain Babacar Gueye’s suspension for this game is bad news, but the Senegalese hitman, who has been Shenzhen’s top scorer for the last three seasons, has been outshone by compatriot Andre Senghor and South Korean summer signing Kim Young-hoo as of late. With some Shenzhen watchers saying that the team’s play is disrupted by their over-reliance on the striker, it will be interesting to see how they perform without him.
Harbin may have an excessive number of draws this season, but they remain a very strong team – particularly at home where they remain unbeaten. Shenzhen may be going through something of a mini revival after an abysmal nine game winless run, but getting anything from their trip to Heilongjiang may be too much to ask. Prediction 2-1
Xinjiang vs Wuhan Zall
Wuhan turned a corner last week when a 1-0 win over Beijing BG gave them their first win in eight, but they must now make the long journey to Urumqi to take on a Xinjiang side that has lost just once at home all season. When one couples that impressive home record with Wuhan’s abysmal away record – just one in eight – its reasonable to make Xinjiang favourites here.
It’s worth noting, though, that since Zheng Xiong took over as Wuhan boss two weeks ago the side has looked much better organised and hasn’t conceded a goal. It’s unknown if Zall top scorer Brice Jovial will be back from the shoulder injury he suffered last weekend, but Xinjiang will certainly have there seventeen goal hitman Cristian Danalache and he will be looking to expand on his league leading tally.
With Xinjiang relocating from Hubei a year and a half ago, several of these players know each other very well. Wuhan are on the up, but Xinjiang is a difficult place to go meaning a repeat of the 1-1 draw these sides shared earlier in the season may be on the cards. Prediction 1-1
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.