The long awaited and long overdue opening of Beijing Guoan’s 2016 season takes place today as the Men in Green take a short trip down the road and visit Tianjin Teda in an exciting “derby” match to start the season.
Tianjin is coming off a disappointing home defeat to an unimpressive Guangzhou R&F side over the weekend and will want to right the ship against their rivals. However, new manager Dragan Okuka has a lot of work on his hands as the Tianjin side doesn’t look much improved over the one that just barely avoided relegation last year and finished 13th. Of course one of the main reasons the club was able to stay up last year was a late season 4-0 embarrassment of Guoan that left Beijing fans smarting and contributed to Gregorio Manzano’s firing.
New manager Alberto Zaccheroni thus faces his first challenge needing to satisfy a fandom seeking vengence, but it looks likely he’ll have to do so without a striker. Guoan’s big winter signing, Burak Yilmaz, looks to be out for the next month or two and Brazilian Kleber has picked up a minor injury as well. It will be interesting to see if he chooses Yu Dabao, who plays in the attack for China’s national team, or pushes another new foreign signing, Renato Augusto, into the striker role. There is also some talk that he is considering Li Hanbo for the role.
Guoan’s defense is also looking weak with injuries to Xu Yunlong and Zhou Ting as well as Lang Zheng still rehabbing from an injury suffered last season. The left side of the defense is the only spot that’s absolutely clear, as Zhao Hejing will continue his impressive play on that side. In the middle, it will most likely be Lei Tenglong and Egor Krimets, while the right side presents difficulty with Zhou’s absence and the offseason departure of Li Yunqiu. The likely solution is youngster Li Lei, who was used as a rotation player last season, though it may very well be that he drops Zhang Chengdong into defense for the match.
Despite all of Beijing’s injury concerns, they are still the better side and anything less than a win would be a disappointing start to Zaccheroni’s time in the Chinese capital.
Potential Starting XI
Goalkeeper: Yang Zhi
Defense: Zhang Chengdong, Lei Tenglong, Egor Krimets, Zhao Hejing
Midfield: Zhang Chiming, Ralf, Li Tixiang, Renato Augosto, Zhang Xizhe
Striker: Yu Dabao