It all comes down to these 90 minutes (and possibly penalty kicks). Beijing Guoan faces off against Guangzhou Evergrande tonight at Worker’s Stadium and needs to come up with a result after a 2-1 loss in the opening leg in Guangzhou.
While Evergrande has the upper hand, the away goal Guoan scored in that match is reason for hope going into tonight’s match. Of course, unlike the Cantonese side who are in the driver’s seat to securing their sixth straight league title, Beijing appears safe from relegation, but it’s also unlikely they’d be able to pull themselves into contention for the final Asian Champions League position. For them, the 90 minutes tonight are the most important this season, everything that remains is just a fight for different degrees of mediocrity.
Evergrande’s crushing 3-0 victory over Guoan in their home opener at Gongti is sure to be fresh in the players’ minds as well. That night was quite possibly the worst of Alberto Zaccheroni’s short time in charge of Guoan, a tactical nightmare that resulted in the worst home defeat the capital side has experienced in recent memory.
Xie Feng has righted the ship and has the team playing decent football, but even after the return of Burak Yilmasz and the arrival of Igor Sergeev, Guoan’s offense remains anemic. In their last five matches (including the Evergrande CFA Cup match), Guoan has scored five goals (though one was an own goal). Having played 17 league matches, the team has only scored two or more goals five times and only have a total of 16 goals for, the only sides worse are the two sitting in relegation positions. Sergeev has been rushed into the starting XI and its understandable that he’d need some time to adjust, while it seems Yilmasz may be more interested in a quick return to Turkey.
Goulart, who scored a brace in Guangzhou’s earlier visit to Beijing, won’t be in the lineup tonight and Feng Xiaoting will be out as well. Scolari will have to consider whether he wants to risk Zhang Linpeng and Zheng Zhi in tonight’s match, but Evergrande has made it clear that their target is doing the double, so it’s unlikely he’ll weaken the lineup beyond necessary.
Guoan’s defense is likely to be up to the challenge, but it will take finding some offense if the Beijingers want to go through and save their season.
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