Relegated from the Chinese Super League last season, Changchun Yatai made a storming start to their 2019 China League One campaign – securing a 4-1 victory over Shanghai Shenxin.
The following week, however, the club suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Guizhou Zhicheng – another promotion-chasing team in the Chinese second tier.
While still at the very beginning of the 2019 season, Yatai cannot afford to drop points at this level – with the North-Eastern team needing to bounce back to the CSL at the first time of asking.
This weekend, Yatai welcome Nantong Zhiyun to the Changchun City Stadium, with the visitors having earned promotion to the second tier after finishing second in China League Two in 2018.
While the home side will no doubt respect their opponents, this is a game that Changchun Yatai should win by a comfortable margin.
Zhiyun have lost their opening two games of the season and are early candidates to be embroiled in a relegation battle by season’s end.
Despite their back-to-back losses, Nantong managed to keep their opponents to a one-goal difference in both games.
Changchun Yatai boast one of the strongest squads in the entire league, with Tan Long scoring a hat-trick in the opening game of the season.
For Yatai to continue on an upward trajectory, they will need more from Tan Long, who was recently away on international duty with China, as well as players such as Richairo Zivkovic and Maurides on a consistent basis.
Nantong will be eager to earn their first victory in the second tier, but should be a team that Yatai are capable of putting to bed early – especially in front of their home crowd.
Manager Chen Jingang must ensure the team is fully committed this season, with expectations on an immediate promotion back into the CSL certain to be on the minds of the fans.
While it is a long season ahead, Changchun Yatai must have a strong belief that they can win the league but must also be cautious of being overconfident, with the loss to Guizhou a reality check after an impressive opening day of the season.
With Nantong Zhiyun their next opponents, Yatai will need to be at their very best to ensure an upset isn’t even a possibility again their recently promoted opposition.