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Changchun Yatai face crucial season in China League One

Changchun Yatai

The 2019 season will be one of the most important in recent history for Changchun Yatai, with promotion back to the Chinese Super League an absolute must for the club.

A disappointing 2018 season sees Changchun Yatai playing in the Chinese second tier for the first time since 2005 – when the North-Eastern club were promoted as runners-up.

In 2017, Yatai finished 7th in the CSL and things looked to be trending in an upward direction.

The club had star striker Odion Ighalo and the majority of the team were retained, with hopes of progressing towards relevance once again.

However, it wasn’t to be and the club found themselves relegated on the final day of the 2018 season with a worse head-to-head record against Tianjin TEDA and Chongqing Dangdai Lifan.

Ighalo, understandably, left the club to remain in the CSL with Shanghai Shenhua but a number of key players from the previous season are still on the books.

Players such as Sun Jie, Fan Xiaodong, Tan Long and long-time Changchun Yatai captain Zhang Xiaofei will provide the club with some stability and quality that should help them in their promotion battle this season.

New foreign additions to the team have come in the form of strikers Maurides and Richairo Zivkovic and midfielder Jose Manuel Jurado.

Jurado, a 32-year-old Spanish midfielder, will be an important signing for Changchun Yatai, having played many games in La Liga, the Bundesliga, Russian Premier League and English Premier League, including 60 league appearances over the past two seasons with RCD Espanyol in the Spanish top tier.

Maurides and Zivkovic will be expected to fill the large boots left by Ighalo, with the former scoring nine goals in 21 appearances for CSKA Sofia in the Bulgarian top tier.

Zivkovic, a product of the FC Groningen and Netherlands Under-21 international, himself scored 12 goals in 50 games while playing in the Belgian First Division A – the top tier of the country.

Dropping down into the second level on the Chinese football pyramid is a huge disappointment for the 2007 CSL champions, but one that should force the club to look towards the future.

Changchun Yatai managed to lift the league title back in 2007 thanks to a strong youth development system, with the likes of Du Zhenyu, Jiang Pengxiang and Cao Tianbao all playing in their prime.

The club can’t afford to linger in CL1 for too long, with interest in the team undoubtedly expected to dwindle the longer they are outside the top tier.

Changchun Yatai need to look at this season as a promotion-or-bust situation, with manager Chen Jingang not likely to remain in a job if he isn’t able to get the team back to where they deserve to be.

James Reeve is a British sports writer and the correspondent on Changchun Yatai for Wild East Football. James has followed the club since 2012, lived in the North-Eastern city between August 2013 and March 2018 and was a season ticket holder for the 2015 CSL campaign.

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