The Chinese FA Cup is set to resume later this month, and there could be a number of upsets thanks to scheduling conflicts.
China’s top knockout football cup’s second round is set to take place between 26th and 29th November, with eight teams from each of the Chinese Super League and China League One.
2019 champions Shanghai Shenhua were knocked out of the all-CSL first round, but with them competing in the AFC Champions League it will likely be viewed as a blessing by the club.
Other teams heading abroad to compete in Asia’s top competition, however, will be significantly disadvantaged when it comes to the top domestic cup competition.
Shanghai SIPG, Guangzhou Evergrande and Beijing Guo’an have all decided to favour the continental challenge ahead of them, with B teams made up of fringe reserve players and youngsters expected to lead the way.
This could pose a problem for some of China’s biggest clubs, with some strong opponents from China League One facing them in Suzhou, Changzhou and Kunshan respectively.
Guangzhou take on Kunshan, who impressed early in the 2020 second tier season and will feel at home playing in Kunshan Stadium. The eight-time CSL champions have a number of strong players in their system and will hope they can step up to the plate when taking on second tier opposition in the cup, but they may struggle to go much further when they come up against stronger teams deeper into the tournament.
Beijing Guo’an will face 2020’s biggest surprise in Chengdu Better City, who narrowly missed out on promotion to the Chinese Super League after just one year in the second tier, having been promoted from China League Two in 2019 – and were in the fourth tier of Chinese football in 2018.
The biggest challenge, however, is arguably faced by Shanghai SIPG, who will also be fielding a weakened B team while their first teamers attempt to progress in the AFC Champions League.
Taking them on in Suzhou is current China League One champions, and the strongest second tier side in the cup, Changchun Yatai. Changchun will be buoyed by their recent league success and, with a strong side that looks ready to take on Chinese Super League opponents, could feasibly progress if SIPG’s reserves are not up to the task.
A number of veteran CSL players are in Chen Yang’s side and the strength of the likes of Tan Long (29 goals in his last 45 league games), as well as Serginho and Lucas Souza, could very well see at least one of the ‘big’ CSL clubs knocked out early.
Jiangsu Suning will also be in a slightly disadvantaged position in this competition, making the decision to field an all-Chinese side after securing their first-ever top flight title in their history last week.
The China League One clubs will be encouraged by the prospect of having a decent Chinese FA Cup run and the Super League clubs will have to simply hope that their reserves and youngsters can be strong enough to overcome some of the best teams in the second tier last season.
Tianjin TEDA and Guangzhou R&F, two of the teams not needing to field weaker sides, struggled this season and could also be exploited by Guizhou Hengfeng and Suzhou Dongwu respectively, especially if the top tier clubs don’t perform to their best.
The 2020 Chinese FA Cup is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in recent memory and having a number of China League One clubs progress and even potentially challenge for the end prize could reinvigorate interest in the tournament – one that some clubs have not taken seriously in recent years.
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