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Chinese Super League Week 1: Previews and predictions

The Chinese Super League returns today with all 16 of the league’s teams in action this week. And the league gets off to a lively with highlights including the Guangzhou City Derby between Guangzhou and Guangzhou City and the classic China Derby between Shanghai Shenhua and Beijing Guoan.

This first week should give us decent idea of how the rest of the season will go and how some teams will cope without key players who are currently stuck in Brazil and unable to enter the country.

Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic v Shandong Taishan

Tuesday, 20th April

Guangzhou University Town Sports Center Stadium , Guangzhou

Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic had a decent season last year but have lost a number of important players in the off-season and will likely come up short against a solid and experienced Shandong Taishan team.

Shandong are without Brazilian’s Roger Guedes and Moises who are both stuck in Brazil due to Covid restrictions. But have managed to bring in Brazilian striker Leonardo from Urawa Red Diamonds as late replacement for Guedes.

Leonardo should provide a viable focal point for Shandong upfront. But the game will most likely be won in midfield, where Shandong should have a dominant pairing in ex-Man United star Marouane Fellaini  and 2020 K League 1 MVP Son Jun-ho.

One to watch – Son Jun-ho – A quality box to box midfielder who can break up attacks and create chances.

Prediction – 2-0 win for Taishan, with Chongqing being overrun in the middle of the park.

Guangzhou v Guangzhou City

Tuesday, 20th April

Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou

The Guangzhou teams will be the only CSL sides who get enjoy home advantage in the first 14 round of this years competition. And Guangzhou will be looking to make their home advantage count in their opening match as they play at their normal home stadium against local rivals Guangzhou City.

City are expected to ditch the gung-ho attacking style of football that they have become associated with over the past few years. And play a more conservative brand of football under new manager Jean-Paul van Gastel. This may pay off over the course of the season, but against Guangzhou they are likely to be simply outclassed by one of the CSL’s best teams.

One to watchWei Shihao – With Brazilians Talisca and Paulinho currently locked out of China, the talented playmaker should get more playing time and have a real chance to shine.

Prediction – Guangzhou blow City away in 3-0 win.

Qingdao v Cangzhou Mighty Lions

Wednesday, 21st April

Yuexiushan Stadium, Guangzhou

Two teams with vastly contrasting off-seasons meet at one of China’s most historic stadiums for what should be one of the most interesting match ups of week one. Both sides were pretty poor last year but Cangzhou underwent an extensive rebuild of their squad following their relocation from Shijiazhuang, while Qingdao were relatively inactive the transfer market.

Cangzhou’s off-season investment should make the difference on Tuesday. Their squad now features a number of players who regulars in Jiangsu’s title winning campaign last year. And they should now have enough quality to be able to comfortably see off the likes Qingdao.

One to watch – Adama Diomande – The Norwegian striker was Cangzhou’s biggest signing this winter and he will need to regularly find the net in these sort of games.

Prediction – A 2-0 win for Cangzhou as the Mighty Lions get off to a roaring start.

Henan Songshan Longmen v Shenzhen

Wednesday, 21st April

Huadu Stadium, Guangzhou

Two of the teams who are expected to put in a much better showing in 2021 meet in what promises to be one of the rounds most evenly contested match ups. That will see two of the leagues top foreign coaches in Jordi Cruyff and Javier Pereria go head to head.

Henan will be much better defensively this year. With Bosnian Toni Sunjic now at the club on long-term basis and combative young full-back Dilmurat Mawlanyaz signing from Chongqing this winter. But it will be a real test for them to see if they can hold off Shenzhen, given the amount of foreign attacking talent the Guangdong club has brought in this off-season.

One to watch – Wu Yan – An excellent shot-stopper and one of China’s most underrated goalkeepers, he’ll likely need to be on top form for Henan to be able to get something from the game.

Prediction – 0-0 Henan weather the storm against a Shenzhen attack that hasn’t quite gelled yet.

Dalian Pro v Changchun Yatai

Thursday, 22nd April

Jiangyin Sports Centre Stadium, Suzhou

Changchun Yatai return to the Chinese Super League after a two year leave of absence and will be looking to get off the mark in their opening match against Dalian Pro.

Dalian Pro didn’t significantly invest in improving their squad this winter after a disappointing 2020 and could be seriously out gunned by a Changchun side that has brought in an array of talented foreign forwards this off-season.

One to watch – Junior Negrao – One East Asia’s most prolific goal scorers in recent years, new signing Negrao will be looking to hit the ground running against Dalian Pro.

Prediction – 3-1 to Changchun as they carry their momentum from last year into the new season.

Tianjin Jinmen Tiger v Shanghai Port

Thursday, 22nd April

Kunshan Sports Centre Stadium, Suzhou

Tianjin Tiger play Shanghai Port on Thursday in what will likely be one the biggest mismatches of the season.

Tainjin struggled in 2020 and then had a huge chunk of their playing staff leave in the off-season as a result of the financial issues that plagued the club this winter. Going into their opening match against Shanghai Port they have a bare bones squad that is being viewed as possibly the worst the CSL has seen since its inception.

How exactly Tianjin will shuffle their limited deck of cards for Thursday’s game is anyone’s guess. But however they line up they are going to be severely out gunned by one of the league’s top teams.

One to watch – Aaron Mooy – The Australian hit a surprise hat-trick in pre-season and should be able to put in a dominant showing against  Tiger.

Prediction – 5-0 Port run riot in what will likely be the first of many drubbings for Tiger.

Hebei v Wuhan

Friday, 23rd April

Suzhou Sports Centre Stadium, Suzhou

Two evenly matched teams meet in Friday’s opening game. Wuhan narrowly avoided relegation last year, but should be a much better team this time round with Li Xiaopeng at the helm. Whether they will be good enough to notch a win in their opening match remains to be seen however.

 Hebei have regressed somewhat since last year and their attack won’t be the same without Ricardo Goulart, but Wuhan also have problems of their own upfront with Brazilians Rafael Silva and Leo Baptistao currently unable to enter China.

In the end we could see both sides cancel each other out as they struggle to adjust to having more limited attacking options.

One to watch – Marcao – If Hebei are able to bring him into the game, Wuhan could be in trouble.

Prediction – 0-0 stalemate with neither side doing quite enough to break the deadlock.

Shanghai Shenhua v Beijing Guoan

Friday, 23rd April

Kunshan Sports Centre Stadium, Suzhou

Two of the Chinese Super League’s most historic clubs meet to play out one of the Chinese football’s oldest rivalries in Suzhou on Friday night. 

Shenhua have brought in a few decent signings over the winter, but haven’t improved sufficiently to be anywhere near close to the same level as Guoan. Guoan have consistently been one of the league’s top sides over the past few years and should be looking to take all three points in Slaven Bilic’s first competitive game in charge.

Shenhua should be solid at the back though and if they can hold out for the first 45 they could be able to sneak a result.

One to watch – Matej Jonjic – The Croatian centre-back was one of Shenhua’s big signings this off-season and will face a stern test against Guoan.

Prediction – Guoan edge out a nervy 1-0 win.

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