Following an action-packed weekend that saw Guangzhou Evergrande crowned Chinese Super League Champions for a seventh consecutive season, attention has now turned to who will take the reins of the club that is dominating Chinese football next season with the future of Luiz Felipe Scolari uncertain. Here’s the latest on that, and the other recent events that have unfolded in the CSL.
Big names linked with the Chinese Champions
A 5-1 hammering of Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng on Sunday ensured Guangzhou Evergrande could not be caught in this season’s title race – if you can call it that – as Scolari’s men moved 9 points ahead of second-placed Shanghai SIPG with two games remaining in the CSL season. The Brazilian manager has now managed three successive league titles since taking over in 2015, but is not expected to renew his contract that is about to expire.
However, the signs as to who may replace Scolari can be considered very encouraging for Evergrande fans. Thomas Tuchel, who has been out of work since leaving Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season, has been linked with the managerial position, while reports suggesting Carlo Ancelotti may head to the Far East are perhaps even more exciting for CSL supporters. Both of these managers have also been touted as potential replacements for Ronald Koeman who has recently lost his job at Everton, however the Chinese media seem adamant that Ancelotti has already been lined up as Scolari’s successor.
The reports claim Ancelotti has met with Guangzhou officials while recently in London, and will be named as the new boss once the CSL season ends. Evergrande certainly seem keen on Italian managers, having previously appointed Marcelo Lippi and Fabio Cannavaro prior to Scolari’s successful spell. Though these reports are unconfirmed, one thing that does seem clear is that Scolari has taken charge of his final game as Guangzhou Evergrande manager. The Brazilian was given a three-game touchline ban during the game against Yanbian Funde which covers the final games of this CSL season.
Only Champions League places left to play for
In addition to the CSL title race coming to an end last weekend, the battle to avoid relegation is also no more. Next season’s CSL will not include Yanbian Funde or Liaoning Whowin as the pair each lost over the weekend, leaving Fabio Capello’s Jiangsu Suning side seven points above the drop zone with two games to play.
This means that the only significant battle left to keep an eye on over the final two match-weeks is the fight for the final Champions League spots. Only the top three of the CSL are guaranteed qualification for the Asian Champions League, but with second-placed Shanghai SIPG expected to defeat their city rivals Shenua in the Chinese FA Cup final next month, there is a good chance that fourth spot in the CSL will also be enough to ensure Champions League football in 2018.
As things stand, there are just three points separating the four teams positioned between third and sixth spot. Hebei, who are third, lie one point ahead of Tianjin Quanjin, and two points ahead of Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou R&F ahead of the closing match-weeks.
Zahavi closing in on CSL Golden Boot award
Finally, despite already netting more goals than he did in all of last season, it appears Guangzhou Evergrande’s Ricardo Goulart is set to lose his CSL top scorer status. Guangzhou R&F’s Eran Zahavi managed another goal this weekend in his side’s impressive 2-1 win over Shanghai SIPG to take his season tally to a whopping 26; six goals ahead of Goulart. The Israeli has been a stand-out player for Guangzhou R&F since joining from Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2016. His 11 league goals in 15 appearances during his first taste of Chinese football was an impressive start, though the 26 goals he has managed in 28 CSL appearances this year still comes as an impressive surprise.
Zahavi’s latest strike against SIPG at the weekend can be seen in the tweet below.
Contra-ataque do Guangzhou R&F do sérvio Dragan Stojkovic e após bela troca de passes Eran Zahavi marca um golaço contra o SIPG. pic.twitter.com/wiXiN9OJRn
— Leonardo Hartung (@HartungLeo) October 23, 2017