CSL Preview: Battle At The Top

Chinese Super League

The tenth round of the Chinese Super League means the season is one-third of the way through. Some things have started to settle a little. The frontrunners look to be both of the Guangzhou teams, as well as Shanghai SIPG, Hebei and Shandong. Down in the bottom Changchun, Jiangsu, Henan, and Yanbian occupy the lower rungs and will need to get moving if they want to climb back up the table.

The first match of the round kicks off at 11:00 UK time and pits two of the teams up the front end against each other. Beijing Guoan welcomes Guangzhou R&F to the capital as the hosts are desperately looking for a win so they can leapfrog R&F, with a better head-to-head result. A win there will keep R&F and the other top teams from getting away from them. If R&F win, they avoid the possibility of SIPG getting six points ahead and cross-town rivals Guangzhou Evergrande a possible eight ahead.

Speaking of Evergrande, they host ex-Chelsea star Ramires and former Shakhtar Donetsk ace Alex Teixeira when Jiangsu Suning comes to town later on Friday. Jiangsu took their first win of the season which saw them climb out of the relegation zone for the first time since the second matchday. The win was somewhat of a shock as Jiangsu came from 1-0 down after the first half against Shandong Luneng, to score the winning goal three minutes into extra time courtesy of Alex Teixeira.

Saturday sees the first Shanghai Derby of the season kick off as Shanghai Shenhua welcomes Shanghai SIPG to the Hongkou Stadium. Hosts Shenhua are sitting down in seventh, nine points off their city rivals. Shenhua are winless in their last two matches while SIPG have won both their last outings.

At the same time as the Shanghai derby kicks off, there is another match taking place almost 1,500 kilometers away. Bottom of the table Yanbian Funde hosts fifth-placed Shandong Luneng. The visitors have been unstable in recent matches, including dropping points against Chongqing Lifan and giving Jiangsu their first win last week. This means the hosts will have hope of at least one point here, especially considering they have also taken a point against Hebei a couple of weeks back.

Sunday will see the final two matches of the round, starting with a battle to stay out of the relegation zone as Changchun Yatai hosting Tianjin TEDA. Changchun are in better form, taking six points from their final five matches compared to TEDA’s four points. Both teams lost, fairly respectably, 1-0 at home to one of the top teams, with Changchun losing to league leaders Evergrande, while Tianjin lost to SIPG.

The final match pits second to bottom Henan Jianye against Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng. With a win, Henan can jump over Guizhou in the table. while Guizhou can climb into the top ten with a win. Both teams are in good form, Guizhou have won two of their last three matches, including a very impressive 3-1 win over Guangzhou R&F. Henan drew 0-0 with Shanghai Shenhua last time out but beat Chongqing the round before that.