Preview: Big matchday for the Champions League and Title races.

The last round of matches give us a handful of surprises with Liaoning winning (yes, they do that) and R&F wining the bragging rights contest in the Canton Derby. With the defeat for Evergrande, one would have expected Shanghai SIPG to take advantage but it was same old, same old as Andre Villas-Boas’ men could not get the victory they needed to climb to the top of the pile.

Midweek kept us occupied with the FA games and going through the results cursing in surprise is forgivable. But enough with the Cup games, let’s get back to League action.

This week’s action kicks off with a mouth-watering clash between Champions League chasing Shandong Luneng and Beijing Guoan. A win for Shandong will take them provisionally into the top three while the Capital club can cut the gap to a solitary point. Both teams are playing good football and results prove so. Beijing look like a team rejuvenated under Schmidt but will have do without top scorer Burak Yilmaz who left to join Trabzonspor in his homeland Turkey. What a way to kick start the latest round fixtures.

Guangzhou Evergrande are going through a bit of a rough patch in the League right now. The run of 10 consecutive wins has been followed up by a win in 5 games for the Canton side. After last week’s defeat to R&F, they have the perfect opportunity to bring the title march right back on tract against Tianjin TEDA. Tianjin TEDA dropped into the relegation zone last week after a loss to Chongqing Lifan. They have been in free fall after being winless for the past two months. Odds don’t favor the men from Tianjin as not many give them a chance against Evergrande.

Chongqing Lifan travel to Guizhou for this mid-table encounter. History does not favor the home side as they have never beaten Lifan. It has been four consecutive losses for Guizhou starting from when the teams met in the lower divisions a few years back to the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign. Chongqing enjoying their travels will not make things easy for the home team as Chongqing have won their last three away fixtures.

Heibei looked like a lock on the third spot a month ago but four consecutive losses has seen them drop down to 7th. Manuel Pellegini’s men will look to regain some of the lost form and momentum against this season’s whipping boys Yanbian Funde. Another loss for Yanbian will see them get more and more lonely at the foot of the table. Currently sitting five points from safety, another defeat would see them cut off from the rest of the league and leaving the club in need of a miracle to survive the Dreaded Drop.

In what could be a very important match in terms of the relegation scenario, Henan Jianye welcome Jiangsu Suning. While both clubs look safe (for now), defeat for either is going to be unacceptable. Jiangsu Suning finally look as if they have turned a corner with two consecutive defeats but the team crashing out of the FA Cup brought them right back down to Earth. A single point separates the sides going into the match. A classic relegation six-pointer.

The final match on Saturday sees Changchun Yatai welcome Shanghai Shenhua. Changchun lost some of their momentum in the last couple of weeks after a protracted winning streak. Shanghai continue to remain volatile and unpredictable as ever. Changchun can leapfrog their opponents with a victory and can breathe easy after relegations fears earlier on.

The two teams that gave us surprise results last week go head-to-head. Despite the win over Changchun Yatai, Liaoning are not favored to beat Eran Zahavi and Guangzhou R&F. Guangzhou need a win to stay in touch with the Champions League chasing pack while Whowin need another win to get some separation between them and 15th place.

The pick of the action this week sees No.3 take on No.2. The clash between Shanghai SIPG and Tianjin Quanjian will be the third in just over two weeks. Tianjin will be bruised after the Cup fiasco that saw them crash out despite winning the first leg 3-0. For Shanghai, this is a must win game considering Guangzhou’s opponents (with all due respect to Tianjin TEDA). Shanghai have failed to take advantage of Evergrande dropping points and this could be the week they pay for it. Tianjin could move to within two of Shanghai with a win. Promises to be a cracker of a game.