Preview: A week of mismatches in the CSL

The midweek matches saw the race for the Championship become a bit one sided while the rat race for the Champions League intensified. The relegation fight became tighter with Yanbian’s 3-1 victory over Tianjin as more and more clubs began looking over the shoulders to see the dreaded drop creep up towards them.

This week sees the top sides take on the strugglers in a week of uneven matchups.

The game week kicks off with Shandong Luneng taking on Shanghai Shenhua. Shenhua sit in 11th place comfortably above the uncomfortable positions. They are going through a bit of a rut and boast of a victory, draw and a defeat in their last three games. Shandong, however, lost the momentum built up by two consecutive wins and have drawn and lost their previous two games. Points dropped here could mean the end of their Champions League hopes with the teams in their immediate surrounding looking good for the run-in.

The Shandong-Shanghai game is the only one being played on Saturday with the majority of the fixtures being played on Sunday.

Things are finally looking bright and sunny at Guangzhou R&F as a run of four consecutive wins has propelled them to fourth place, just one spot and point off Tianjin in third. They are in the best form in the league right now and face Guizhou, who boast the second best form in the League with three wins on the trot. This one promises to be a cracker and we could see R&F climb back into the top-3 for the first time in weeks at the end of this match week.

Bottom side Yanbian Funde gave themselves the smallest of chances to avoid the drop with a surprising win over Tianjin TEDA. A result along similar lines against Changchun Yatai has the chance to lift them off the bottom of the pile for the first time in a long time. Changchun won their first game in three matches with a 2-0 win over Henan Jianye.

The mini-rejuvenation heralded by the arrival of a new manager, fizzled out over the past three weeks in the Capital after two successive draws dampened the mood. Both draws against their direct rivals in the race for the Champions League spot might come back to bite Beijing towards the back end of the season. Beijing will take nothing less than a win over strugglers Liaoning Whowin, who lost two consecutive matches after the surprise win two weeks back.

The machine that is Evergrande have another chance to consolidate their five point advantage at the top with a victory over 12th place Henan Jianye. Evergrande are hitting fifth gear at the right moment and it looks as if the thrashing of R&F in the Cup has galvanized them. Henan sit in a precarious position just five points over the drop zone and another defeat may leave them sweating.

A run of four games without a win for Shanghai SIPG has left them five points off the pace as we move into the business end of the season. They take on Chongqing Lifan who sit in eighth place, out of the race for the Champions League spot but ‘safe’ from the drop after flirting with it earlier in the season.

Tianjin TEDA are struggling. The fact that they were beaten 3-1 by Yanbian Funde does not bode well for the rest of the campaign. They take on sixth place Hebei who are in a race of their own – Champions League. Hebei looked like a lock on the third spot a month back but the unpredictability and volatility of the CSL sees them sit sixth place. Hebei lack momentum and a comprehensive win over Tianjin could help the team gain much-needed confidence ahead of the run-in.

The matchup between Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian has been postponed to the 28th of August.