In this article, we take a look at who might be on their way from League One, to the promised land of the Super League. The top two teams are promoted to the CSL.
The League One season is well underway and there have been 10 rounds played (Dalian Yifang and Beijing Renhe has only played nine games as their match in Round Nine was postponed) in the Chinese second tier.
The top of the league table
1. Dalian Yifang | 9 games | 22 points
The team formerly known as Dalian Aerbin played three seasons in the CSL between 2012 and 2015. Last season, the first under the new name, they finished fifth. This season they have been guided by former Real Madrid manager Juan Ramón López Caro and have shot straight to the top. Their line is led by Nyasha Mushekwi from Zimbabwe who has scored eight in the first nine matches and he will be vital to the team if they want to clinch the title.
2. Beijing Renhe | 9 games | 19 points
Beijing Renhe is “the other team in Beijing”, they are the only team unbeaten in League One, with five wins and four draws. Ecuador international Jaime Ayovi leads the line for Renhe and he gets support from former Henan Jianye player Ivo who has three goals and four assists in the first nine, from his attacking midfield role. This is the team who also has Nikica Jelavic out on loan and could potentially utilize him next season if they go up to the CSL.
3./4. Shenzhen/Zhejiang Yiteng | 10 games | 17 points
Shenzhen is managed by former England manager Sven Göran Eriksson and in Harold Preciado, Shenzhen has the league’s top scorer with 12 in 10 games. They sit only two points behind Beijing Renhe, but they have a game in hand, and Shenzhen has to keep Preciado scoring if they want a chance of going up.
Fourth-placed Zhejiang Yiteng are on equal points to Shenzhen, and they have a nice mix of experienced heads (captain Adam Hughes, ex Hamburg player Romeo Castelen and ex Tianjin TEDA centre-back Yang He) and young exciting Chinese talents (Yue Liu, Fan Yang and former Shanghai Shenhua academy product Haiyang Shan). That mix could see Zhejiang keep up with the others in the fight for promotion and with a bit of luck, they might make it.
5. / 6. Shanghai Shenxin / Qingdao Huanghai | 10 games | 16 points
Shenxin and Huanghai are the last two teams we will have a close look at.
The third team from Shanghai, Shenxin have some interesting players including former Espanyol and Houston Dynamo centre-back Raúl Rodríguez who could very well do a job for a CSL side if anyone is interested when the transfer window opens back up. Their form is in a bit of a slump and they are winless in three, drawing once and losing twice. Shenxin needs to pick their form back up if they want to stay in contention for the promotion spots.
Huanghai is managed by former Barcelona and Barcelona B manager Jordi Vinyals and unlike Shenxin they have a slightly better form with three wins from the last five games. Notable players from the Qingdao squad is Hong Kong International Godfred Karikari, and former Red Bull Salzburg and 1860 München striker Djordje Rakic. Karikari (0) and Rakic (3) has to score more if they want to climb the table.
Behind these six teams, there is a rat race for the places. From seventh to 11th place (Wuhan Zall, Shijiazhuang Ever Bright, Xinjiang Tianshan, Hangzhou Greentown, Dalian Transcendence) there is no points difference whatsoever, they all have 14 points. If one of those five teams can find their feet and string together a great run of form they could find themselves further up the table.
We will check back with League One and the race for the Super League in roughly another ten games.