CSL

CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE PREVIEW: PART TWO

 • by Christopher Atkins
Share:facebooktwitteremail
news now

Ahead of the 2017 Chinese Super League’s big kick-off this weekend, Football Whispers takes a club-by-club look at the runners and riders competing in this year’s competition.

Part One looked at eight clubs including former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Guangzhou Evergrande. In Part Two, we look over the remaining eight sides hoping to achieve CSL glory in 2017.

Jiangsu Suning

Jiangsu have finished second to Evergrande in four consecutive domestic competitions over the past 12 months, including losing three finals. However, the outlook is not so bright for 2017 after a disappointing transfer window which has not seen departing defender Ren Hang properly replaced, while new rules will also impact upon the side’s overall level. Jiangsu have hurriedly sought to bring in Under-23 players to satisfy the new requirement, but are one of the least prepared side’s in the division for the ruling.

Key Man: Alex Teixeira

While the mid-season addition of Colombian striker Roger Martinez greatly boosted Jiangsu last campaign, it was the 11 goals and eight assists of £50 million man Alex Teixeira which provided the side’s most stable route to goal. The Brazilian will carry much of the attacking burden once more this season in a side who may struggle to match last season’s second place finish.

Prediction: AFC Champions League qualification

Liaoning

Despite not having one of the CSL’s bigger budgets, Liaoning secured two late coups in the transfer window with the loan signings of Yang Xu and Lang Zheng from Tianjin Quanjian and Hebei CFFC respectively. Australians Robbie Kruse and James Holland have also arrived, but several key first team members also headed to the exit doors. Their last minute additions will help greatly, but it could be a challenging season in Shenyang.

Key Man: Anthony Ujah

Without doubt Liaoning’s star player is striker Ujah who arrived for a €13 million fee from Mainz last summer. His five goals in 15 games last campaign was a reasonable return, but Liaoning will likely need more from the Nigerian if they are to avoid heartbreak this year. With one less foreign player on the pitch from now on, his burden just got significantly bigger.

Prediction: Relegation battle

Shandong Luneng

Shandong have historically been one of the most successful sides in China, yet despite highly rated squads have failed to deliver in recent seasons. The off-season has also seen three key Chinese players depart in Wang Yongpo, Yang Xu and Zhao Mingjian, while their replacements are far from inspiring. A tough season, then, could be on the cards in spite of the attacking potential offered by Papiss Cisse and Graziano Pelle. One positive for Felix Magath’s side, though, is they are better placed than most to deal with the new U23 player rules which will affect the coming season.

Key Man: Wang Dalei

If there is one player who epitomises the fight and passion Shandong need to show right across the team if they are to succeed, it is goalkeeper Wang Dalei. The former China No. 1 has much to prove having dropped out of the national side following a poor season at club level, but he remains a highly skilled ‘keeper often let down by a porous defence. Shandong will likely need to scrap this season and Wang will lead them into any battle required.

Prediction: Bottom half

Shanghai Shenhua

Being dumped out of the AFC Champions League playoff by a far from exception Brisbane Roar side last month was a far from auspicious start to the campaign for Gustavo Poyet and his side. Having finished fourth last season, the club decided it wise to bring in a change of management and now the pressure is on the Uruguayan to prove his worth. The off-season was dominated by the arrival of Carlos Tevez, but question marks remain over a (another?) disappointing window in the domestic market.

Key Man: Carlos Tevez

When it comes to Shenhua this season, all eyes are going to be on the diminutive Argentine given the reports flying around in recent weeks regarding his world-leading salary. Whether true or not, the expectation is that Tevez simply must perform having been brought in to replace one of the CSL’s best marksmen in Demba Ba. With recent foreign player rule changes set to limit the support he will receive, Tevez’s goals are set to be crucial to Shenhua’s season and Poyet’s future.

Prediction: Top half

Shanghai SIPG

Shanghai SIPG’s stated ambition for the season is to win the league title, but significant doubts remain over the defensive areas of a team boasting incredible attacking firepower. New coach Andre Villas-Boas wasted no time in bringing in midfielder Oscar for a new record £60 million transfer fee, but the reduction in foreign players allowed to feature in each game will prove more of a dilemma for SIPG than most. They will be a strong competitor, but there is much to prove for SIPG if they are to truly challenge Guangzhou Evergrande for the CSL crown.

Key Man: Hulk

In their early outings in 2017, it has been former Porto and Zenit forward Hulk who has been the key figure for SIPG. Reunited with coach Villas-Boas, the powerful forward has been impressive in scoring two goals in the Champions League from the right flank though. As new league rules take effect, though, it is likely he will be used in a central role in order to accommodate Odil Ahmedov in midfield.

Prediction: AFC Champions League qualification

Tianjin Quanjian

Without doubt the wildcard of the 2017 CSL season are set to be newly promoted Tianjin Quanjian who are threatening to immediately challenge the upper reaches of the table. However, as ever when a side is coming up from a lower division, it is almost impossible to say just how high they can go given their lack of top-flight experience. Alexandre Pato, Axel Wiesel, Geuvanio and Junior Moraes provide strong foreign resources, while their Chinese ranks have been strengthened considerably. Quanjian will be one to watch in the months ahead.

Key Man: Axel Witsel

Belgian midfielder Witsel was Quanjian’s big capture of the window and will line up alongside former China international Zhao Xuri at the heart of the midfield. Cannavaro’s side will need to remain solid defensively if they are to achieve their aims this campaign and that will begin in midfield. Given his strength and mobility, Witsel will be key to the XI’s performance in this regard while also needing to contribute higher up the pitch.

Prediction: Top half

Tianjin TEDA

TEDA have in recent years largely been a side restricted to staving off relegation year-in year-out, despite relatively significant outlay. However, the 2016 campaign saw TEDA’s best league performance since 2010 and they have looked to build upon that momentum with the arrivals of Brown Ideye, John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Gudelj over the off-season. It remains to be seen, however, how the club cope with the rule changes that insist upon Under-23 representation in the starting lineup.

Key Man: John Obi Mikel

While fans in England are used to Mikel playing an anchorman role in midfield, the Nigerian has been signed by TEDA for his ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch—much more in line with his international role. Mikel will be the centrepiece of a team aiming to rise up the league this campaign and his reputation internationally means there will be no forgiveness should he fail to live up to expectation.

Prediction: Top half

Yanbian Funde

Park Tae-Ha’s Yanbian side were one of the biggest stories of the 2016 season, surviving in the CSL following promotion despite a limited budget in comparison with many of their rivals. However, the off season has seen key central defender and captain Cui Min depart for Shenzhen FC in China League One, forcing the club to sacrifice their foreign No. 9 to bring in an extra defender. With team’s now familiar with their fast-paced counter-attacking style, it could be a tough season for the ethnically Korean side.

Key Man: Bubacarr Trawally

Yanbian are going to need goals to survive and in the absence of a foreign No. 9, it is wide forward Bubacarr Trawally who will be required to pick up the mantle in that regard. ‘Steve’ scored nine goals in the 2016 season and was one of the leading lights of a Yanbian side who impressed greatly in staying largely out of the relegation picture. The young Gambian is a livewire but requires support.

Prediction: Relegation battle

Read Part One of the Chinese Super League Preview Here. 
related
content