Guangzhou Evergrande might have hoped for an easier return to action after the international break with the six-time defending champions without both their captain and coach and following a rare defeat last time out, but Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side are next in the firing line of Shanghai SIPG.
The first major blockbuster of the Chinese Super League season arrives on Saturday as Guangzhou Evergrande entertain SIPG at Tianhe Stadium in what will be an acid test of their title credentials, despite it only being the thrid weekend of the new season.
Brazilian coach Scolari will serve a one-game stadium ban after lashing out at officials over the additional suspension dished out to veteran skipper Zheng Zhi following his sending off in the win over Beijing Guoan.
Zheng missed the 2-1 defeat by Shandong Luneng prior to the internation break before then being hit with an additional game on the sidelines after taking his time to leave the area around the pitch against Beijing.
That led to Scolari to suggest officials favoured SIPG and the ban was meant to scupper Guangzhou Evergrande’s in Saturday’s game, which saw the Brazilian also fined ¥8,000 for his comments.
“I will still be the assistant coach of Scolari in tomorrow’s game, and I will continue carrying out his ideas,” said Guangzhou Evergrande assistant coach Paulo Turra.
Guangzhou Evergrande’s Luiz Felipe Scolari slams Zheng Zhi ban claiming officials favour CSL rivals Shanghai SIPG
“Of course, I know this team and the players very well and I have my own opinion about this game. I have been communicating with Scolari this week and I will command this game on the basis of his ideas and plus my own thoughts.”
SIPG have made a perfect start to 2017 with Andre Villas-Boas’ side having won all six competitive outings this season, which includes back-to-back wins in the Super League and four victories in the AFC Champions League.
“We’ve been preparing for the game for some time. We’ve studied their way of play and formation and we’ve had some specific training with the players we’ve had in these two weeks, and the quality of the training is really good,” added Turra.
“Yesterday our international players came back and they won’t have any problems. We practiced the tactics in front of the internationals and I believe that everyone understands very well.
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“You can’t say our team is not at full strength. SIGP have their own way of playing, and we also have our own style.”
SIPG’s start has largely been down to the combination of Brazilian attacking trio Oscar, Elkeson and Hulk, who have quickly established a devastating relationship at the start of the season.
“We’ve already won two games while our opponent has lost one. If we can win the game tomorrow the situation will be ideal,” said SIPG coach Villas-Boas.
“Of course we know the game will be very difficult, I don’t want to repeat the importance of the game.”
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Also on Saturday, defender Jiang Zhipeng is expected to feature for Guangzhou R&F away to Yanbian Funde following the fall out from claims by his ex-wife he was to blame for China’s defeat in Iran in this week.
Hong Kong’s Fetsus Baise is also on the road with his team, Guizhou Zhicheng, as they face Hebei CFFC out to continue a positive start to the Super League season for last year’s League one runners-up.
Guizhou have drawn both their games so far, with captain Baise scoring in the 1-1 draw at home with Beijing Guoan prior to the international break.
“We have started well. We had a plan for the first few games and we are doing good,” said Baise, who was in AFC Asian Cup qualifying action this week as Hong Kong lost 2-0 in Lebanon.
“It was a difficult for me in the beginning in my first season, but we worked hard to make sure we were fighting for the trophy. It was a good season last season and we started again this season in the Super League and we will keep trying as we did last season.
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“The Chinese Super League is a high level and it is a great task for our team. We didn’t expect to be in the Super League, but are already know we are there and we are fighting to not go down as to stay there is great for the players and the team.”
Also on Saturday, 2016 League One champions Tianjin Quanjian entertain Henan Jianye as both sides seek a first win of the season.