CSL Preview: Guangzhou Evergrande, Shandong Luneng aim to bounce back
By Football News
Guangzhou Evergrande will look to respond to their first Chinese Super League defeat of 2013 when they host Shanghai Shenhua on Saturday.
Marcello Lippi's side – who have won the last two CSL titles – are on track to make it a hat-trick of successes with just seven matches of the season remaining.
Guangzhou Evergrande sit 14 points clear of the second-placed Shandong Luneng and could win the title later this month.
But first they will be focused on responding to a surprise defeat at Tianjin Teda before the international break.
Australia international Erik Paartalu scored the only goal of that match as Guangzhou Evergrande lost their first Chinese Super League match since November 3 2012.
They have only lost three times in all competitions in 2013, with the form of Brazilian Elkeson and Argentine Dario Conca crucial.
Elkeson is the highest scorer in the CSL with 20 goals, while Conca has chipped in with 11 from midfield.
Shanghai Shenhua will enter the fixture with confidence though, having won their last three matches.
That run of form has seen them climb to sixth in the table, and they are still an outside chance of finishing in the top three, and a spot in next season's AFC Champions League.
Shandong Luneng, who sit second in the table, will feel confident ahead of their trip to the struggling Qingdao Jonoon on Saturday.
Shandong also lost last time out but Qingdao have won just one of their last 17 league fixtures and sit just above the relegation zone.
Beijing Guoan will host Guangzhou R&F on Saturday in a match that could play a big role in terms of Champions League qualification.
Guoan sit third, on 37 points, five ahead of the fifth-placed Guangzhou R&F, and a victory would give them breathing space ahead of a rival.
Other fixtures on Saturday see bottom-placed Wuhan Zall host Liaoning Whowin, while Changchun Yatai – who are also in the relegation zone – travel to Guizhou Renhe and Jiangsu Sainty battle Tianjin Teda.
And Sunday's two fixtures will see Shanghai Shenxhin host Dalian Aerbin, while Shanghai SIPG take on Hangzhou.