The other day Mark wrote about his title predictions for the upcoming Chinese Super League (CSL) season. While It is hard to disagree with his analysis of the likely top contenders, one can’t help but feel that the other teams get neglected by the media. This is understandable given, that not every team is awash with cash and unable to make the sorts of signings that grab headlines, such as Oscar’s much publicized move to Shanghai SIPG. Nevertheless, what we all love about the CSL is that it is one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world.
This statement may seem bizarre at first, given the dominance of Guangzhou Evergrande for the last 6 years. Indeed, when it comes to the title race, the CSL is entirely predicable. That said, beyond the coveted first place, the CSL is one of the most open leagues in the world and anything can happen. Without further ado, let’s examine the rest of the team’s.
The capital club had a challenging season last time out. Failing to get into the Asian Champions League (ACL) for a second year running and sacking veteran coach Alberto Zaccheroni 10 games in after a disastrous start. In the end Beijing managed a 5th placed finish, very respectable given that they were languishing in the relegation places at the start of the season. While there is no reason to anticipate a crisis this year for the capital club, they just lack the calibre of player, both Chinese and foreign needed to challenge for a place in the ACL.
Predicted finish: 6th.
They may have been overshadowed in recent years by their all conquering neighbors, Evergrande but that doesn’t mean the Yuexiushan side can’t make an impact. Indeed the summer signing of Israeli international, Eran Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv last year proved to be one of the very best last year, getting 11 goals in half a season. If he can replicate that form again this year then the blue half of Guangzhou could very much be a force to be reckoned with.
Predicted finish: 5th.
This will be the 3rd consecutive season in the CSL for Lifan and a 4th should be well within their grasp. With Adrian Ramos set to join the central Chinese club in the summer, Chongqing should finish comfortably above the relegation places, but don’t expect much more than that.
Predicted finish: 8th.
This will be the second consecutive season in the top flight for Yanbian after a very respectable campaign last year. They turned Yanji into a fortress, winning 9 out of 15 home games, a very impressive feat for a newly promoted club. However, they will need to improve their away form, after winning only once in the 2016 season. If Yanbian can keep up their home form and pick up a few more points on the road then Yanbian will definitely be in the CSL next year.
Predicted finish: 9th.
The Tianjin based club has been finishing uncomfortably close to the relegation places in recent years, something that TEDA will not want to repeat this time around. The northern club have made a statement of intent in signing John Obi Mikel from Chelsea and Wang Dong from Chongqing Lifan, the latter getting 8 assists in the previous campaign. With the promotion of local rivals, Tianjin Quanjian, the club should be even more motivated to push on and cement their place as a regular side in the CSL.
Predicted finish: 7th.
Liaoning, like Tianjin have also been flirting with relegation in recent campaigns, however veteran striker, Zambian James Chamanga came into good form scoring 14 goals last time out. The Shenyang based club did make a statement of intent last summer in signing defender Assani Lukimya from Werder Bremen, however with no notable signings in this window, staying in the CSL is the best the club can hope for. Even then, this is being very optimistic.
Predicted finish: 16th.
The Jilin based team pulled off the great escape in the last campaign after a dramatic finale. The club seemed destined for relegation until the final 4 games of the season, when Changchun pulled off an incredible 4 wins in a row to stay in the division, condemning Hangzhou and Shijiazhuang to China’s second tier. 10 years ago, Changchun won the CSL and while it’s hard to imagine them pulling off a similar feat this time around, one can sense they have enough momentum going into the new campaign to still be a CSL side, come the 2018 season.
Predicted finish: 12th.
The Zhengzhou club narrowly avoided relegation a year ago and with the departure of key player Ivo, it is difficult to imagine Henan managing to stay up this time, especially following an uneventful transfer window.
Predicted finish: 15th.
Normally Shandong are competing for the CSL title, or a place in the ACL in bad campaign. Last year, the club came dangerously close to being relegated after finishing 14th. Felix Magath came in just before the halfway point of the season after a disastrous start under Mano Menezes. With players like Pappiss Cisse and Graziano Pelle in their ranks along with domestic veterans like Liu Binbin, Shandong should realistically be challenging for an ACL place this time around.
Predicted finish: 4th.
The promotion of Zhicheng means that Guiyang will once again witness super league football, following the relegation and then departure of Guizhou Renhe to Beijing. While few would anticipate Zhicheng to do as well as Tianjin Quanjian, the winner’s of the China league one title last year, there is no reason to suggest that this club is facing an imminent threat from relegation especially after signing Nikica Jelavic from Beijing Renhe.
Predicted finish: 11th.