CSL to kick off on Saturday

The Chinese Super League will finally begin this weekend on Saturday when Guangzhou Evergrande faces Shanghai Shenhua. It is not the CSL as we know it though with the league split into two with one Group based in Dalian and the other in Suzhou. 

As football returns to China this weekend for the first time since December here is a preview of all the matches and our predictions. 

Guangzhou Evergrande v Shanghai Shenhua - Saturday Group A

The new CSL season will finally kick off with the champions hosting the China FA Cup Winners in Dalian. This would normally have been played like the Super Cup before the season started but this was cancelled due to COVID this year.

With this in mind, it will be a match all the players will be keen to kick-off but after so long away it will be hard to know how this will go.

As the current champions are fully prepared with a new stadium in the pipeline am sure they will be looking to kick off with the three points but they will come up against a strong Shanghai Shenhua side that has improved since a poor start to last season.

Shenhua themselves have Zeng Cheng, Feng Xiaoting, Wen Jiabao and Yu Hanchao all signed on loan from Evergrande. Of course, they do not expect these players to go easy on their parent club and am sure it will be a good battle. 

Evergrande have some injury worries too with Fernandinho and Luo Guofu both missing, these are two players who have recently been nationalised to play for China. 

With this being the first match of the new season and all eyes on it, I expect some players will be nervous and because of this, I could see a draw. 

Predictions - Draw

Wuhan Zall v Qingdao Huanghai - Saturday Group B

Here is, of course, a match that will involve a lot of emotion as Wuhan Zall play football for the first time since the coronavirus broke out in the city. They will be very keen am sure to put this all behind them and just let football do the talking in this match. 

This pandemic has been very hard on these players who spent months in Spain during the worse of lockdown as they could not return home. Many of the players saw their family for the first time in months recently. 

Teams have trained on the pitches and do look ready though so am sure this will be a match in which they are prepared. The Wuhan side will be happy to also have new signing from Spain Daniel Carriço within their ranks and able to play. 

Am sure though that Qingdao will try and spoil the party and I think they will as they look to make an instant impact in the CSL although they will be without Yaya Touré who was sent off in his final match for the club and is now training in England with Leyton Orient. 

We should say don't forget to look out for the man at the back from Taiwan Yaki Yan who will be looking to make his CSL return. 

Predictions - Qingdao Huanghai

Dalian Pro v Shandong Luneng - Sunday Group A

Dalian Pro the side managed by the highly-rated Rafael Benítez will be looking for an open day victory this weekend, something they have not managed since promotion to the CSL.

This is an unusual time for all but the Dalian team are staying in a hotel they know well and playing at 'home' in Dalian so these little advantages may help them. They are coming up against a side that although they had a poor end to the season looked impressive in patches in the 2019 season.

Shandong is not quite yet at full strength with players still returning from around the world but they will have new signing Moisés and last season Belgium hit Fellaini available for the match. Although the former Southampton man Pellè will not be involved. 

Predictions - Shandong Luneng 

Shenzhen v Guangzhou R&F - Sunday Group A

Guangzhou for me come into this match as the favourites with van Bronckhorst side looking from the friendly matches that they could be a threat in Group A. This a side that after all have a few players worth looking out for in the Israeli striker Zahavi the former Spurs man Dembélé.

As for Shenzhen, they will be looking to keep it competitive in the Group and their coach Roberto Donadoni is ready as he said this week "We have been preparing for the start of the league for six months, and it will finally start. Our whole team has waited for a long time. Except for some injuries we are in good health and all ready."

A player who might not feature this weekend but will am sure be seen throughout this season is the sides new signing from Wolves and that is the midfielder from Hong Kong Dai Wai-Tsun.

Predictions - Guangzhou R&F

Hebei CFFC v Shijiazhuang Ever Bright - Sunday Group B

Chris Coleman's former side Hebei will be looking to put a bad season behind them as they kick off the 2020 season. It is an entertaining opening match too as Hebei face Shijiazhuang in what is the Hebei derby with both sides based in the city. 

A player to look out for in this match from both sides is first off the former Guangzhou Evergrande man Muriqui who won the Asian Champions League with them in 2013. Despite now being 34-years-old he could still be a big player for Shijiazhuang this season as he scored 21 goals for them last year in China League One. 

As for Hebei, they have a man on loan from Evergrande to look out for and that is Ricardo Goulart the Brazilian who spent time in the Brazilian league last season. 

This one is tough to call with Hebei having the better squad but Shijiazhuang has signed some exciting foreigners for this season that could help them win the tight matches. 

Predictions - Draw

Henan Jianye v Jiangsu Suning - Sunday Group A

Henan goes into the season with no full-time manager as rumours circulate that Jordi Cruyff is due to takeover. It is expected despite the issue with bringing in a new manager that this will be a competitive came and Henan are slight favourites. 

This is another match with a player who played in England on display as the Taiwan international Tim Chow has impressed since coming to the CSL. As for Suning expect them to be well organised but with not too much creativity in their play.

It is a match that for me that could be between two sides nearer the bottom of this Group but you could be in for a shock. 

Predictions - Henan Jianye 

Chongqing Dangdai Lifan v Beijing Guoan - Sunday Group B

Beijing Guoan are one of the strongest sides in China and as such go into this match as favourites and along with Shanghai SIPG will be looking to win Group B. 

One of their main stars the Korean Kim Min-Jae has been subjected to interest from Europe but currently, the defender is still with the club. As for Chongqing, they will be looking to avoid defeat after a mid-table finish last season.

Both teams will have a good fit squad to pick from as both have climatise to their new surroundings in Suzhou. Although Guoan final friendly against Shanghai Shenhua was cancelled. 

Predictions - Beijing Guoan 

Tianjin Teda v Shanghai SIPG - Monday Group B

The final match from the opening weekend will then take place on Monday as we see Tianjin Teda against one of the best sides in China Shanghai SIPG. It is also a match that if you can get the CSL in your country on TV you will likely be able to watch this live. 

Teda is still looking to add to their squad ahead of the new season too as Sandro Lima a Brazilian forward playing in Portugal is expected to sign. This looks to be a replacement for German Sandro Wagner who did not return to the side after lockdown. 

As for SIPG I fully expect them to win this match as they look to start the new season well. This will also be a side, unlike many others with not many changes as they look to improve on last season's third-place finish. 

Predictions - Shanghai SPIG 

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