First-team squad coming together for Changchun Yatai

 

The start of the 2022 Chinese Super League season is in doubt after a series of COVID-19 outbreaks across the country, but Changchun Yatai continue to prepare in anticipation of the new season.

Outbreaks have seen lockdowns take place in major cities across China, including Changchun itself, but the top professional football team in the city continues to work towards a new season at their off-season camp in Haikou, Hainan.

The club, who recently played a couple of friendly matches against the China National Team, have received the positive news of import players progressing towards returning to the side - with defender Jores Okore linking up with his teammates earlier this week and last season's top goalscorer Junior Negrão currently undergoing isolation in Jinan ahead of a planned trip down to the southern Chinese island.

Other Brazilians Serginho and Erik are awaiting an opportunity to fly back to the middle kingdom, waiting for flights in their home country, but should be returning for the 2022 season - a boost to the team after reports linked Erik with a potential move to Botafogo just a few weeks ago.

With Tan Long currently with the National Team, it leaves them with just three players from last season's squad that they are awaiting the return of after Junior's isolation is completed.

But returnees have not been the only focus for the team in recent weeks, with progress being made on new additions to the squad that finished fourth in the Chinese Super League last season - with one deal unofficially confirmed while two more could be secured in the short term.

South African striker Dino Ndlovu, who is well-known to Chinese football fans from his three-year stint with Zhejiang FC (previous Greentown), where he scored 42 goals and added seven assists in 67 games - all served in the Chinese second tier.

With Junior ageing and the need for depth apparent, a reported 350,000 deal has been agreed and Ndlovu himself posted on his instagram account his journey back to China, which will see him fly from Helsinki to Hangzhou - potentially seeing him undergo isolation there before linking up with his new team.

Alongside the additional import signing, Changchun Yatai have been trying out a couple of players with top tier experience - namely Dalian Professional's Wang Jinxian and Guangzhou FC's Liu Weiguo.

Wang Jinxian has effectively played his entire professional career with Dalian, making 162 total appearances and providing nine goals and 24 assists while primarily being utilised on the left wing.

He is capable of playing centrally and even on the right, and he would provide Changchun Yatai with another useful attacking player - especially with Tan Long reaching the twilight of his career and the need to rejuvenate the team on the mind of Chen Yang.

Along with him, Liu Weiguo could be in line to replace the outgoing Shi Xiaotian, finally getting the opportunity at a starting goalkeeper role after so many years playing second fiddle to Zeng Cheng and Liu Dianzuo at the eight-time CSL champions.

Liu, 29, had loan spells including a fruitful 2019 season with Inner Mongolia Zhongyou - whom he helped guide to ninth in the China League one table after 13 clean sheets and just 30 goals conceded in 30 games.

The Tianjin native featured twice for Guangzhou in 2021, including keeping a clean sheet in his side's 2-0 victory over Changchun in the penultimate game of the season - giving Chen Yang and his staff a good view of what he is capable of achieving when given the opportunity.

More signings are still expected from the club, but they are taking a cautious and methodical approach while other clubs appear to be struggling financially and the official start date of the new football season is still up in the air.

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