Chinese Super League returns for second phase

After a short break, the Chinese Super League returns this Friday as Changchun Yatai face off against Shanghai Shenhua in the first of a triple header.

The second phase of the 2022 season marks the semi-return of the home-and-away system that clubs have not seen since the 2019 campaign, with the majority of teams able to play in their home stadiums once again.

Some teams, however, will have to remain in Haikou or play out of an alternative location - with both Shanghai teams (Shenhua and Port) unable to return due to recent Covid restrictions.

The first fixture to kick off the next phase of the season will see Shanghai Shenhua play host to Changchun Yatai in Dalian, with the visitors not having to travel too far by Chinese geographical standards as one of the teams who have been able to return home.

Shenhua could be without a number of key players due to their recent appearances for the China national team at the EAFF E-1 Football Championship, potentially having an impact on the fourth-placed teams efforts against Chen Yang's 11th-placed side.

Following on from that will see bottom dwellers Hebei hope to begin the next phase in a more positive manner against middle-of-the-pack Chengdu Rongcheng - a team on fine form with two wins and three draws in their last five fixtures.

To cap off the first day of the new phase, a battle between seventh and eighth in the league takes place as Shenzhen take on Zhejiang, with both sides hoping to build on decent form they had through the first ten fixtures of the season.

With another transfer window currently open, the second phase of the season could see some new faces feature - with Dalian Professional landing import signings Streli Mamba and Borislav Tsonev, having begun the year with a solely Chinese squad due to their initial relegation to China League One.

Another change is in the form of Brazilian star Oscar not linking up with his Shanghai Port teammates, with rumours and reports suggesting he is on the verge of signing for Flamengo in his home country, while his own posts on social media suggest he may only be absent temporarily.

In his absence, it looks all-but-certain that Chinese international star Wu Lei will be making his return to the club, with the forward having publicly commented about leaving Spanish side Espanyol - with Port the only club he would want to return to.

Having a player of Wu Lei's calibre back in the league, playing regularly, will be an enjoyable sight for many, especially the Shanghai Port fans who have missed him since his departure a few years ago.

Guo Tianyu is also likely to make his first appearance of the season after a brief loan spell with Portuguese club Vizela - giving reigning champions Shandong Taishan some additional firepower as they look to mount another challenge.

All eyes will be on Wuhan Three Towns, however, as they stormed to the top of the league table in the opening phase - surprising many with their strong off-season recruitment, and quick chemistry building within their squad after consecutive promotions from China League Two.

Can they maintain their start? Will the traditional powerhouses make a comeback? Will Hebei and Guangzhou City remain the league's weakest performers? All that and more to come when the Chinese Super League season returns tomorrow!

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