Shanghai SIPG have Vitor Pereira as their new head coach. Compared to Andre Villas-Boas, he does not have a high profile so he is not quite trusted by the local fans. Shanghai SIPG faced a very high pressure this season and the team is expected to become either CSL champions or AFC Champions League champions. So far the low-key Vitor Peirera coped well, by winning the first 2 group games in the AFC Champions League group stage. Both of the two wins are convincing. Though they may not score as many goals as last season, their performance might be more consistent.
They are most likely to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. As last season, it is a more ball-possessed 4-2-3-1 system, in which two defensive midfielders are expected to hold the ball well and distribute to their teammates. The 4 players could swap their positions as Wu Lei, Hulk, Oscar and Elkeson are all versatile players and they can adapt to different roles. It makes their attack more flexible and unpredictable. Their alternative is a 4-3-3 formation. In this system, Oscar will play in a deep position to fortify the defence in the midfield line. The three attackers will be further forward and will combine for scoring opportunities. It is more likely to be used in games against top rivals.
Shanghai SIPG started their training camp in early January in UAE. In the training camp, they won most of the friendlies, including a convincing 1-0 win over Spartak Moscow. They had to return to China early in preparation for the AFC Championship League playoff in late January. They did poorly in the playoff in which they edged out the rival from Thailand 1-0. Despite the bleak start, they improved quickly. In the first group stage, SIPG defeated the Japanese league champions Kawasaki Frontale away from home, though through counter-attacking tactics. In the second group stage, they convincingly defeated Melbourne Victory 4-1. So far the team has shown good mood and all key players are in a good physical condition. Though they face very intense pressure this season, the start looks promising. It still remains a question if they can keep such form when the league kicks off, as they had a good start but a bleak ending last season. They pretty much remain at the same level and there hasn’t been any significant transfer development. Shanghai SIPG still set their goals as being to win the league and AFC Champions League. It is difficult for them to win both but they are now the best team in the league regarding the quality of the players.
Shanghai SIPG have the best chance to win the league this season. If they are eliminated in the AFC Champions League early, they are very likely to become the CSL champions with more focus. They are currently the best team in the CSL on paper.
Prediction: Shanghai SIPG to win Outright, 3.75 at Bet365 – 2 Units
Roger Schmidt proved himself well suited to CSL during the second half of the previous season. He is a coach who prefers possession-based football and an attacking style. Last year his possession-based football was not consistent due to the injuries and lack of high-quality players, this season with better support backed by the ambitious club owner, Schmidt has added a few top-quality players in CSL after rampant spending from the club.
They will probably play 4-2-3-1 as their first-choice formation, as last season. Bakambu will play as the centre-forward. Either Soriano or Viera will partner him as one of the attacking midfielders. Wei Shihao will also play as a key role alongside Bakambu Augusto will be the Box-to-Box midfielder but Beijing seems to lack a reliable defensive midfielder. An alternative is 4-4-2, with Soriano partnering Bakambu up front, and a more balanced midfielder line would be listed.
Beijing Guoan had been training in Portugal for more than a month and returned to China in mid-February. During the period they played a few friendly matches. Though they lost more than they won, the friendly matches were helpful to the club as all rivals were teams in the major European football nations and the matches were contested seriously. All important players are with the team in good condition. The team is in high morale as the club are very ambitious this season. For their ambition, even the CFA tried to curb high-price transfer on foreign players, the club purchased Bakambu and Viera from La Liga clubs at a huge cost. On the one hand, in good mood, players and coaches are inspired by the ambition and the generous spending of the club in the transfer market. On the other hand, the late arrival of Bakambu and Viera may lead to problems that there is limited time for the duo to adapt to their new teammates and Chinese league. Though Beijing Guoan have one of the best squads in the league after huge expense in the transfer market, it is not realistic for them to challenge to become champions. They have too many new players so they need time to adapt. Referees may be a problem as they have a poor relationship with the CFA.
With a strong squad, they will have a huge improvement in the league table. Roger Schmidt is also an intelligent coach. They have an advantage as they don’t have to play AFC Champions League, so second place is a realistic target.
Prediction: Beijing Guoan EW bet to win Outright, 10.00 at Bet365 – 1 Unit Each-Way (2 units in total)