Guangzhou Evergrande aim to move a step closer to the CSL title on Saturday as Beijing Guoan renew one of China’s fiercest rivalries.
Second-placed Guoan are six points behind leaders Evergrande with six games remaining and Arie Haan is eager to deal a blow to their title hopes by guiding his eighth-placed Tianjin Teda side to their first win away to their arch-enemies in nine years.
“We’re not the underdogs,” stated the Dutchman, who will welcome back Brazilian playmaker Andrezinho from suspension this weekend.
Long-serving defender Cao Yang played in Tianjin’s last victory at Beijing in 2005, and he said: “We know what this derby means to the club and the fans, and we hope for a good result."
Gregorio Manzano's Guoan side, who have won 13 and lost 10 of their 37 meetings with Tianjin, will look to Sweden international Erton Fejzullahu and veteran Montenegrin Dejan Damjanovic to provide the goal threat.
Another foreign striker has a Super League record in his sights, as he looks to fire Guangzhou Evergrande towards a fourth successive title.
Elkeson has scored five times in his last two appearances to move just two shy of Chinese legend Li Jinyu’s record of 26 goals in a season.
Since Guangzhou’s defence of their AFC Champions League crown was brought to an unforeseen end by Western Sydney Wanderers in the quarter-finals, Marcello Lippi’s side have won back-to-back league games, scoring nine goals and not conceding in the process.
And with Rene Junior, Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino also on song, Guangzhou will be expected to build on those results at home to Shanghai Shenxin, who have lost – and failed to score in – their last two matches.
Shanghai SIPG trail forthcoming opponents Guangzhou R&F by three points in the battle for third place and the final AFC Champions League qualifying berth.
R&F coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will look to inspiration from Brazilian creator Davi and Morocco forward Abderrazak Hamdallah as they attempt to consign SIPG to a third game without victory.
Shandong Luneng and Guizhou Renhe, in fifth and sixth, are away to Dalian Aerbin and Shangai Shenhua respectively.
Veteran Zambia striker James Chamanga has propelled Liaoning Whowin to two wins from their last three outings, which has lifted them out of the relegation zone, and Gao Sheng’s men will look to further their survival hopes at mid-table Hangzhou on Sunday.
Second-bottom Henan Jianye host Jiangsu Sainty on Sunday and rock-bottom Harbin Yiteng visit Changchun Yatai - who are also in danger of relegation.
“Our task has become very difficult,” said Harbin coach Marijo Tot, whose side are six points adrift of safety. “But we must give it our all because that’s what sportsmen should do.”