Benitez arrival injects fresh air into CSL race

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, July 5, 2019
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Dalian Yifang's new head coach Rafa Benitez (center) gets down to business at Dalian Sports Center Stadium on Tuesday. The Spaniard will earn a reported $15 million per year at the club, making him the most expensive coach in the Chinese Super League.

The number of Chinese Super league title chasers has been pared down at half season as Beijing Guoan, Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG show powerful domination. Still, European Champions League winning coach Rafael Benitez's arrival to Dalian could make the race somewhat unpredictable.

Beijing lead the title race with 39 points, followed by Guangzhou and Shanghai who have 37 points apiece after the league finished half of the total 30 rounds this week.

The fourth-placed Shandong Luneng's hopes to challenge the Big Three have dimmed, with the teams logging a collective 87 percent win rate against other teams. They have played a total of 39 matches against the other 13 teams, recording 34 wins, two draws and three losses.

In the beginning of the season, Beijing broke the record to win the first ten matches and led by seven points before losing to Shanghai SIPG and letting the defending champions cut the deficit to five points. Shanghai and Guangzhou took the chance to narrow the gap to only two points after Beijing was upset by Shandong 2-0 in the 15th round.

Beijing need to find their winning rhythm as soon as possible as Shanghai and Guangzhou are both running in the fast lane. Guangzhou are enjoying a six-match winning streak without top scorer Anderson Talisca.

Both Guangzhou and Shanghai edged out their opponents on penalties to reach the final eight of the AFC champions league, while Beijing, who had been eliminated in group stage, can focus on the domestic battle field.

There could also be a fierce battle among the Big Three in the transfer market this summer.

Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro has said his team need a center forward to score after Talisca was injured. His man could be Brazilian striker Elkeson, who is set to return to Guangzhou from Shanghai. The 30-year-old has scored 51 goals since he joined Shanghai in 2016.

Other teams, such as Chongqing Dangdai and Wuhan Zall, have surprised many by making fifth and seventh in the table respectively, while deep-pocketed Jiangsu Suning and Dalian Yifang have disappointed many, ranking sixth and tenth.

Benitez, who replaced South Korean manager Choi Kang-hee, is expected to regroup Dalian and bring some fresh air to the league's second half.

"This club has all the components that we were looking for to start a new chapter with the maximum amount of motivation," Benitez said on his official website.

"What I have found at Dalian is an incredible project that has arrived at the perfect time and this has been a major factor in my decision," he added.

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