By Sportswriters Yao Youming and Zhao Yingbo
XI'AN, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Who will win the 2020 Chinese Super League (CSL) which kicks off next weekend? Actually, it's pretty hard to say.
Although Guangzhou Evergrande, who has non-Chinese powerful players and naturalized elites in its squad is a title favorite, the defending champion should overcome the negative influences due to both 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and 2020 AFC Champions League.
EVERGRANDE REMAINS TITLE FAVORITE
Guangzhou Evergrande had seven naturalized players before the delayed season, including Ai Kesen (Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso), Fei Nanduo (Fernando Henrique), Alan (Alan Carvalho), Gao Late (Ricardo Goulart), Luo Guofu (Aloisio Goncalves), Xiao Taotao (Roberto Siucho) and Jiang Guangtai (Tyias Browning), and let Alan join Beijing Guoan on loan on July 10.
With the assists from the Brazilian duo of Anderson Talisca and Jose Paulo Bezerra Maciel Junior, the Asian powerhouse is the most likely winner in the upcoming new season.
Besides, the Chinese international Ai Kesen rejoined in the club last season, helping it reap 13 wins in a row in the midway of the season. He will play as a Chinese footballer in the new season, and may contribute more goals and assists after getting rid of the CSL quota on non-Chinese players.
Beijing Guoan also has several naturalized players, such as Li Ke (Nicholas Yennaris), Hou Yongyong (John Hou Saeter) and Alan. As a newcomer, Alan can boost Guoan's squad by assuming both roles of center-forward and winger.
As one of the most aggressive teams in the league, Beijing Guoan boasts of two non-Chinese midfielders, Renato Augusto and Jonathan Viera Ramos, plus two local rising star strikers Wang Ziming and Zhang Yuning. They may produce effective chemistry with Alan in the new season.
Alan started 25 times for Tianjin Tianhai last season, scoring nine goals with two assists. "We have a lot of good players in our rosters and I feel lucky to play with them, we'll erupt strong capacity under our head coach's leadership," the 31-year-old striker said.
"During the season we will face many tough competitions. Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai SIPG are very strong, I came here hoping to win the championship with our team and to realize my dream," Alan added.
No one doubts that Shanghai SIPG is one of the CSL title contenders, although it doesn't have any naturalized players. The 2018 CSL winner features five outstanding non-Chinese players, namely Hulk, Oscar, Odil Akhmedov, Ricardo Lopes and Marko Arnautovic. The elites will make up with the lack of naturalized players.
Considering the CSL will take a break in order to help Team China compete in the World Cup Asian preliminaries in October and November, these naturalized footballers may become uncertain factors not only for the CSL title favorites but also for Team China's fortune.
Moreover, the three CSL powerhouses will also line up for the AFC Champions League from October. How to reconcile the interests of the clubs and the national team? It would be a tough question for the CSL sides.
The 2020 CSL season will run its first session from July 25 to September 28.