Chinese Super League

Andre Villas-Boas’ Shanghai SIPG out to end Shandong Luneng’s “dream start” to Chinese Super League

Felix Magath’s side top the table with Guangzhou R&F ahead of the fourth round of fixtures this weekend

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 7:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 9:32pm

Coach Andre Villas-Boas has called for his Shanghai SIPG side to cut out their errors and end Shandong Luneng’s “dream start” as the Chinese Super League leaders travel to Shanghai Stadium on Friday.

Felix Magath’s Shandong top the table alongside Guangzhou R&F with a three-point lead over SIPG, with the leading duo boasting a 100 per cent record after three games.

And despite losing their perfect start to 2017 last weekend against defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Villas-Boas’ SIPG will provide a side who only avoided relegation last season by two points with another stern test.

“In the last game we lost to Evergrande and I hope we can turn everything around in next the game,” said Villas-Boas.

“Shandong has had a dream start, the players understand the ideas of the head coach, and they organise well. It’s going to be a difficult game, but we’ve been implanting the confidence in the minds of the players. We know we can’t afford to repeat the same mistakes again.”

SIPG still boast a 100 per cent record in the AFC Champions League and will switch their attentions back to the continental arena next week as they seek to secure qualification from group F with two games to spare in Japan against Urawa Red Diamonds.

Shandong Luneng emerge from the shadows to lead Chinese Super League after beating Changchun Yatai

Villas-Boas is only allowed to field three foreign players in the Super League, with an additional overseas player allowed in the AFC Champions League.

Odil Akhmedov has only featured once in the Super League this season, while the Uzbekistan midfielder has started every game for SIPG in the AFC Champions League.

Portugal centreback Ricardo Carvalho, meanwhile, has yet to feature for SIPG this season.

“We have to find a balance among all the competitions,” added Villas-Boas, who is sweating on the fitness of Cai Huikang after the midfielder was withdrawn at half-time against Evergrande.

Shanghai SIPG boss Andre Villas-Boas defends ‘ridiculous’ use of Chinese Super League under-23 quota

“The CSL and the ACL are both important to us. We want to get ourselves back on track, so we will definitely have the best line-up. Given the different rules on foreigners [in the ACL and CSL], we will take that into consideration.”

Shandong, who beat Changchun Yatai away last weekend having already downed Tianjin Teda and Evergrande at home, did not qualify for the AFC Champions League this season having only narrowly avoided relegation last year.

“We are looking forward to tomorrow’s match versus Shanghai SIPG. Together with Guangzhou Evergrande they are the big favourites to win the Chinese Super League,” Magath said via his Twitter account.

“They spent a lot on the transfer market, so it’s going to be tough. But we already beat the champions thus we are confident to get a result.”

Also on Friday, Jiangsu Suning go in search of a first win of the season at home to Chongqing Lifan, while Beijing Guoan entertain Henan Jianye looking to build on last weekend’s 2-1 home win over Shanghai Shenhua.