Shandong Luneng v Shanghai Shenhua | Saturday 21st September 2019: 12:35
We’re very much approaching the business end of the Chinese Super League season, with only six-games remaining to determine the champions, AFC Champions League qualifiers and the two relegation spots.
Shandong Luneng may sit fourth in the table, but they won’t be finishing in the top-three on a count of being 13-points behind. In terms of points, they’re actually closer to 11th than they are 3rd. Shanghai Shenhua, on the other hand, are in a relegation battle, sitting only five-points ahead of the dreaded drop zone as things stand.
When we think of the Chinese Super League, we always look to see which ‘star names’ have been drafted in from Europe or South America. Shandong have Graziano Pellè and Marouane Fellaini of Premier League fame in their ranks, with the former Southampton strike having a cool 15 goals to his name so far. Shanghai have Odion Ighalo and Stephen El Shaarawy on the books, but Colombian Giovanni Moreno is the man who really makes them tick. He has 10 goals.
It could be argued that this is a more important game for the away side this weekend. Well, the reality is that it is. Nevertheless, that’s not to say Shandong will go lightly and suddenly down tools. They have been a little up-and-down for a while now. They’ve either won or lost their last 11 in the league, whilst they’ve won three of their last four in league and cup.
Home form is very much the main reason for Shandong being as high in the table as they are. Eight of their 12 wins came at their Jinan Olympic Sports Center Stadium, losing only four of their last 35 league fixtures in front of their own supporters. They’re a good bet to win at home more often than not in this league, but they remain in the Chinese FA Cup, so that will soon become their priority with third spot out of reach.
Shanghai Shenhua are a team that generally don’t have issues finding the back of the net. They have 35 goals this season, only seven fewer than their opponents on Saturday. They’re the second-highest scorers in the bottom half as well, but defensively they have a few issues, let’s say. They’ve shipped 44 goals, with only two sides letting in more, with one of those being rock bottom Beijing Renhe.
They’ve only failed to score in five of their 23 league games to date, whilst keeping only two clean sheets in that period. That has seen both teams to score pay out in 17/23, with only Guangzhou R&F witnessing their games achieve more. 18/23 has seen over 2.5 goals scored, so goals are quite often the name of the game whenever Shanghai Shenhua are involved, given they clearly place such a big emphasis on their attacking play.
Shandong actually have one of the higher clean sheets figures in the league, but 7/24 isn’t what we’d class as bulletproof. They’ve actually been a little leaky at home, despite enjoying quite a formidable record. Only in five of their previous 21 at home in all competitions have they denied the opponents scoring, yet they’ve still managed to win 14 of them.
I just think Shandong Luneng to win and Both Teams To Score has to be the play on this occasion at 9/5 (Betway). At home they are generally reliable, whilst being defensive unreliable. Shanghai have a few wins on the road of late, with a couple in the FA Cup, but they concede far too many to ever be hugely confident about their prospects.
Jonkopings v Norrby | Saturday 21st September 2019, 15:00
Our second and final play on Saturday will see us jump across to Scandinavia and to Sweden, but not the top-flight, but the Superettan second-tier, a league I’ve become quite interested in over the last couple of seasons.
I’ve paid particular attention to the current campaign, and Jonkopings are a side to have made quite some progress as the season has gone by. They currently top the table after 23 games, and they face mid-table Norrby this weekend as they look to maintain their strong run of form.
Norrby are very much the definition of mid-table, given that going into this latest round of fixtures they were 12-points off the top three, and ten-points away from the bottom four. A lack of consistency has unsurprisingly been their main issue, considering they’ve won eight, drew eight and lost seven. Their recent record has been a problem, winning just five of their last 18 in all competitions.
Jonkopings are very much an attractive and pleasing on the eye sort of side in this league. Earlier in the season they were being punished more often within this style, but of late they’ve very much clicked into something closer to top gear. They are unbeaten in their previous 12 in all competitions, winning nine of those inside 90-minutes. Momentum is very much on their side, and a place in the Allsvenskan firmly remains their aim.
Something which is standing Jonkopings out from the rest in this league is their impressive attacking numbers. They’re the top scorers in the division, being the only side to have fired in at least 40 goals at this stage. That isn’t to suggest defensively they’re shabby, as they’re not. Just looking at their form they’ve not kept that many recent clean sheets, just three in their last 14 overall.
Something which cannot be ignored when talking about this game is what happened earlier in the campaign when these two met. The first 20-minutes or so went by without too much incident, but Jonkopings would eventually storm to a 7-1 win. Bear in mind this came away from home and they went into it losing two of their last three. That remains one of only three home losses for Norrby.
In the four meetings in league and cup since these two sides were united in the same league, Jonkopings has won three and drew the other, keeping two clean sheets in the process. They really are the team to be with this weekend, and more often than not in this league in general.
Jonkopings to win and Over 2.5 Goals will be the selection at 11/8 (Boylesports). Some of the numbers across the season as a whole may not support this paying off, but more recently it will do. We already know the home team are in great form, but eight of their last 14 beat the 2.5 goal line. Norrby have also conceded at least three goals in four of their last six on the road in the league.
Shandong Luneng v Shanghai Shenhua – Shandong Luneng to win and Both Teams To Score (9/5 Betway)
Jonkopings v Norrby – Jonkopings to win and Over 2.5 Goals (11/8 Boylesports)