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Spanish FA was right to fire Lopetegui


How Panama made World Cup dream a reality

 By Chris Atkins

Alex Teixeira and Gervinho headline Chinese Super League spenders

Ahead of the weekend's big kick-off in the Chinese Super League, here's an at-a-glance guide to those vying for glory in a competition that has captured headlines over the world following some big-name arrivals from abroad.

Beijing Guoan

Last season: 4th

Season in a sentence: A return to the Champions League will be the target after dropping out of the Asian elite for just the second time since 2007.

Club Introduction: Widely regarded as one of China's most prestigious clubs. However, with just a solitary CSL title to their name, in 2009, they have failed to earn the success their status deserves.

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni. Serie A winning coach with AC Milan, Zaccheroni has earned the Guoan job largely off the back of his successes with the Japan national side in recent years.

Key Player: Renato Augusto. The player of the year in the 2015 Brasileirao will be expected to provide Guoan's creative spark.

Watch Also: Zhang Xizhe. One of the league's best for goals and assists over recent campaigns.

Prediction: 4th

Changchun Yatai

Last season: 10th

Season in a sentence: Staying clear of relegation is the priority.

Club Introduction: Following promotion to the top flight in 2006, Changchun initially soared and finished in the top six in each of their first four CSL seasons. However, recent years have seen the club sell off much of their home-grown talent and results have suffered.

Manager: Slavisa Stojanovic. A former coach of the Slovenia national team, Stojanovic has won two league titles in his homeland with Domzale.

Key Player: Anzur Ismailov. Rarely beaten aerially and is accomplished with his feet.

Watch Also: Darko Matic. A leader in midfield.

Prediction: 14th

Chongqing Lifan

Last season: 8th

Season in a sentence: Bottom half mediocrity beckons.

Club Introduction: With two relegations and two promotions, they have never fully established themselves in the top flight.

Manager: Chang Woe-Ryong. Into his fourth spell as a head coach in China, Chang's reputation as a high-level CSL coach was largely acquired in saving Qingdao Jonoon from what appeared certain relegation in consecutive seasons.

Key Player: Emanuel Gigliotti. His 15 goals in his first CSL campaign accounted for 40 percent of the team's total.

Watch Also: Wang Dong. The 34-year-old veteran still has an important role to play.

Prediction: 9th

Guangzhou Evergrande

Last season: 1st

Season in a sentence: Champions again.

Club Introduction: The club's fairly unremarkable history changed entirely with the 2010 arrival of owners Evergrande. Immediately restored to the top flight as champions, they have gone on to win five consecutive CSL titles and two AFC Champions League crowns.

Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari is undefeated in CSL competition and a former World Cup winner with Brazil.

Key Player: Paulinho. Combative in defence and a potent attacking threat, his arrival was key to their 2015 ACL triumph.

Watch Also: Zheng Long. Added goals to his repertoire in 2015 and saved his best performances for the big occasion.

Prediction: 1st

Luiz Felipe Scolari has yet to lose a match in the CSL.

Guangzhou R&F

Last season: 14th

Season in a sentence: Fans will be praying that last season is not repeated after mediocre recruitment.

Club Introduction: Guangzhou R&F have existed since 2011, taking over a Shenzhen side and relocating them across Guangdong. Immediate promotion to the CSL followed and steady progress was made over the next three years, culminating in a third place finish in 2014.

Manager: Dragan Stojkovic. A legend of Yugoslavian football, Stojkovic chose to forge his managerial career in Japan where he enjoyed great success with Nagoya Grampus.

Key Player: Renatinho. His talent is clear for all to see, but he must transform his dribbling ability into solid returns.

Watch Also: Tang Miao. Consistently excellent in his four top-flight seasons.

Prediction: 12th

Hangzhou Greentown

Last season: 11th

Season in a sentence: There are many of the CSL's more traditional clubs worrying about relegation, but Hangzhou have most reason to be concerned.

Club Introduction: Starting their professional journey in 2001, Hangzhou progressed to the Super League in 2007 and briefly threatened to make themselves a major force. However, recent seasons have brought little more than an annual fight against relegation.

Manager: Hong Myung-Bo. South Korea's captain at the 2002 World Cup, Hong's spell as his country's Olympic team manager brought a bronze medal and quick ascension to head coach of the senior national team.

Key Player: Anselmo Ramon. If Hangzhou Greentown are to avoid relegation they need their Brazilian striker fit and firing.

Watch Also: Feng Gang. A member of China's U23 side, the Wuhan native offers an assured presence on the ball in midfield.

Prediction: 15th

Hebei CFFC

Last season: 2nd (promoted from China League One)

Season in a sentence: While their expenditure has been eye-catching, a top-half finish would be a major success.

Club Introduction: The club played their first professional season in 2011, earning promotion to the second tier in 2013. However, it was the 2015 takeover of the club by conglomerate China Fortune which has seen the club immediately rise to the CSL and capture headlines worldwide with their money-is-no-object policy to recruitment.

Manager: Li Tie. The former Everton player is in his first management job.

Key Player: Gervinho. Pace, power and the ability to create individually are qualities the league craves and Gervinho undoubtedly offers all three attributes.

Watch Also: Ding Haifeng. His signing was a real coup for Li Tie's side.

Prediction: 7th

Gervinho, signed from Roma, is just one of the eye-catching arrivals from Europe.

Henan Jianye

Last season: 5th

Season in a sentence: Any position inside the top 10 would be a fantastic result.

Club Introduction: One of the most unpredictable sides in the league, they have tended to struggle but have also managed to claim third and fifth place finishes over recent years.

Manager: Jia Xiuquan. Has rebuilt his ailing managerial career with Henan thanks to promotion and then a completely unexpected fifth place CSL finish.

Key Player: Ivo. Took the CSL by storm last term, with his league best return of 11 assists. Add in the seven goals he contributed and the Brazilian's importance to his side is clear.

Watch Also: Gu Cao. One of the first names on the teamsheet.

Prediction: 8th

Jiangsu Suning

Last season: 9th

Season in a sentence: A challenge for top three and AFC Champions League qualification is expected.

Club Introduction: Were largely in the second tier of Chinese football until recent years. Previous owners Sainty invested much into the club and earned a second place finish in 2012, but with Suning now capturing headlines for their massive financial injections, a new chapter for the club is under way.

Manager: Dan Petrescu. Performances and results will dictate his future following the club's big spending.

Key Player: Alex Teixeira. Signed for a new Asian record of €50 million, the former Shakhtar Donetsk player is expected to transform what was a mediocre squad into Champions League contenders.

Watch Also: Wu Xi. Captain and leading Chinese talent Wu Xi is the team's driving force in the centre of the park.

Prediction: 5th

Alex Teixeira's arrival, when he looked destined for Liverpool, was a massive coup for Jiangsu.

Liaoning Whowin

Last season: 12th

Season in a sentence: A never-ending fight against relegation almost certainly lies in wait.

Club Introduction: Have fallen on hard times, not finishing higher than 10th since 2009.

Manager: Ma Lin. His best achievement was earning the club an immediate return to the top-flight in 2009 as China League One champions.

Key Player: James Chamanga. Makes the whole side tick.

Watch Also: Yang Shanping. Liaoning's burly centre-back has once more stayed with the club despite speculation of a move elsewhere.

Prediction: 13th

Shandong Luneng

Last season: 3rd

Season in a sentence: Solid but uninspiring play should see Shandong into the Champions League.

Club Introduction: Have only once finished outside the league's top five places (2012). Three-time winners, they are heavyweights of Asian football.

Manager: Mano Menezes. The former Brazil national team head coach has been given a chance to improve upon the failings of compatriot Cuca.

Key Player: Gil. The Brazil international arrives from Corinthians with a sizeable reputation and has already added solidity in his initial AFC Champions League outings.

Watch Also: Liu Binbin. The pacey left-footer will look to improve upon his four goals and six assists from last campaign.

Prediction: 3rd

Shanghai Shenhua

Last season: 6th

Season in a sentence: The aim should be to crack the top four, with a top six finish closer to reality.

Club Introduction: Won the league in 2003 only to have the title taken away over match-fixing claims, but have also finished runner-up on three occasions.

Manager: Gregorio Manzano. Two solid but uninspiring years saw the Spaniard dismissed from Beijing Guoan last November before surprisingly turning up at their traditional rivals weeks later.

Key Player: Demba Ba. If Shenhua are to march up the league, they're going to need their former Newcastle and Chelsea striker to fire. Managed six in 11 appearances last term.

Watch Also: Bai Jiajun. A fiery full-back capable of playing on either side of the defence, Bai Jiajun is the most valuable Chinese player in Shenhua's squad.

Prediction: 6th

Demba Ba is the latest player to seek success at Shanghai Shenhua.
Demba Ba's fitness will be crucial to Shanghai Shenua's hopes this term.

Shanghai SIPG

Last season: 2nd

Season in a sentence: The aim should be to challenge Evergrande, but another year of Champions League qualification would be a success.

Club Introduction: Starting from the bottom of the professional pyramid in 2006 with a squad of players produced from their own academy, Shanghai East Asia finally reached the holy grail of the Super League in 2013. A 2015 takeover by SIPG has provided bigger money and star names, carrying the club to second in the league last season.

Manager: Sven-Goran Eriksson. The former England head coach has revived his flagging career in China, taking both Guangzhou R&F and Shanghai SIPG to the ACL for the first time in their histories.

Key Player: Dario Conca. One of the leading players in Chinese football over the past five years, the diminutive Argentine is one of his country's best in his position and undoubtedly had the potential to play in a high-level European league

Watch Also: Wu Lei. The best Chinese attacking player in the league.

Prediction: 2nd

Shijiazhuang Ever Bright

Last season: 7th

Season in a sentence: Matching last year will be the aim, but anything that keeps their heads firmly above water will keep the money men happy.

Club Introduction: The club has only been in the professional league structure since 2011 and in Shijiazhuang since 2013. Promotions in 2011 and 2014 have taken them to the top flight and a highly impressive debut CSL campaign saw them finish in the top half last year.

Manager: Yasen Petrov. A Bulgaria international as a player, Petrov had a mixed CV before arriving at Shijiazhuang in 2013. His record since, however, has been outstanding -- taking the club up and keeping them there.

Key Player: Jacob Mulenga. Shijiazhuang's potent counterattacks were a sight to behold last year and central to that approach was Zambian forward Mulenga. With his pace able to unsettle defences, he combined well with Venezuelan winger Rondon and Chinese forward Mao Jianqing to form a front three that worried even the league's best sides.

Watch Also: Li Chunyu. A good passer and a relentless worker, his unsung performances keep the side ticking over.

Prediction: 9th

Tianjin Teda

Last season: 13th

Season in a sentence: Scoring enough goals to replace the departed Hernan Barcos is key if a relegation fight is to be avoided.

Club Introduction: Consistently around the top half of the CSL table since Teda took the reigns in 1998, Tianjin's best finish came in 2010 when they finished runner-up to Shandong.

Manager: Dragan Okuka. Now a veteran of the CSL scene, Okuka's reputation was forged at Jiangsu where to took a team of hard-working but unexceptional players to second in the league.

Key Player: Fredy Montero. Colombia forward Montero arrives with great pedigree and will be a major threat with his runs down the channels.

Watch Also: Zhou Haibin. Tall, strong and technically accomplished, it is still clear why PSV Eindhoven saw talent in him a decade ago.

Prediction: 11th

Yanbian Fude

Last season: 1st (promoted from China League One)

Season in a sentence: Fude must try to be competitive -- anything greater will be a bonus.

Club Introduction: The club's history effectively starts in 2001 after the previous Yanbian side was forced to sell its league registration and squad after financial difficulties. Starting again in the third tier, the club have spent much of the last decade camped firmly in China League One.

Manager: Park Tae-Ha. The 47-year-old Korean is in his first management role and has greatly impressed, taking his side to promotion with some of the best football CL1 has witnessed in years.

Key Player: Ha Tae-Goon. Korean striker Ha's 26-goal campaign was central to Yanbian's promotion last year and they will need him to provide their main route to goal this season.

Watch Also: Chi Zhongguo. Has the technical ability to play at the top level in China, but must prove he is up to the task mentally.

Prediction: 16th

Chris Atkins is based in China and writes for ESPN FC about the Chinese Super League. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisAtkins_.


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