Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashima Antlers
Competition: AFC Champions League
Date: 23 May 2017
Kick-off: 14:00 CET
In their last group game against Suwon Bluewings at home, Guangzhou Evergrande flirted with disaster. They needed at least a draw to qualify, they were left behind in the score in the 9th minute, they did turn it around taking the lead in the 68th minute, but ten minutes from time the Korean side made it 2-2, so for more than ten minutes Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team were just one goal away from seeing their Champions League season come to a super premature end. The game finished 2-2, and everyone at Guangzhou was relieved. After that, they beat Changchun Yatai and Jiangsu Suning in China’s championship, where they remain at the top, two points ahead of second-placed Shanghai SIPG. Last Friday, against Jiangsu, it was Brazilian left winger Alan who did the job for Evergrande, scoring both their goals. The former Fluminense player didn’t start the season impressively, but he’s showing signs of improvement. Scolari chose to rest his captain, defensive midfielder Zheng Zhi, to have him as ‘fresh’ as possible against Kashima. The coming weekend, Guangzhou are hosting Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, the worst performing CSL team these last weeks.
Two weeks ago, I trusted Kashima Antlers to beat Muang Thong United in a game that would have at least three goals. Final score, 2-1, which gave the Japanese side the top spot in the group (they had already qualified for the last 16 before kick-off). After that though, they somehow dropped the ball in Japan’s championship, losing twice(!), at home(!!), by a total score of 1-5, to Vissel Kobe and Kawasaki Frontale. Even that one goal they scored against Vissel, it came in the 89th minute, with the score at 0-2 by the 14th minute. What hurts Kashima the most, is that in that loss to Vissel they also lost two very important players. Defensive midfielder Leo Silva had to undergo surgery after getting injured against the Kobe team, and will miss a total of eight weeks. Right midfielder Yasushi Endo also got injured, and will stay sidelined for a whole month, meaning that he’s missing the return leg against Guangzhou next week as well.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashima Antlers: Head-to-head Stats
Guangzhou Evergrande have hosted Kashima Antlers once before, two years ago, in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, and they beat them 4-3(!).
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashima Antlers: Prediction
Guangzhou have eight victories in their last nine matches, and even that draw against Suwon was like a win, since it was enough to send them through to the last 16 of the Champions League. Kashima are hurt, both by the injuries of two key players, but also by the latest results at home. I have to back the hosts to win this one.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Kashima Antlers: Tips
Guangzhou’s win is at 1.66. In their last two games their defense looked much more solid than before. This, in combination with Kashima’s offensive troubles lately, makes me suggest a Guangzhou win while also keeping a clean sheet, which pays much better, 3.10.