Chinese Super League unveils unique format for COVID-shortened season

Society & Culture

In this week's China Sports Column: China's top domestic soccer league will crown a champion through a tournament-style format; meet Zhou Guanyu, China's auto-racing hope; and can anyone beat the Guangdong Southern Tigers?

Chinese Super League 2020 season preview

The Chinese Super League released the schedule for the first stage of the 2020 season today.

Clubs got the news two weeks ago that the league would kick off on July 25, after a four-month delay. During this time, clubs have ramped up preseason training and preparations.

The league will be split into two separate groups of eight teams and will play the season in a championship-style format. Each group will be based in either Dalian or Suzhou; teams were sorted based on last year’s standings.

Dalian hosts Group A, which features Chinese FA Cup winners Shanghai Shenhua, defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, as well as crosstown rivals Guangzhou R&F. Home team Dalian Pro are also in the group. Evergrande will face Shenhua in the season opener on the 25th.

Group B, on the other hand, features Beijing Guoan and Shanghai SIPG, the sides that finished second and third last season. Wuhan Zall, freshly returned from a coronavirus-induced exile, was also placed into the Suzhou group.

During the group stage, clubs will face each other twice before getting split into two. The top four teams in each group will face off in the quarterfinals, while the bottom teams get sorted into a bottom-half relegation quarterfinal.

While most clubs in the league successfully managed to bring back their overseas stars in time, Chongqing Lifan only saw the return of their Brazilian quartet and Mierzejewski today. Chongqing will now play the first game without five foreign stars, who have to do a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The Brazilian quartet of Marcinho, Alan Kardec, Fernandinho, and Marcelo Cirino were forced to stop in Poland to pick up midfielder Adrian Mierzejewski on the way back to China.


Zhou Guanyu gets a podium as the F2 season picks up

Zhou Guanyu

Chinese driver Zhōu Guānyǔ 周冠宇 achieved his first podium of the delayed Formula 2 season in the feature race of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix.

Zhou had to overcome torrential rain and a safety car to battle with his UNI-Virtuosi teammate Callum Ilott to pick up a third-place finish. Despite qualifying second on the grid, the treacherous conditions gave the Chinese driver a good start to the race after starting under the safety car. However, Zhou’s car, which was set up for a very wet race, soon found itself outpaced by cars on a more intermediate weather strategy as the track began to dry out.

A solid third place in Saturday’s feature race and a fourth-place in the reverse grid sprint race on Sunday has pushed Zhou up to eighth in the championship.

The 21-year-old Shanghai native is part of the Renault Sport Academy, the young driver program for the Renault F1 Team, and was tipped to take the vacant 2021 seat in the F1 team left by Daniel Ricciardo. Ex-world champion Fernando Alonso subsequently took the seat.

Zhou is one of the favorites for the F2 title this year after showing drastic improvement last season.

This piece in Autoweek gives a good overview of the young Chinese driver’s career as well as his trajectory to becoming China’s first F1 driver.


Guangdong Southern Tigers’ mammoth run continues

Guangdong look like champions already. The Dongguan-based CBA powerhouses defeated Bayi Rockets in Qingdao on Sunday to stretch their current winning streak to 24 games.

Guangdong have only lost twice so far this season, winning 39 of 41 games played.

Next week could prove to be history-making for the southern Chinese team. Guangdong head into fixtures against Guangzhou Loong Lions and Zhejiang Lions on Tuesday and Thursday knowing that they can equal the league record of consecutive victories. The previous record was also set by the Southern Tigers back in 2014.

Led by China captain Zhōu Péng 周鹏 and nine-time all-star Yì Jiànlián 易建联 as well as China national team players Zhào Ruì 赵锐, Rèn Jùnfēi 任骏飞, and Sū Wěi 苏伟, Guangdong’s spine of experience has built consistency during the season, both before and after the season shutdown.

Guangdong basketball player suspended for violating league’s COVID-19 containment measure

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.