It might be a bit early to write off the chances of a team winning the Chinese Super League title after just two games, but the upcoming international break does give us time to reflect on the opening two rounds of the 2017 domestic season.
Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai SIPG and Jiangsu Suning are in AFC Champions League action this week, but in terms of the Super League, we will see you in April as China resume their already doomed qualifying campaign for the 2018 Fifa World Cup at home to South Korea and away to Iran.
A look at the Super League table sees Shanghai SIPG and somewhat surprise packages Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou R&F leading the way with the only 100% records remaining after two games.
SIPG are expected to be there with the likes of Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson to call upon, Shandong seem to have a solid enough squad under hard German taskmaster Felix Magath, but it is the sight of R&F and not Evergrande as Guangzhou’s representative at the top of the table that requires a double take.
But there they are. They have had a relatively easy start with wins over 2016 League One champions Tianjin Quanjian and Changchun Yatai at home, so let’s check back in when the next World Cup qualifiers roll around in June and see if order has been restored.
Changchun are the only side in the Super League without a point from their opening two games, although another side who were expected to struggle have two from two.
But with all the money in the Super League and the ease in which conspiracy theories appear (just ask Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari), and the previous history of the league and its association with match-fixing, expect to see this arrive soon rather than later.
Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi, who is also the captain of the national team, is one player who should be fresher than most after missing their 2-1 defeat by Shandong at the weekend.
Zheng was sent off as Evergrande beat Beijing on the opening weekend, and it was a far cop, so he missed this weekend. Fine.
But what led Scolari to claim his side are being punished unfairly in favour of SIPG is that Zheng will also miss April’s showdown with Andre Villas-Boas’ early pacesetters after being handed an additional one-match ban after taking his time to leave the field after his dismissal against Beijing.
Zheng did seem to take his time to head for an early bath, with Scolari claiming his captain needed an ice compression on the bench.
Another play who should be well rested in SIPG’s Zhang Huachen as Villas-Boas again withdraw his mandatory Chinese under 23 player after 17 minutes of their 2-0 win over Yanbian Funde at Shanghai Stadium having also substituted the 18-year-old after 30 minutes of their 5-1 comeback win over Changchun a week earlier.
Villas-Boas has been openly critical of the new squad rules enforced on clubs this season which SIPG are complying with, and while he as the coach has the right to make changes he sees fit, the question again needs to be asked, does hauling off a teenager in such a way really help anyone?