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December 8, 2021

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Zheng in for Cannavaro at Guangzhou

Former Asian Player of the Year Zheng Zhi has been appointed acting head coach of eight-time champion Guangzhou FC ahead of the Chinese Super League’s resumption on Sunday.

Zheng, who was named the continent’s best player in 2013, takes over from Fabio Cannavaro after the Italian left the club by mutual consent in September.

The 41-year-old Zheng will also remain part of Guangzhou’s playing staff.

“It has been decided after consideration that Zheng Zhi will be the acting head coach and player of Guangzhou FC,” the club said in a statement yesterday.

“We hope that all the coaches, players and staff members of the club can overcome all difficulties, train hard and work hard to complete the season with a strong sense of honor, responsibility and team spirit.”

The league is set to resume on Sunday after taking a four-month break to accommodate the Chinese national team’s qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

Zheng joined Guangzhou in 2010 after spells in Europe with Charlton Athletic and Celtic and has been central to the success of the Evergrande-backed side.

He captained the club to all eight of its domestic titles as well as to the AFC Champions League crown in 2013 and 2015. He also won the Chinese FA Cup in 2012 and 2016.

Guangzhou, however, is in a state of flux.

Property developer Evergrande, which has been struggling to meet repayments on over US$300 billion in debt, is considering selling the club, while foreign players Paulinho, Anderson Talisca and Ricardo Goulart have all departed.

Guangzhou is set to face Beijing Guoan in its first game back on Sunday.

China’s stringent approach to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the format of this year’s CSL altered, with teams split into two centralized groups of eight for the regular season ahead of the championship and relegation rounds.

Teams finishing in the top four in each group advanced to the championship phase while the bottom four will meet to determine who will feature in a pair of relegation playoffs.

Guangzhou will also take on Changchun Yatai, Guangzhou City, Hebei FC, Shandong Taishan, Shanghai Port and Shenzhen in the championship rounds, which will be played in Guangzhou, southern Guangdong Province.

Cangzhou Mighty Lions, Chongqing Athletic, Dalian Pro, Henan Longmen, Qingdao FC, Shanghai Shenhua, Tianjin Tigers and Wuhan FC will feature in the relegation stage in Suzhou, neighboring Jiangsu Province.

With the league due to expand from 16 to 18 clubs next season, the bottom two teams in the relegation phase will meet the third- and fourth-placed finishers from China League One to determine the final two berths in the top flight.

Matches in the relegation group will also begin on Sunday. The final round of the championship stage is due to be completed on January 3.

The relegation playoffs will be held over two legs. The first matches will be held on January 7-8 with the return legs on January 11-12.


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