The second round of group games at the Asia Cup gets underway on Wednesday when Group A underdogs Lebanon take on China, with both sides looking to claim their first wins of the tournament.
The Cedars succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to tournament hosts Qatar on the opening day and must avoid defeat if they want to keep their hopes of progression alive.
China reached the quarter finals of the 2019 edition of the tournament and hopes of a similar run this time around were dented by their goalless draw with Tajikistan, in a game which saw just four shots on target from 30 total shots between the two nations.
Talismanic captain, top scorer and most-capped player Hassan Maatouk scored the last goal for the Cedars in this competition and he will be expected to lead the line again on Wednesday.
Head coach Miodrag Radulovic should not face any fresh injury concerns for this group stage fixture, with Nour Mansour likely to head a three-man defence at the back.
China could still be without captain Wu Xi after the captain missed the opening game with a hamstring issue, although this may be the only injury concern for head coach Aleksandar Jankovic.
Jankovic may well rotate his starting eleven for this crucial game, with the likes of Zhang Yuning, Xu Xin and Lin Liangming vying for starting places after making substitute appearances against Tajikistan.
Lebanon are 15/8 to win only their second ever Asian Cup game, whereas Dragon’s Team are 7/5 to take all three points.
A draw can be backed at 2/1, while China’s Lei Wu has odds of 5/2 to score at any point in the match.
China to win @ 7/5
With Qatar’s victory on the opening day, both these sides and Tajikistan will likely battle for the final knockout qualification spot in Group A.
Unlike Lebanon, China do have some form of pedigree in this competition, having previously reached the final of the tournament back in 2004.
Dragon’s Team will be confident of claiming the win against the Cedars, having won five of their previous six meetings, drawing the other.
However, China did lose each of their last three games before the start of the Asia Cup, so a dominant performance is unlikely.
Under 1.5 goals @ 6/4
Due to this wretched pre-tournament form, where China scored just once, it is hard to see this game resulting in a high-scoring affair.
China’s star striker Wu Lei will be the favourite to score after netting 32 times for his national side, putting second behind Hao Haidong in the all-time scoring charts.
Lebanon have also struggled to put the ball in the back of the net, with just three goals registered in their last five games.
It is therefore likely that a single goal may be enough to seal victory in this Group A clash, with the Cedars likely to be on the receiving end.
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