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Cannavaro says China title race ‘will go to last game’

Shanghai (AFP) – Fabio Cannavaro expects the Chinese Super League (CSL) title race between his side Guangzhou Evergrande and leaders Shanghai SIPG to go to “the last minute of the last game”.

A four-horse race a couple of months ago has been reduced to a straight fight between the two sides after Shandong Luneng and Beijing Guoan fell away.

Heading into the international break and with five games left, the expensive Brazilian duo of Hulk and Oscar at SIPG are top, four points clear of Cannavaro’s reigning champions.

Luneng and Guoan are six points further back, a gap that they are unlikely to bridge.

Adding spice to what is being touted by some as the most exciting title race since the CSL was formed in 2004, SIPG will travel to Evergrande on November 3.

Each side will have just two matches left after that. 

After seeing his team — who have lifted seven consecutive CSL crowns — win 3-0 at Hebei China Fortune on Saturday, Cannavaro said: “I’ve been in the football world for so many years now.

“I know that too many things can happen in five matches,” the Italian World Cup winner was quoted by Soccer News as saying. 

“I’ve always believed that we will not know the league champion until the last minute of the last game.”

Evergrande’s victory at Chris Coleman’s Hebei temporarily cut SIPG’s lead to one point.

But if Vitor Pereira’s side were feeling the heat, they did not show it, restoring their four-point advantage with a 5-0 home thrashing of bottom side Guizhou Zhicheng on Sunday.

Hulk scored once and Chinese international forward Wu Lei grabbed his CSL-leading 22nd and 23rd goals of the season.

Cannavaro, who took over this season from Luiz Felipe Scolari, compared the duel with SIPG to a Formula One race.

“We are a Ferrari and Schumacher is driving in it,” the 45-year-old told his side.

“We must follow our own line on the track and not make mistakes, and at the same time, see if other drivers have the ability to withstand the pressure of the race.”

Both sides have comfortable title run-ins, with Evergrande home to struggling Tianjin Teda and SIPG away at relegation-threatened Tianjin Quanjian on November 11, the final day.

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