Champions begin life without hitman Wu

Sports | 1 Mar 2019

The departure of goal machine Wu Lei puts extra pressure on the broad shoulders of Brazilian striker Hulk as Shanghai SIPG kick off their Chinese Super League title defense today.

The champions lost the league's top-scorer to La Liga side Espanyol during the off-season and have failed to replace him. The China forward hit 27 goals in 29 games to fire SIPG to their first major crown.

But coach Vitor Pereira, who masterminded the end of Guangzhou Evergrande's seven-year reign as champions, is keen to move on. "With hard work, team spirit and humility ... as a family, we can achieve our goals and win more titles," Pereira said.

He will be desperate to keep Hulk, 32, fit and firing. The skipper, who has 51 goals in 88 matches since arriving from Zenit St Petersburg in 2016, missed some of last year's title run due to injury. SIPG, who also have Brazilian midfielder Oscar, open their new season at cross-town rivals Shanghai Shenhua.

The good news for Hulk and SIPG is that Evergrande also failed to significantly strengthen in the close season.

Shandong Luneng, who finished third last season, made one of the most significant acquisitions of the Chinese transfer window, snapping up Marouane Fellaini from Manchester United. He is joined in China by fellow Belgian midfielder Mousa Dembele, who signed for Guangzhou R&F from Tottenham.


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