Gao Hongbo: Chinese Super League a problem for China players

Gao Hongbo believes the Chinese Super League season is having a detrimental effect on his team's hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals as the China coach named a 24-man squad that did not include former Asian Player of the Year Zheng Zhi.

Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Zheng is one of four changes from the squad that lost to South Korea and drew with Iran in China's opening two matches in the final phase of Asia's qualifying rounds for Russia 2018 as Gao prepares his team to take on Syria and Uzbekistan next month.

But, as the domestic season approaches its conclusion, Gao is concerned that fatigue is taking a toll on his players.

"As the coach of the national team, the first three or four days of training are always a headache for me," Gao said. "The players are exhausted, not only physically but also mentally.

"We still have four rounds of the Chinese Super League to go. Over the entire season, players from Evergrande, Shanghai SIPG or Shandong will have played almost 50 games.

"And considering we are in China, it is a big country and the travelling is long and energy-consuming. They are all in very bad shape. So the two games in October, and even the one in November, will be extremely difficult for us."

Hebei China Fortune's Du Wei has been recalled along with Shandong Luneng striker Yang Xu but Gao has already had one withdrawal as Evergrande's Liu Xuepeng pulled out due to injury. A decision will be made in the coming days whether further players will be called up.

"We called up 24 players, but Li Xuepeng is injured," Gao said. "We discussed with the doctor from Evergrande about his availability in training, it seems that he couldn't join us this time. So we have 23 for now, including Zhang Yuning.

"For these two or three days, we will focus on assessing players' physical and training status. Our head of medical will be here tomorrow, we will decide together whether we need to expand our roster or not."

China squad: Yang Zhi, Zhang Chengdong, Zhang Xizhe (all Beijing Guoan), Feng Xiaoting, Gao Lin, Huang Bowen, Liu Xuepeng, Zhang Linpeng (all Guangzhou Evergrande), Jiang Zhipeng (Guangzhou R&F), Du Wei, Jiang Ning (all Hebei China Fortune), Ren Hang, Gu Chao, Wu Xi, Zhang Xiaobin (all Jiangsu Suning), Hao Junmin, Yang Xu, Zhao Mingjian (all Shandong Luneng), Cai Huikang, Wu Lei, Yan Junling, Yu Hai (all Shanghai SIPG), Sun Ke (Tianjin Quanjian), Zhang Yuning (Vitesse, NED).