It’s that time again – the Jing-Hu Dazhan (京沪大战), or “China Derby” between Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua.
Both teams go into this match in less than ideal circumstances – under-performing Guoan fired head coach Hong Yuanshuo during the week, whilst Shenhua have not, one, not two, but three star foreign players unable to play.
Syrian defender Ali Diab and Chinese Super League joint-top scorer Duvier Riascos are suspended for the big match, and Shanghai Ultraian front man Jean Michel N’Lend is out after picking up an injury in training. That pretty much leaves Shenhua out of goalscoring options, with only unproven young striker Dong Xuesheng, and proven-to-be-not-that-good Vicente, the only other forwards in Shenhua’s threadbare strikeforce.
So, what can we expect for tomorrow’s big match? Following his outburst last week, veteran Shenhua boss Miroslav Blažević was up to his old tricks on the club’s offical news channel again. This time however he was in a more light-hearted mood, joking that yesterday was “workers day” for his squad and not China’s traditional mid-autumn festival public holiday, as he made his players train in preparation for the big match whilst the rest of the country enjoyed a day off.
He spoke of his regret at losing so many key players, but warned that Shenhua would “not surrender” to Beijing. He said the recent sacking of Guoan boss Hong Yuanshuo would only motivate the Beijing players to perform better, a phenomenon which he considered to be the same in football the world over.
Blažević also dismissed out of hand, suggestions that Guoan were lining him up as a replacement. He said he had heard nothing of this and suggested it was nothing other than a rumour started by the Beijing sports press.
Tomorrow’s visit aside, its hard to see Blažević going anywhere near Beijing, except perhaps to change flights on a trip home to the Balkans at the season’s end. Unfortunately for Shenhua, it’s just about as hard to see them taking three points from tomorrow’s match with three key players missing – where are the goals going to come from?
Sadly, as the Modern Lei Feng’s editor notes, I’m going to miss the pleasure of meeting the only other person crazy enough to blog in English about Chinese football. I, and most other Shenhua fans, can’t make it to Beijing due to the ridiculous shambles which is the Chinese autumn public holiday schedule this year. Until next year!