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Chinese Super League

Shenhua clinch ACL qualification, but not runners-up spot

Shanghai Shenhua will compete in next year’s Asian Champions League (ACL) after securing their place with a lackluster 0-0 draw against relegation-facing Qingdao at Hongkou Football Stadium.

It was another dissapointing result for Shenhua who now face the possibiillty of finishing the season in third place despite never having been out of the top two all year, seeing as in-form Tianjin beat Shaanxi 3-1 at home (see video highlights) to also qualify for the ACL and move to within a point of the Shanghai side. Shenhua must win away to  champions Shandong to guarantee the runner-up spot, whilst Tianjin have a tricky away fixture to Henan.

Shenhua are in negotiations to keep coach Miroslav Blažević for another year, according to several domestic media sources, with the man himself aparently keen to stay but specific contract details to be agreed. Such finer points may have something to do with the Diego Maradona rumours the other week.

For the fourth and final ACL qualification spot, Hangzhou are in pole position on 45 points after beating Henan 1-0 at home, with Beijing two points behind following their 2-2 draw away to Liaoning – which incidentally was another game which featured a dust-up between rival fans after the match, check out the pictures of the rumpus on Sports 163. Dalian are one point further back and are in with a shout if Hangzhou and Beijing slip up.

But the real action on the last day of the season will be at the opposite end of the table. The bottom five are separated by just two points, and two of these teams, Nanchang on 31 points and Changsha on 29, go head-to-head. So realistically a draw will be good enough for Nanchang.

Shenzhen, Qingdao and Chongqing are the other teams in the relegation mix on 31, 30, and 29 points respectively, seeking to avoid replacing Guangzhou and Chengdu who will both return to the Chinese Super League next year, following their relegation punishment last year for match fixing.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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