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Pub talk: Derby weekends in the far north and south

beers lined upThis week’s pubtalk sees Bcheng and the editor meet up to discuss the Chinese Super League goings-on of the past few days and their views on the coming games this weekend. Shenhua’s fabulous late show against Shandong, Guoan coach Jamie Pacheco’s animated zeal, and the Liaoning and Guangdong derbies catch their attention.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan)
Before we get to the weekend matches, what do you think of all the upsets in the FA Cup?

Shanghai Ultra ( Editor, Shanghai Shenhua fan):
In some ways its good, I like seeing smaller teams beat bigger teams.

B: Definitely, would have been awesome if Guizhou could have pulled off the upset against Guangzhou.

S: But in other ways, I wonder if it says the Chinese Super League teams are either not trying or are of even poorer quality than we dare imagine

B: Of the 6 Chinese Super League teams in action the other day, only 2 managed to win, Guangzhou barely eeked out their win, and Nanchang was going up against the “university team” of BIT

C: Actually we ought to do something on about the China League at least now and again. But that’s another story.

B: I’d imagine a lot of sides weren’t really up for these matches, and the sides that did lose are sides that could very well be headed down.

S: Yeah Jiangsu being knocked out on penalties to Tianjing Songjiang, who I think were in the Chinese 3rd level last season, if I’m not mistaken.

B: Yeah, two of those losses were matches that went to penalties.

S: And Shenzhen continue their miserable start to the 2011 campagin, they are out to another Dalian team. I hope Dalian Aerbin don’t get promoted to the Chinese Super League. But I think they are top in the China League and have won most of their games. I just think Dalian is too small a city to have two Chinese Super League teams.

B: I’d hope they at least play IN Dalian. Anyways, looking forward to a team with Shanghai on their kits coming to Gongti next week!

S: Beijing are playing Shanghai East Asia?

B: Yeah.

S: That’s interesting. I think Shanghai East Asia have moved stadium, they are playing at Yuanshen over in Pudong. The 80,000 seat Shanghai Stadium is rather more bigger than they need, to say the least.

B: Yeah, definitely, don’t understand why teams don’t utilize smaller stadiums. So to the Chinese Super League, away at Changchun coming off the big win last week, any thoughts?

S: Changchun is always a tricky place to go. I think Shenhua though have the momentum of their three victories on the trot in the Chinese Super League. They will of course want to forget their 2-0 reverse against Kashima in the ACL during the week.

B: Yeah, kind of shocking Tianjin’s carrying the flag for Chinese soccer in the ACL. That last Shenhua game was a bit of a heart stopper though.

S: Yes, scoring in the last minute against Shandong – I think that goes right up there amongst my personal favourite moments at Hongkou stadium. The celebrations basically didn’t stop from the goal, to the final whistle, and then to Shenhua fans’ usual post-match singing and chanting under the elevated metroline.

B: Sounds like a great time, it’s those kind of moments that make it work coming out to watch the Chinese Super League.

S: I have to confess, my group headed to a bar afterwards, then to an eatery to meet some other Shenhua fans. Certain individuals amongst us over-indulged themselves and created a scene in the restaurant.

B: Ala Mao Jianqing?!? No trips to the paichusuo I hope.

S: Well, I think some of the other diners didn’t find our “Shandong SB” chants in the middle of the restaurant as funny as we did. I’m not sure what they found more shocking. The chants themselves, or the mixed Chinese/foreign group chanting obscenities in mandarin.

B: Haha, nice.

S: A few ‘gan bei’s’ too many. Anyway, enough tales of debauchery, back to the weekends games.

B: Right,so Changchu ? I don’t think Shanghai need to be very afraid, Changchun can’t seem to win, but a draw could be in the cards.

S: I think Shenhua won’t be that bothered about their midweek ACL defeat. They were as good as out before the game anyway. So I think they will be confident of going for a fourth victory. What im interested in is Xi Zhikang’s tactics He’s used a number of different attacking lineups.

B: Yeah, he seems to be playing with the squad a lot at this point, is it a rotation thing or a matter of him trying to find his best 11?

S: I think its a bit of both. He said he rested Feng Renliang against Shenzhen a few weeks ago, in preparation for the ACL game against Sydney. But lately he’s played just one upfront. I think Riascos, last seasons Chinese Super League golden boot winner, and Luis Salmeron, the Argentinan signed this season, are a classic target man/fast and nimble goalscorer combination. But Xi Zhikang hasn’t utilized them in this way so far. So, I’m interested to see how things unfold on the tactical front in the coming months. So Beijing are away to Chengdu. How do you call that one?

B: I’d expect another 3 points, Guoan are firing on all cylinders after 2 straight 3-0 victories and Chengdu is struggling, to say the least.

S: Right – Chengdu almost folded in the close season I believe.

B: Speaking of rosters, Jamie Pacheco seems to have found a good XI, the center of the defense still is shaky, but the offense has more than made up for it Martinez has consistently impressed so far and Roberto really came to play against Nanchang last week. Any Chinese Super League away match is always a recipe to be stung and so you can never be too excited, but I am confident going into this one.

S: Your new Portuguese manager seems to be a very animated fellow.

B: Yeah, a nice change from Grandpa Hong (Hong Yuanshuo). He was pretty far down the list, but it seems Guoan found a gem in Pacheco.

S: I watched some clips online, I saw Pacheco jumping around like he had some small animal trapped inside his underpants. It’s good to see expression and passion though. I’m all for it.

B:Any other games you have your eye on?

S: For other games, I’d have to say Liaoning v Dalian, something of a local derby. Well, provincial derby anyway.

B: Argh, if it wasn’t mother’s day, you’d have a “View from Dongbei” up on Monday. Really want to make the trip up to Shenyang for that one, should be exciting, and I half expect we’ll here more about fan violence.

S: Yes, there’s been some toe-to-toe action of late at certain games.

S: Also, Shenzhen v Guangdong.

B: Derby days are always fun, both of those games will have some added passion, though I can’t see Shenzhen able to do much.

S: Yes, I can see the headlines for that match already: “Shenzhen crash and burn.”

B: We were on the subject of managers, what about the “manager-less sides derby” between Shandong and Jiangsu?

S: Haha. I haven’t read the stories behind those to be honest

B: Jiangsu fires their manager after 5 win less matches (plus the pk loss in the FA Cup), thats a little harsh…

S: It is, agree. But why did Ivanković resign from Shandong?

B: “Illness”

S: Ah. Sounds like a typical excuse trotted out when Chinese Super League managers move on.

B: Yeah, Shandong haven’t really found their form yet, and their AFC performance leaves something to be desired though they are still in the running if they can win in Osaka. Personally, I think the game of the week is probably Tianjin hosting Shaanxi.

S: Yes, both those teams are looking strong so far. Shaanxi look like they might be the business this season after flattering to deceive last year, what with their big-money buys.

B: Exactly, and Xian is one of the hardest places to play. will be interesting to see how they fare on the road.

S: Xian is indeed a tough place in all senses of the word.

B: Tianjin has to hope their ACL mojo rubs off in the league, where they’ve only been average so far.
S: Yes, they are flying the flag for China in the aCL

B: I also think the league leaders may be in for a slip up going to Zhengzhou this weekend.

S: Yes. I’m not convinced Hangzhou are the real deal in terms of being a championship contender. Don’t forget, for some ridiculous reasons we covered on before, they aren’t playing in Hangzhou this season. Except, bizarrely, in the ACL. I read that their crowd figures for their games in Yiwu or Jiaxing (can’t remember which) are about 6,000 or so.

B: I’m convinced Hangzhou is a contender, especially after Ramirez steamrolled Guoan, but I don’t think they have what it takes in the end.

S: I think not playing in Hangzhou will only hurt them more and more as the season goes on.

B: In the long run, it might, but there are very few serious “home field advantages” in the Chinese Super League. The commute may wear on the players though.

S: Well, some tasty games this weekend. Lets hope there’s plenty of spills and thrills for the fans.

B: Yeah, lots of talking points, it should be a good one.

S: Thanks Bcheng for another virtual pint. Will you be having a few real ones this weekend?

B: It’s the weekend, it’s a must, though with Sunday being Mother’s day, gotta go upscale and knock back a couple glasses of Champagne for all the mothers out there (I doubt that my own mom even reads these, but anyways, happy mother’s day to all).

S: What a nice young man you are – I’m sure all readers will be raising a glass also!

B: Let’s hope we’re both raising pints to victories over the weekend.

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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