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North Terrace Preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai Shenxin

A Shanghai derby makes a return to the Chinese Super League this weekend. Your weekly fan’s-eye preview is looking forward to Saturday’s game, which may even see some goals being scored at Hongkou stadium.

Last Time Out

Shenhua left Liaoning with a creditable 1-1 draw, even if Whowin’s late, late equalizer made it feel more like two points dropped than one gained.

A Shenhua side hit by defensive absentees and welcoming back its multi-million dollar strike force of Anelka and Griffiths nevertheless continued morphing slowly into a proper football team by scoring again from a set-piece and defending with reasonable composure.

Shenxin pulled off perhaps the surprise result of the round, putting 4 goals past the high-flying R&F in a game at Jinshan in which the home side looked genuinely dangerous and composed throughout.

Causes for Optimism…

Despite the axing of Tigana, Nicolas Anelka (with the help of Jean Ibenge’s signature) has been sticking largely to his compatriot’s early-season plan: keeping a tight and composed defensive unit, alternating between a wide range of options in midfield, and standing around watching the game pass him by.

North Terrace Preview keeps banging this drum, but the overall solidity of the side genuinely does appear to be progressing this season, and Shenhua have even re-discovered the art of scoring from corner kicks. There’s a base here, and a fairly young one at that, for the front two and Cao Yunding to put the icing & cherry on top of, once all three are fit and firing.

…and for Concern

Solid base, anaemic attack. Only two sides have scored fewer than Shenhua this season, and their cross-city neighbours and visitors this weekend have scored almost twice as many (13 to Shenhua’s paltry 7). This shouldn’t necessarily be overly surprising when considering that Shenhua have struggled with Griffiths’ injuries, Manset’s ineptitude and Anelka’s sloth up front thus far.

Watch Out For…

The Shanghai football-following public, or paucity thereof. Granted, Shenhua have followed up an awful second half of 2011 with a 100%+ price hike and equally poor start to 2012, and Shenxin are newly relocated and barely inside Shanghai proper (in the suburb of Jinshan), but the two are drawing no more than 20,000-30,000 between them this season. Given Shanghai’s population, Shenhua’s pedigree and even Shenxin’s origins as a Shanghai side in the previous decade, this can be a little disappointing to see.

Those who do go regularly are genuine football fans who’d hold their own in any stadium anywhere in the world. Those who don’t… well, this first Shanghai Chinese Super League derby since 2006 and the merger gives us the chance to see just how many casual fans the clubs can attract.

The Verdict

There should be a cracking atmosphere for this one, and Shenxin have proved that they are able to score goals. Shenhua’s reasonable form has continued over the past couple of games, but they will need to score more than their customary one goal to win this game — North Terrace Preview is predicting plenty of goalmouth action and a high-scoring game which either side could edge.

Steve hosts the Chinese Football Podcast, having joined the WEF team as correspondent for Shanghai Shenhua, the side he has followed since moving to Shanghai in 2010. Exiled from the Victorian town-centre idyll of Feethams along with his childhood football team, Steve spent many an (un)happy year on Hongkou's North Terrace along with the Shenhua Element Crew and Blue Devils before relocating to Sydney from where he continues to follow the Chinese game from afar.

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