Even a the most ardent Shenhua believers are struggling for positives ahead of this weekend’s local derby. Last Time Out Shenhua’s abject surrender at bottom-of-the-table Qingdao marked a new low even for this worst-ever first half of a season. Losing is one thing, but doing so with no discernible plan and making a painfully average Jonoon side look completely comfortable is quite another. Batista’s team-talk appears to have been along the rousing lines of “follow your captain’s example and don’t bother turning up”. By contrast, Sainty consolidated their nascent grip on second place in the table, following up their victory over Beijing Guo’an with a win against high-flying R&F. Causes for Optimism… Sorry… tried scraping the bottom of the barrel for something to say here, but the bottom fell out. One possible positive is that a shellacking at the hands of a well-oiled and balanced Sainty side might wake the Shenhua hierarchy up to the fact that a couple of hours down the road in Nanjing, there’s a perfect example of how to build a CSL side going on. …and for Concern Wow, where to start? The defense is finally starting to crack under the strain of being provided no support or respite from the players in front of them. Nicolas Anelka appears not to care that the wider world is slowly waking up to the fact that, well, Nicolas Anelka doesn’t care. And Jiang Kun somehow continues to get in the side — the man whose slow-mo YouTube highlights reel makes you marvel at just how quickly paint dries. Watch Out For Batista’s answer to the striker conundrum — Anelka is reportedly absent, Griffiths unsurprisingly injured, and Drogba still in transit. So like most of the season, Shenhua will be playing without a striker — at least the coach can select an 11th player to make up the numbers. If a 4-6-0 is good enough for Spain, what odds on Cao Yunding being recalled and Moreno deployed as a false 9? The Verdict With the perverse pleasure of the long-suffering fan, North Terrace Preview is sticking its neck out to switch up a diphthong in the Kaizer Chiefs’ signature anthem and predict a rout. In Sainty you have a football team with stable management, showing form and confidence, and reaping the benefits of a thought-out transfer policy which recognizes football as a team game and plans accordingly. In Shenhua you have an utter shambles sitting a point from the bottom of the CSL, on their fourth manager of the season and with a caricature of Florentino Perez’s old “Zidanes y Pavones” transfer policy. The Shenhua version translates into “a has-been, a perma-crock, a never-was, a couple of might-be-one-days and a bunch of never-quite-will-bes”.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015