North Terrace preview can feel the man-flu setting in — or is that close-season affective disorder? Either way, the end of a soap opera 2012 is almost behind Shanghai Shenhua.
Last Time Out
Shenhua held Dalian Aerbin to a torpid 0-0 draw up north in a game so dull and meaningless that no Shanghai TV channels even covered it, preferring to focus on Jinshan Shenxin’s fight to stay up.
Qingdao meanwhile continued their now-traditional late-season form to beat Guangzhou R&F and propel themselves ahead of Shenhua in the table.
Causes for Optimism…
Erm… have you seen Shenhua play in the last couple of weeks?
… and for Concern
Shenhua wrap up an abysmal 2012 campaign in which they mathematically can’t even achieve a top-half finish, having only escaped relegation worries due to results elsewhere last week.
Even without the Anelka and Drogba factor, this marks a second inexcusably poor season in a row, and one in which precious few bright sparks have been seen.
Shenhua round out their campaign having attracted a sub-10,000 crowd to their previous home game, and with huge question marks over which of their big-money imports will be seen either this week or next year.
The defence has begun to creak again after holding out so admirably for much of the season, the midfield revolves around a man who, while a great long passer and set-piece threat, is out of wind after 20 minutes, and the attack is lop-sided and one-paced which the side’s creative spark is benched more often than not.
And that’s before we start on the rumours of post-season exits…
Watch Out For
The atmosphere, as much as anything else — an end-of-season celebration is hardly appropriate, so expect another bizarre funereal quiet similar to the Changchun fixture.
A rotten end to a rotten season, likely to be played out without star players in front of a pitiful crowd. And against one of the league’s more in-form sides to boot.
The thing with football, though, is that there’s often no logic to the thing. And it’s the hope rather than the despair which always kills us fans. So North Terrace Preview is going for a 3-1 win masterminded by the stylings of Jiang Kun, with Cao Yunding and even Joel Griffiths popping up on the score sheet to paper over some cracks and leave us all with a false sense of optimism that 2013 will be OK.*
*2013 will not be OK.
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