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North Terrace Preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Shanghai Shenxin

The Shanghai psuedo-derby returns, with a creaking Shenhua side hosting a freefalling nomadic “neighbour” this Saturday. Shenhua or Shenxin? This one may be tough to call.

Last Time Out

Shenhua’s 1-1 draw at Tianjin could be a copy-paste of so many match reports from 2013 — under the cosh for much of the game and possibly lucky to be within reach of the opposition, Shenhua then turned on the pressure during the closing stages and could even have won the game, with the equalizer from Dady being either a finish of sublime skill or a lucky scuff, depending upon the observer’s generosity regarding the big Cape Verdean’s skill level.

Shenxin’s 3-0 home loss to champions-elect Guangzhou Evergrande could be a copy-paste of pretty much any match report since Nanchang Hengyuan Shanghai Shenxin’s promotion to the CSL — they were mostly rubbish and got deservedly beaten. Shenxin then went on to midweek crash out of the CFA cup with a 2-0 reverse to Hangzhou Greentown — other than a token 1-0 win against relegation-bound Wuhan, Shenxin’s last positive result came as long ago as May.

Causes for Optimism…

It’s a drum North Terrace Preview beats frequently, but it’s difficult to overstate how poor Shenxin are — despite the occasional pleasing-on-the-eye twenty-minute flourish within a game, they’ve performed poorly for many a year. Football is a team game played over 90 minutes, and a full league season — and in their previous three league seasons Shenxin have achieved the dizzy heights of 13th, 14th and 15th — and currently sit a pretty 13th in the CSL table. Put bluntly, they’re bobbins, and have next to no meaningful local roots or support in the city.

… and for Concern

Shenhua have begun to creak with the traditional “summer slump” only one more poor result away. The central midfield in particular is looking threadbare, with first-choice pairing of  Xu Liang missing through a long-term injury and Wang Shouting serving an elongated suspension. Of perhaps equal concern is the absence of the veteran Rolando Schiavi (also suspended) — this cloud may have a silver lining in allowing Dai Lin to return to his natural center-half position, although the vacant right-back slot then comes up for grabs in Shenhua’s seemingly never-ending musical chairs masquerade.

Watch Out For

Gio Moreno. Will he play? Do we care? The man who joined Shenhua a year ago as a Colombian international leaving a South American giant in Racing Club of Argentina has become a forgotten man in world football — with his big-salary move to Dubai (and career suicide at age 27) falling through, Moreno returns to Shanghai at a time when the side are crying out for midfield reinforcements.

As ever with Moreno, there are more questions than answers: Will he play? Will he captain the side? Will he be match-fit after sitting out recent games to finalize a failed transfer? Will he try brazenly kissing the club crest again? Will he show an interest in anything other than languid strolling, elaborate flick-ons and Hollywood passes?

While the Shenhua crowd are famously reluctant to reject one of their own (selected SEC members, including North Terrace Preview, aside) it will be interesting to see how the Hongkou crowd respond to a man whose recent public check-out reflects a private check-out which occurred some time after his first 3 matches last summer.

The Verdict

Surprisingly hard to call, given Shenhua’s selection issues and slow descent into traditional summer form. Both sides have recently parted with a manager, and a battle of the caretakers is always difficult to call — more so when a derby. Shenhua ought to have too much in their locker for a Shenxin side who, Kieza aside, are pretty much China League 1 standard — nothing is ever easy with Shenhua though, and this correspondent can all too easily envisage a frustrating 1-1 draw to add to Shenhua’s impressive collection of one-point outcomes in 2013.

Reality Check

Shenhua according to North Terrace Preview:

P 16   W 6   D 6   L 4   GF 19   GA 20   GD -1   Pts 18

Shenhua according to the CSL table:

P 16  W 4   D 10   L 2   GF 18   GA 18   GD 0   Pts 16

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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