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North Terrace News & Preview: Shanghai Shenxin v Shanghai Shenhua

And so it begins once more. The 2014 season for Shenhua begins much as did 2013 — a club beset by off-field issues and worrying squad turnover makes the short trip across Shanghai to their nomadic galline neighbours. Can Shenhua continue 2013’s derby dominance?

Club News

The close-season has been dominated by strife and upheaval at Shenhua — from the shocking departures of Wang Dalei, Dai Lin & Song Boxuan to the Greenland takeover which saw big-money promises backed up by second-tier signings and fan discord over the changes made to the club name and badge. Expect fan protests to feature heavily during the early days of the 2014 season.

Last Time Out

The 2013 season saw both Shenhua and Shenxin surpass pre-season expectations, with the Hongkou side confounding relegation fears and becoming the CSL’s comeback kings, amassing a points tally which would have seen them in 4th place were it not for the points penalty they began the year with. Meanwhile the Nanchang Jinshan Pudong side pulled away from a mid-season wobble to finish 7th and top of the three Shanghai sides (albeit with the large asterisk of Shenhua’s 6-point deduction).

Causes for Optimism…

Shenhua won all four of their intra-city derby fixtures last season, and appear to have established something of a mental edge over their younger (if less dysfunctional) city siblings. There’s also the argument, made elsewhere on this site, that on paper, the foreign signings made by Shenhua give their 2014 side a potential edge over some of the weaknesses of 2013.

Shenxin have also seen a substantial amount of turnover themselves, with a number of incoming and outgoing transfers. Losing Jiang Zhipeng to Guangzhou R&F will be a blow to their defensive stability, and yet another stadium move will not help — Shenxin will be playing in a different stadium for the fourth consecutive season this term, with questions over their support & atmosphere likely to be as prominent in 2014 as last year.

… and for Concern

Oh, Shenhua. As if the off-field strife wasn’t bad enough (and the effect on the team of Hongkou’s twelfth man turning on the club, if not the team, is not to be underestimated), Shenhua begin the 2014 season with an absolute shambles of a squad.

While some of the signings may look good on paper, Shenhua face the very real prospect of going into this game with a starting XI in which only a couple of players have ever taken to the pitch together, and a back five in which not one player is familiar with any of his defensive colleagues, and three different languages are spoken. Expect mistakes, a lot of mistakes, before any of that on-paper potential gels into something resembling a professional football team.

Watch Out For

If Shenhua are to stay up this season, much will rest on the permanently-shrugged shoulders of captain Gio Moreno. In a number of games against mid-table CSL opposition in the second half of last season, a couple of moments of magic from the Colombian were enough to turn the game in Shenhua’s favor. Aside from their propensity to pull off a couple of frankly ridiculous results every year, Shenxin are the very definition of a middling, mediocre CSL side — if Moreno clicks then this game is there for the taking, otherwise it could be a tough start to a tough year for Shenhua.

The Verdict

No punches pulled here: North Terrace Preview fears Shenhua are in much more serious danger of relegation this season than is being reported. With a toxic atmosphere raining down from the stands (well, the stands which aren’t filled by both dozen of Shenxin’s local fanbase, that is) and a cobbled-together team of second-rate journeymen in lieu of the international class of players who have been lost, Shenhua’s long season of struggle will begin with their pants being pulled down by their cross-town neighbours. 2-1 to Shenxin, with at least one home goal the result of the entirely-preventable comedy of a back four of strangers playing together for the first time.

Reality Check

Shenhua in 2013 according to North Terrace Preview:

P 30   W 13   D 7   L 10   GF 40   GA 43   GD -3   Pts 40

Shenhua in 2013 according to the CSL table:

P 30  W 11   D 11   L 8   GF 36   GA 36   GD +0   Pts 38

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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