Round 9 sees Shanghai Shenhua welcome free-scoring Guangzhou R&F to Hongkou. Can the southerners prick the bubble of the Batista bounce and begin to improve their away record?
Yuexiushan News and Preview
by Donald Ross
R&F eased to victory over a disappointing Dalian side on Saturday night with Davi again proving himself a key player for the blue and whites with two goals. The first came from a highly debatable penalty which all the Dalian players and coaches did debate with the referee at length in ugly scenes at Yuexiushan.
With only two rest days the R&F squad will be grateful that at about 800 miles the journey to Shanghai is one of their shorter away trips of the year. However, they may be without left back Jiang Zhipeng after he hobbled off injured against Dalian and Sven didn’t give YNP much to go on when he said he “hoped” Hamdallah would be fit for this game.
However, if Park Jong-Woo can stop the dangerous Moreno then R&F’s domestic line of three attacking midfielders (Jiang Ning, Wang Xiaolong and Zhang Yuan) should allow them to leave Hongkou with something. YNP has too many painful memories to predict an away win though so will go with a 2-2 draw.
Shenhua report a clean bill of health for this midweek game, although left-back Bai Jiajun will begin a suspension following his dismissal in the end-game derby fracas. Bai has put his dismissal down to youthful rashness.
With Shenhua’s terminal lack of squad depth at full-back, journeyman winger Wang Changqing will be Bai’s most likely replacement, possibly meaning Li Wenbo is shifted over to left-back.
Last Time Out
Saturday afternoon saw Shenhua’s run of five straight Shanghai derby victories come to an end, with the Hongkou side settling for a share of the points in a 1-1 tie with Shanghai East Asia in Xujiahui. Shenhua perhaps edged the game in terms of chances, but needed a little fortune for their equalizer – a Xu Liang free kick from deep evading everyone and creeping in, after veteran Daniel McBreen had put the home side ahead with a sumptuous volley. Xu dedicated the goal to his wife, who celebrated her birthday at the weekend.
Causes for Optimism…
Shenhua have looked sharper at both ends of the pitch since the return of Sergio Batista, with the Hongkou side doing a good job of stifling dangerman Wu Lei in the derby. Fatigue and travel time may also play into Shenhua’s hands – while both sides played Saturday, at least Shenhua have the benefit of having remained in their home city for CSL rounds 8 & 9.
R&F also represent one of the CSL’s more inconsistent clubs, and bring a fairly rotten away record to a Hongkou stadium which Shenhua will are showing some signs of rebuilding into a fortress following the early-season horrors of Henan and Hangzhou’s visits.
… and for Concern
Shenhua will be fielding a makeshift rearguard against one of the most potent attacking sides in the league – R&F’s top scorer alone, Abderazzak Hamdallah, has netted just one fewer goal than Shenhua’s entire squad in 2014. R&F’s free-scoring ways see them sitting pretty in 4th spot in the emerging league table, and with a goal difference surpassed only by their city neighbours.
Watch Out For
This one may be won or lost in the midfield – Shenhua will certainly be looking to keep the game narrow given their terminal lack of wide options both up front and in defence – so big performances will be needed from both Wang Shouting and Xu Liang, with the latter having looked somewhat lethargic outside of dead-ball situations for much of the season. It’s also crucial that captain and star man Gio Moreno continues his recent run of motivation and commitment if Shenhua are to take hold of this game.
The combination of tired, old legs in midfield and a lack of squad depth which will likely see Batista unwilling to rotate, and unable to effectively replace his suspended left-back, has North Terrace Preview worried here. This should be an entertaining game with goals at both ends, but it’s easy to see the visitors outgunning their hosts here – don’t be surprised to see a 1-2 away win for Sven’s men.
Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace Preview:
P 8 W 3 D 1 L 4 GF 8 GA 12 GD -4 Pts 10
Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:
P 8 W 2 D 3 L 3 GF 9 GA 10 GD -1 Pts 9
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