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North Terrace News & Preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Jiangsu Sainty

The CSL wraps-up before a mid-season World Cup break with a Yangtze Delta Derby at Hongkou — will this fixture continue to produce the fireworks it’s become known for?

Club News

The Shanghai media are warming-up the summer transfer speculation, with this week featuring a fan poll on which foreign player the Hongkou faithful would most like to see make way for a new signing. It will come as little surprise to Shenhua regulars that the out-of-place record signing Luis Carlos Ruiz tops the list, closely followed by stumbling Brazilian center-back Paulo Andre.

Last Time Out

Shenhua went down to a limp 1-0 defeat away to Tianjin, in a game in which the Hongkou side defended stoutly for much of the game, but created extremely little going forwards. It took a wonder-goal to break the deadlock, Li Benjian smashing a howitzer into the top corner from range in what must surely be the early contender for 2014 CSL goal of the season. The close scoreline doesn’t tell the full story of the game however, with Shenhua continuing to look limp and toothless away from fortress Hongkou and extending their long-running away-day woes with barely a whimper of defiance.

Sainty meanwhile warmed up for this grudge match by coming out 1-0 winners at home to coach Gao Hongbo’s former charges Shanghai East Asia, with that man Dejan Damjanovic somewhat unsurprisingly proving the difference between the sides.

Causes for Optimism…

They say the form book goes out of the window for a derby — and a derby this is. While this rivalry has an undoubted overtone of a little sibling taking it much more seriously than the elder brother (yes, we know Sainty are better-run and have been more successful for the last couple of years. No, we still don’t really care), a series of truly cracking games — spiced up by some bewildering refereeing decisions and stirring comebacks — have made this a fixture to look forward to in the packed Yangtze Delta calendar. The form book going out of the window is undoubtedly a good thing for Shenhua, as the home side is limping miserably into the mid-season break as their Nanjing neighbours begin to pick up some steam and climb the table.

Shenhua also have an almost-unerring knack of turning it on and pulling out the result against sides they consider to be rivals at Hongkou, with the last home game against Shandong the latest in a truly remarkable catalogue of how-did-they-do-that-with-THAT-squad stories.

… and for Concern

In a fixture known for curious penalty decisions, 2014’s disaster-in-waiting Wang Changqing isn’t a man you’d want to see in your own penalty area. With Shenhua’s regular back 4 struggling for form and fitness, both Wang Changqing and Wang Shouting have been deputizing of late — to no greater or lesser damage than Li Wenbo or Paulo, it must be noted.

Goals against CL1-standard Harbin aside, Shenhua continue to look utterly toothless and clueless from open play, and will presumably struggle to play a second game in three days given the somewhat aged nature of their current side. On paper and in the form-book, Jiangsu would have to go into this match as favorites.

Watch Out For

Will Sergio Batista persist with his geriatricos for a second stroll-out in a couple of days, or shuffle his pack and give some younger players a starting berth? Shenhua fans may be hoping for the latter while fearing and expecting the former — the likes of Jiang Kun and Xu Liang simply don’t look to have enough gas in the tank for this one.

This game may also come down to the battle of the superstars, with Gio Moreno fully embracing being a big fish in a stagnant puddle, and Dejan Damjanovic continuing his FC Seoul pedigree in China and living up to the moniker of “Asia’s Zlatan”.

The Verdict

Despite the head saying that Sainty will have too much for Shenhua — particularly if the midfield consists of Jiang and Xu once more — it’s difficult for the heart to see Shenhua losing at home to anyone but bogey team Hangzhou Greentown. Against all the better logic pointing to a narrow but comfortable away win, NTP is going for a 1-1 draw here, with Shenhua mounting a spirited comeback once more.

Reality Check

Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace Preview:

P 13   W 4   D 1   L 8   GF 11   GA 19   GD -8   Pts 13

Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:

P 13   W 3   D 5   L 5   GF 13   GA 17   GD -4   Pts 14

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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