Shanghai Shenhua travel to a Guizhou side whose season feels like it’s yet to get started — will these two sides serve up yet another bore draw as their early-season form would suggest?
The CFA this week confirmed that it’s worse to almost-fake-headbutt someone than it is to try and break a fellow professional’s leg, with Shenhua fullback Bai Jiajun receiving a heftier ban and fine than initial offender Yang Shiyuan for the injury-time (almost literally, for the fortunate Gio Moreno) fracas which ended the recent Shanghai derby.
Last Time Out
It was one for the purists at Hongkou on Tuesday night, with Shenhua holding previously high-scoring Guangzhou R&F to a 0-0 draw. Shenhua looked mostly solid enough, but lacked any real cutting edge going forward for most of the game, and neither side could really complain with the outcome.
Guizhou meanwhile drew their second game in succession away to underwhelming north-eastern opposition, although they did at least manage to find the net in a 1-1 tie at Dalian Aerbin — this coming hot on the heels of a 0-0 snoozefest in Changchun, and their reserve team being flayed 5-0 down in a dead (for Guizhou at least) ACL rubber.
Causes for Optimism…
From fearing the league’s second-top scorers in their last game, Shenhua now face the lowest-scoring side in the top half of the table. Head coach Zhu Jiong seems to be following his sterling work in making Shanghai Shenxin one of the league’s least-watchable sides by repeating the trick out west — in fairness to the young coach, the majority of his ageing squad are little younger than their manager, and those old legs may be starting to see Guizhou steadily slip from the standards they set a couple of seasons back.
In the absence of Bai, reserve left-back Fan Jingling put in a surprisingly competent performance for a Shenhua squad player against R&F, and will presumably be trusted to deputize in his natural position once more here.
… and for Concern
Ageing they may be, but Guizhou still have class in the Bosnian pair of Misimovic & Muslimovic, along with raw talent in young Brazilian Hyuri. With their ACL formalities completed, and an underwhelming season thus far, the home side will presumably be out to kick-start a stuttering campaign here.
Shenhua’s inability to create from open play has haunted them again in recent matches. An unbalanced side shorn of natural width can struggle to support the lone frontman, whether it be Luis Carlos Ruiz in the penalty-box statue role, or Firas al-Khatib who seems to be regressing to a harder-working version of Nico Anelka. A technically-gifted forward is of relatively limited use when he’s popping up on the left wing or deep in midfield while the side has nobody spearheading the attacking line.
Watch Out For
…whatever else is on TV at the same time as this. It’s difficult to imagine fireworks here given both sides’ recent blunt displays, and that they’re likely to go with barely-changed lineups for a third game in eight days. From a footballing perspective, Shenhua fans may be interested to see which of Ruiz or Firas is selected to struggle manfully up front with little support.
With an almost identical goals-per-game record indicating a 1-1 draw here, the wise bet would be going low on total goals. Statistically these sides are almost perfectly set up for a tie, but Shenhua’s continued struggles outside their home city may well continue here, with Guizhou edging an immediately-forgettable match for a 1-0 home win.
Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace Preview:
P 9 W 3 D 1 L 5 GF 9 GA 13 GD -5 Pts 10
Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:
P 9 W 2 D 4 L 3 GF 9 GA 10 GD -1 Pts 10