The fixtures are coming up thick and fast for a patched-up Shanghai Shenhua — next up, a run of local and national derbies. ‘s weekly insight into all things Shenhua casts an eye over the side’s prospects.
The Week That Was: Leaving It Late, Again
Shanghai Shenhua never do things the easy way — fresh from turning a 2-0 home lead against ten-man relegation strugglers Liaoning into a mad scramble for a late winner, Shenhua also needed a late goal to see off China League One strugglers Yanbian, having yet again squandered a lead. Substitute Wang Fei — a man who had seemingly disappeared following a promising showing in the brief Jean Tigana era — was this time the matchwinner, sending Shenhua into the CFA cup quarter-finals.
The Big Issue: 4-4-Who?
With Lucas Viatri and Paulo Henrique both impressing, it was somewhat inevitable that captain Gio Moreno would mark his return from suspension with a long-range strike to open the scoring against Yanbian and highlight the selection poser facing coach Sergio Batista. The three South American forwards offer very different, yet complementary options — Moreno is essentially undroppable due to his increasingly-reliable match-turning moments. While nominally a midfielder, it’s clear that the Colombian #10 is at his most effective in the CSL when playing just off a main striker.
Viatri followed-up a brace and assist in his Shenhua debut with two crucial goals on his Hongkou bow — the first a truly stunning scissor kick combining acrobatics with venom, and the second proving a matchwinner as the Argentinean kept his cool while all around him were losing their heads. And Henrique has been instrumental in Shenhua’s last two home matches — despite losing Muriqui, the CSL has retained its quota of hard-running, quick-dribbling Brazilian forwards.
While it may be possible to play all three — leaving center-back Paulo Andre as the odd-foreigner-out and slotting either Xu Liang or Zheng Kaimu in at center-back alongside the classy Cho Byung-kuk — it’s likely that Batista will be able to avoid the question of his preferred two frontmen as Shenhua will surely need to rotate as their run of playing twice-weekly continues.
Coming Up: Derby Season is Now Open
The fixtures continue coming thick and fast, and next up for Shenhua are a Shanghai derby, Yangtze Delta derby, and then China Derby in quick succession. Saturday sees Shanghai Shenxin visit Hongkou, with the home side surely confident of continuing their recent strong record in intra-city tussles against the CSL’s least entertaining side.
With two must-not-lose home games on either side of it — the following Saturday sees Beijing Guoan visit Hongkou in their annual attempt to lose an unwanted and long-running record — it’s easy to imagine Wednesday’s trip to Hangzhou will see Greentown continue their run as Shenhua’s bogey team– North Terrace News would not be surprised to see Batista spare some of his tiring first-teamers the short trip south.
Predictions & Reality Check
Shenhua to continue their strong Shanghai derby run by seeing off Shenxin 2-1 (quite possibly with more drama and late heroics than should be strictly necessary), only to continue their rotten record against Hangzhou with a 0-3 reverse midweek.
Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace News:
P 16 W 5 D 2 L 9 GF 15 GA 24 GD -9 Pts 17
Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:
P 16 W 4 D 6 L 6 GF 18 GA 22 GD -4 Pts 18
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