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North Terrace News: Bowing Out for 2014

Fresh from their cup elimination, Shanghai Shenhua face their final home fixture of 2014, with Tianjin Teda coming to town. Can Shenhua end a forgettable year with a performance to remember for their home crowd?

A Gulf in Quality

Shenhua’s two trips to Nanjing resulted in entirely predictable failures to win — a 1-1 league draw being followed-up by a second chastening cup semi-final hiding. By going down 3-0 on Thursday night, Shenhua lost their semi-final 5-0 on aggregate. While the side is — perhaps against expectations, given some pre-season predictions — safe from relegation worries and capable of grinding out results against equally poor sides, their record against teams in the top 6 of the table has been particularly shabby in 2014. The Zhu Jun asset-stripping policy has finally left Shenhua too threadbare to be able to compete against even the moderately-sized bigger boys of the CSL table, and substantial close-season investment will be needed.

Defensive Concerns

That 3-0 cup defeat featured a Shenhua back four featuring youngster Liu Jiawei and the rarely-spotted Tao Jin in addition to midfielders Xu Liang and Wang Shouting. “Makeshift” is almost being too complementary for such a line-up; defeat was almost inevitable given the impact of injuries and suspensions on the back-line. Roly-poly goalkeeper Qiu Shenjiong will at least have been heartened by recent noises emanating from the club which suggest that, short of a only-in-your-dreams return for Wang Dalei, the club will not be purchasing a goalkeeper in the coming close-season.

Where Are The Goals Coming From?

In three games against Jiangsu Sainty in October, Shenhua managed a total of one goal in 270 minutes of football, an out-of-the-blue thunderbolt from captain Gio Moreno. The South American trifecta of Moreno behind Paulo Henrique and Lucas Viatri misfired badly midweek — while they can be a potent strike partnership, Shenhua are only ever a bad day at the office away from seeing Henrique’s dynamism turn to wasteful flakiness, and Viatri’s line-leading presence look more like a game of musical statues. Tianjin’s record this season is almost identical to Shenhua’s, so there is some hope of a fellow mid-table side proving more accommodating than recent struggles against near-neighbors Sainty.

The Game Nobody Should be Watching

Those eyes which aren’t focused on title-deciding events at Tianhe this Sunday may instead turn to one of the many relegation-permutation fixtures, or even to seeing if R&F can wrap up their first-ever ACL qualification. Shenhua – Tianjin is one of the very few completely meaningless games on this week’s fixture card; the very definition of a dead rubber. Shenhua come into this one hoping to bounce back from a season-ending week in Nanjing, whereas Tianjin are unbeaten in three and recently climbed above their hosts into the top half of the table. It’s difficult to hype up a battle for 8th place in the table, though.

Preview & Reality Check

Logic and defensive concerns would have Tianjin as marginal favorites here; Shenhua don’t necessarily do logic, however, and will give their long-suffering fans something to cheer at Hongkou with a 2-1 home win — flattering to deceive at better prospects for 2015.

Shenhua in 2014 according to North Terrace News:

P 28   W 9   D 4   L 15   GF 26   GA 42   GD -16   Pts 31

Shenhua in 2014 according to the CSL table:

P 28   W 8   D 10   L 10   GF 30   GA 39   GD -9   Pts 34

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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