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North Terrace News: Shenhua must avoid holiday banana skin as Chongqing visit

Shenhua are bearing the flag for Shanghai football following a chastening week for their noisy neighbors. With destiny in their own hands, can Shenhua press home the advantage starting Friday evening?

A point gained, if not earned

A trip to in-form Guangzhou R&F promised to be perhaps the trickiest assignment remaining in the race for third – and Shenhua duly reprised their habitual post international break trick of not turning up in the first half. Quite how they got to half-time only 1-0 down following Renatinho’s early opener remains a mystery; a near-constant barrage of pressure from the Yuexiushan side’s forwards and their hot streak was barely repelled by a defence which looked all at sea despite the welcome return of Bai Jiajun.

In a fortunate role reversal for Shenhua, a scene which has all too often played out against them finally worked out in their favour – for all R&F’s domination they were unable to press home the advantage and Shenhua regrouped a little in the second half, with captain Gio Moreno sealing a valuable if barely-earned point with an equalizer.

Six to go

7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15. Rather than a secret code, that’s the league position in the 16-side CSL of Shenhua’s opponents in this season’s run-in – so much of the hard work has been done in putting all comers to the sword at home and even earning a few more away points than in their wretched recent history. If Shenhua keep their nerve, then Asian Champions League qualification – and maybe even the chance to truly represent Shanghai and avenge their little brothers’ humiliating midweek capitulation at the hands of Jeonbuk Motors in Asia’s great transportation magnate derby – awaits.

Banana skins not mooncakes

Chongqing at home is exactly the kind of game Shenhua have made heavy work of in recent years; they can struggle to break down massed defences, rarely have a plan B, and are prone to getting caught on the counter or at set-pieces. Think back to their early-season Hongkou woes against Yanbian, or even last year’s frustrating 2-2 against this Friday’s opponents. This mid-autumn festival fixture has potential embarrassing slip-up written all over it.

And yet, is this 2016 vintage just a little mentally tougher? They held on to take scarcely-deserved points on the road in Jinan and Guangzhou, found a way to come back for the win when facing their usual line-fluffing frustration against Liaoning, and are roared on by a crowd more passionate and fiercely loyal than ever before.

Prediction & reality check

Despite shocking Guoan at Gongti in their last away game, Chongqing Lifan generally travel poorly. Shenhua at have some nervy moments – particularly with the big close-season signings Lu Shuai, Bi Jinhao and Fredy Guarin continuing to blow hit and cold – but there’s ultimately too much individual match winning quality and drive in the likes of Moreno, Oba Martins, Cao Yunding and Qin Sheng to let this one slide.

3-1 Shenhua and a festival to celebrate for the blue three-quarters of Shanghai.

Shenhua in 2016 according to North Terrace News:
P 24 W 10 D 8 L 6 GF 37 GA 32 GD +5 Pts 38
Shenhua in 2016 according to the CSL table:
P 24 W 11 D 8 L 5 GF 39 GA 25 GD +14 Pts 41

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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