The final weekend of the CSL awaits, with Shenhua pitched against the league’s basement club. Can they warm up for the cup final in style?
It’s not often you can accuse our lot of being boring, but as another immensely forgettable season slides under the table it’s starting to be a more frequent occurrence. The nothing-to-play-for phase started almost immediately this year, with relegation hotly contested between some truly awful clubs and Shenhua being nowhere near the level of the (fellow?) ACL challengers. Another expensive foreign band-aid has flopped while the domestic core of the side goes neglected. On the other hand, Gio Moreno has been eye catching to point where he’s back in the Colombian national setup, and there’s that cup final to look forward to..
Speaking of which, both Shanghai stadiums were due to host concerts before their respective games – one club has cancelled the gig in order to preserve the playing surface, while the other has not. Any prizes for guessing which way around? It speaks volumes about the professionalism of the increasingly polarised clubs – SIPG are in a different league and will be viewing the cup as no more than a consolation after missing out on grander titles. Those matches will be taking place on a Sunday night for some reason, adding to the feeling that high-profile fixtures are destined to forever be at inconvenient times. If the CFA can’t arrange to have a cup final between city rivals played on decent pitches at times fans can get there, we may as well pack up already.
Last time out: Yanbian Funde
Alright, so this one wasn’t boring. Moreno yet again opened the scoring early and it was easy street from that point on – Yanbian’s excellent away following unable to rouse their team to a respectable performance. Even Tevez got in on the act, as did Zhu Jianrong – still looking to prove he belongs at this level after signing from a side relegated from League One last season. Shenhua strangely didn’t see all that much of the ball but were incisive when it counted, eventually hitting the dispirited and newly relegated side for five.
This time up: Liaoning Kaixin
Liaoning are the other half of this seasons’ disaster double-act, who along with last weeks’ opposition ensured no other club need worry about the foot of the table. Even their well-publicised port is struggling, but their major contribution to the year was to end SIPG’s title chances a few weeks ago – obviously a dark day for Shanghainese football. They get beaten pretty much every other week, and have picked up two points from their last ten fixtures. You may remember them featuring in a certain 8-1 at Hongkou earlier this season, back when Fredy Guarin couldn’t imagine any side ever getting beaten worse.
General Qin has been back in training for this one, after a successful self-reflection in the reserves. Charged with the crime of being a half-decent domestic player, Qin had a mysterious fallout with boss Wu Jingui and had been banished for disrespect. This follows his pot-luck CFA suspension of 6 months for the crime of being in a televised match against a foreigner – it’s really not been his year. Bai Jiajun is suspended, however, so the quota of half-decent domestic players will remain unchanged. In happier news, Liu Ruofan is back from China National Games duty. One of the bright sparks of this seasons’ campaign, Liu looks one of the leagues better U23 prospects and his involvement in the China youth setup is confirmation of that.
Sadly Gio Moreno will be missing after being released early for international duty, so if Oba Martins regains fitness Shenhua could be boasting all of their foreign forwards. Continued momentum against a rock-bottom side really shouldn’t be too much to ask, so we’ll go with another 3-1 Shenhua prediction.