ACL preview: Shanghai Shenhua v Brisbane Roar

The reward for Brisbane Roar thrashing Global of the Philippines 6-0 last week is a trip to China to take on Shanghai Shenhua, Tim Cahill’s former club. Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden has all you need to know about the Chinese club ahead of Wednesday night’s big clash.


How Shanghai qualified

Shanghai – known officially as Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, in reference to the Greenland Group, the club’s well-resourced owners – should have made it to this stage of the playoffs but the Blues vacated the third spot held for much of the Chinese Super League season after a late win-less streak. 

The fact that city rivals Shanghai SIPG jumped in made it all the more frustrating. 

Shenhua had some luck. The fourth place in China goes to the FA Cup winners but with the top two from the league – Guangzhou Evergrande and Jiangsu Suning – competing in the final, Shanghai’s fourth spot was, in the end, enough.


Shanghai has finished second on no less than eight occasions in the Chinese league since 1991 with the one title, in 2003, subsequently stripped due to match-fixing. There have been five appearances in the AFC Champions League with one progression to the knockout stage in 2006. 

In the following year’s ACL, Sydney FC fans may remember Shanghai Shenhua. 

It was Steve Corica’s fabulous strike that laid the platform for the Sky Blues’ sparkling 2-1 win in Shanghai (though their 0-0 draw at Allianz was a particularly dreary affair). Sydney FC just missed out on topping the group against eventual champions Urawa Red Diamonds – Shanghai ended bottom.  

Steve Corica.

What to expect off the pitch

Shanghai’s a great city and the Hongkou Stadium is easy to get to, with its own subway station just north of downtown. There are plenty of restaurants and bars around the arena.

Inside, the famous Blue Devils congregate behind one goal and give their team impressive levels of support. Shenhua do not get the biggest crowds in China but in terms of passion, there are few better.


Squad list for AFC Champions League is announced

A photo posted by Shanghai Shenhua (@shanghaishenhua) on


Gustavo Poyet

The Uruguayan was a Chelsea legend as a player but is now trying to become a coaching hero to another set of Blues. 

His spell with Sunderland in the English Premier League ended with a flirt with relegation and then came the sack,. There was success in Greece and another tough time followed, this time with Real Betis in Spain. 

Gus Poyet

China is a chance to show what he can do against some famous coaches but Brisbane is his first challenge.


Carlos Tevez

According to reports, the Argentine was tempted from South America by the prospect of becoming the highest-paid player in the world. Will add energy, experience and intelligence to the Shanghai attack. The former Manchester United man scored a beauty against Sydney United a few days ago and looks to be settling well in China.

Striker Carlos Tevez is unveiled as a Shanghai Shenhua player in January.

Giovanni Moreno

Not the biggest international name in the Chinese Super League but has been perhaps the most successful. The Colombian has been the lynchpin of the Shanghai midfield since 2012 and seen plenty come and go in that time.

The club needed to reduce their foreign quota by one for the Champions League and there was never a question that Moreno would be left out. Instead, former Inter Milan man and fellow Colombian Fredy Guarin was cut. 

Few teams in Asia would be able to omit such a player.

How they play

As this is a first competitive game under a new coach, fans are waiting to see how it unfolds.  

In 2016, Shanghai usually played a 4-2-3-1 formation, sometimes a 4-1-4-1. The team was not the most adventurous in the league but with the firepower now available, there is going to be a commitment to attack. 

Moreno pulls the strings in the middle and makes the team tick. Stop him and then Brisbane could pull off what would be something of a surprise.