Chinese Super League

Under pressure Carlos Tevez asks for ‘time’ and ‘patience’ ahead of Shanghai Shenhua’s Chinese Super League opener

Gus Poyet’s side begin their 2017 domestic campaign at home to Jiangsu Suning on Sunday as rumours start of unrest within the camp after just one competitive outing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 1:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 10:15pm

Carlos Tevez has done little to quell any suggestions of unrest at Shanghai Shenhua ahead of Sunday’s 2017 Chinese Super League season opener at home to Jiangsu Suning, with the Argentinian asking for “time” and “patience” despite having only played one competitive game following his high-profile arrival.

It was bound to happen sooner rather than later, but rumours that Tevez is unhappy in China have already emerged, with the club and manager Gus Poyet under increasing pressure to perform after losing last month’s AFC Champions League play-off to Australia’s Brisbane Roar.

And if the 33-year-old Tevez, who joined from Boca Juniors for a reported US$800,000 a week, and Uruguayan Poyet were hoping for an easy domestic opener to ease that pressure, fellow big-spenders Jiangsu do not fit that bill having finished second last season.

“I hope we can win the first match of the season, but there are so many new players here and the coaching staff is new, we need time to know each other’s style and we’ll play better and better with time,” said Tevez. “I wish that our fans could show more patience.”

Tevez is expected to start in an attacking midfield role against Jiangsu, who have the likes of former Chelsea midfielder Ramires, fellow Brazilian Alex Teixeira and Colombian Roger Martinez in their ranks as well as exciting China midfielder Wu Xi.

Colombian duo Giovanni Moreno and Fredy Guarin are expected to start alongside Tevez, with Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins and South Korean Kim Kee-hee set to miss out due to the new policy of only allowing three foreign players to feature in any one match.

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Fellow Shanghai side SIPG, who also splashed the cash ahead of the new season, are under no such pressure ahead of their meeting with Changchun Yatai at home on Saturday after Andre Villas-Boas’ side reeled of three straight wins at the start of their AFC Champions League campaign.

That included Tuesday’s 5-1 home win over Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers with Brazilian attacking trio Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson all on target.

Watch: Shanghai SIPG v Western Sydney Wanderers highlights

Elkeson, a two-time AFC Champions League and three-time Super League winner with Guangzhou Evergrande, may be forced to sit out against Changchun as Villas-Boas seeks to balance his foreign quota with either Uzbekistan midfielder Odil Ahmedov or veteran former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho.

That may be influenced by Changchun, who have Hong Kong’s Jack Sealy in their squad, signing Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo from English Premier League side Watford for a reported £20 million (HK$190m) ahead of the new season.

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“We won’t change too much, we recognise his [Ighalo] ability, but we rely on our collective defence,” said Villas-Boas.

“The new season will start tomorrow and I hope we can continue our good form from the AFC Champions League as we know last season this opponent got a draw here.”

The selection headache for Villas-Boas and his fellow Super League managers was created after the Chinese Football Association (CFA) reacted to the increasing amount of high-prolfie and expensive foreign players flooding into the league by reducing the number of overseas players allowed in a matchday squad from four to three.

Teams are now required to fill that place with one Chinese under-23 player, although they are allowed a total of five foreign players in their wider squad of 27 although one must be from another Asian nation and four must be under 23.

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“I feel sorry that the new policy came out a bit late, and that put a lot of pressure on young players,” added Villas-Boas.

“Everything has its own time, if you just hasten it, it’s not gonna help. We understand that CFA want to help develop young talent, but under that kind of pressure, they might not be well prepared.”

Also on Sunday, six-time defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande begin the defence of their title at home to Beijing Guoan.

Guangzhou, having beaten Hong Kong champions Eastern 7-0 at home earlier in the competition, drew 2-2 with South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday in the AFC Champions League, and manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is believed to be considering some changes having kept faith with largely the same side in their last three outings.

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Beijing, who finished fifth last season, underwent an ownership change at the end of last year and a signifiant cash injection will see players eligible for a share of a ¥3m (HK$3.3m) bonus should they prevail at Tianhe Stadium.

“It’ll be a big challenge to fight with Guangzhou as we have never met the defending champion in the first round before,” said Beijing general manager Li Ming. “It is a huge pressure on us.”

Watch: Suwon Bluewings v Guangzhou Evergrande highlights