Shanghai (AFP) – Andre Villas-Boas fears that the prolonged absence of banned Brazilian star Oscar could torpedo Shanghai SIPG’s Chinese Super League title hopes.
The Portuguese coach saw his side finish the weekend three points behind leaders Guangzhou Evergrande following a dry 0-0 home draw with third-placed Tianjin Quanjian on Sunday.
Both sides failed to create many chances during an ill-tempered game and Villas-Boas was left to rue the absence of attacking midfielder Oscar, the Asian-record, 60-million-euro man who is reaching the end of an eight-game ban for triggering a brawl in a CSL game in June.
Oscar returns this month but former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager Villas-Boas believes it is no coincidence that his team has hit a rough patch of form during the player’s lengthy suspension.
“It was the decision by the CFA (Chinese Football Association) to suspend one of the best players in the world for eight games, so what can we do?” a clearly frustrated Villas-Boas asked after the game.
“Of course we miss Oscar. It’s been a long spell without him… it’s just too much.
“We brought him for a reason. We ended up loaning one of the most creative players last season, (the Argentine Dario) Conca, to Brazil and creativity is one of the things of my teams and of course we miss players of his calibre.
“Our bad spell responds to the fact that we had Oscar suspended for eight games.”
The CFA banned Oscar after accusing him of sparking an all-out brawl against Guangzhou R&F when he appeared to deliberately fire the ball at an opposing player.
In seven league games since, Shanghai have won only three times.
Reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande have also stumbled, but they beat Tianjin Teda 3-0 on Saturday after a sticky run to stay in the driving seat with just over half the CSL season gone.
Villas-Boas and Fabio Cannavaro, his opposite number at Tianjin Quanjian, were unhappy with some of the officiating in Sunday’s stalemate.
Shanghai’s bruising forward Hulk and Tianjin’s Alexandre Pato — two Brazilian internationals — were at the centre of a series of run-ins between the two sides.
Villas-Boas, already banned this season for two games for criticising the Oscar suspension, and Italy’s Cannavaro both declined to elaborate on their grievances, fearing CFA punishment.
“I prefer not to answer because it can be controversial,” the Portuguese said, when asked by AFP if he felt that the away side had targeted Hulk.