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Five areas to tackle for new Shanghai SIPG boss Pereira

Shanghai (AFP) – Former Porto and Fenerbahce boss Vitor Pereira vowed to go one better than fellow Portuguese Andre Villas-Boas and win a trophy in his first season at big-spending Shanghai SIPG.

But the 49-year-old, who succeeded Villas-Boas at Porto in 2011 and was named his replacement at SIPG on Tuesday, will face a number of challenges on his first foray into China and its peculiarities.

AFP Sports looks at five things that Pereira must get right to succeed in the Chinese Super League.

– Win over underwhelmed fans –

Thanks to spells at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur — albeit unsuccessful ones — Villas-Boas’s appointment 13 months ago was well received by SIPG fans. But supporters are underwhelmed by Pereira, whose recent record is poor. He left 1860 Munich after they were relegated to the German third tier in May and previously was sacked after one season at Turkish giants Fenerbahce, where he fell out with Dutch striker Robin van Persie. His last success was a Greek league and cup double at Olympiakos in 2015. He did win the Portuguese League twice in a row with Porto in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

– Get Oscar going –

Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar became Asia’s most expensive footballer when he left Chelsea for SIPG for 60 million euros nearly a year ago. The Chinese Super League (CSL) is nowhere near the level of the English Premier League and the 26-year-old slotted in seamlessly. But in June he was banned for eight games for an on-pitch brawl and when he came back he failed to fire in the defining stages of the season, often going missing when his team needed him most. Before his suspension he recorded nine assists and scored once in 13 CSL matches. But after his return in August his performance dipped with two goals and three assists in nine games.

– Keep a lid on it –

Villas-Boas ran into frequent problems with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and was banned twice, once for a social media post about the lengthy Oscar ban and again towards the end of the season for haranguing a referee. The Instagram post making subtle criticism of the CFA over Oscar would barely have registered in most countries. But the CFA throughout last season issued a series of harsh punishments to players and coaches and Pereira will need to keep a lid on his emotions and tread carefully with his comments to avoid the same fate as his predecessor.

– Vastly improve away form –

SIPG were imperious at home under Villas-Boas, losing just twice in all competitions — and that was in the CSL when their league hopes were over. But they never found a way to replicate that away from their Shanghai Stadium, winning 10 matches on the road, losing nine and drawing seven. They were particularly suspect in big away matches: smashed 5-1 at rivals Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals, but sneaking through on penalties. They subsequently exited to Japan’s Urawa Reds after losing 1-0 away and went down by the same scoreline to Shanghai Shenhua in the FA Cup final away leg. 

– ‘Chinese characteristics’ –

There is unprecedented global interest in Chinese football as big-name foreign players and coaches arrive. But, as Villas-Boas would attest, football in the country retains some peculiarities. The sooner Pereira accepts that, the better. For example, the CFA midway through the season imposed a new 100 percent tax on incoming foreign players and changed rules on fielding foreigners. Villas-Boas was exasperated at the timing. Then in the away leg at Guangzhou in the Champions League, SIPG were delayed en route to the stadium by a series of what appeared to be orchestrated minor accidents on the road involving the same two or three cars. Villas-Boas cried foul once more. 

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