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Korea vs Japan - ACL Round 5

Round 5 of the Asian Champions League takes place tonight and tomorrow, with Jeonbuk Hyundai and Suwon Samsung taking on Kashiwa Reysol and Urawa Reds respectively in groups E and G. For Jeonbuk, the match is likely to determine which side progresses as the group winner. For Suwon, the match is one to keep Brisbane Roar at arm's length and ensure qualification to the next round.

Urawa Red Diamonds vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
When: Tuesday, April 21, 7:30pm (local time)
Where: Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan
Why: Asian Champions League, Group Stage, Round 5
Broadcast: Afreeca (Korea, streaming), One World Sports (US)

Last they met: Round 1 - Suwon 2-1 Urawa
Suwon was able to collect all three points when the two met at the Big Bird in the opening game of the group stage. Urawa has taken the lead just before the half, but second half goals from Oh Beom-seok and Leo gave Suwon the win.

Suwon Team News
Suwon is coming off of two important wins, the 5-1 stomping of archrivals FC Seoul in the league last weekend and a 3-1win over Brisbane Roar on matchday 4 of the ACL. Suwon should have plenty of confidence going into this one, but the team is suffering from injuries. Defenders Min Sang-gi, Hong Chul, Oh Beom-seok, goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong, and attacker Santos are all expected to miss the match (or just make the bench) according to coach Seo Jung-won.

That means that Suwon will likely continue with the former U23 keeper Noh Dong-gun in goal, and a slightly re-jigged backline that may consist of Yang Sang-min, Shin Se-gye, Cho Sung-jin, and Choi Jae-soo. In midfield Suwon like to play with five, and if they're fit, I'd expect to see the same five that played on the weekend: Kim Eun-sun, Lee Sang-ho, Kwon Chang-hoon, Yeom Ki-hoon, and Seo Jung-jin. Up top North Korean international Chong Te-se should start, although it could be Kaio if Chong is tired.



Urawa Team News
So who is Urawa? Well, if you're unfamiliar with Japanese football, Urawa could be considered the Japanese Suwon (or is Suwon the Korean Urawa?). Anyway, they are a very popular team based in the prefecture of Saitama (just outside Tokyo). Urawa made international headlines last year when some of their fans hung a banner at the gate into the stadium that read "Japanese Only". The club was punished by the league, and the incident did hurt the club's image. The team narrowly missed out on the J League title last season as Gamba Osaka ended up pipping them for it at the end. This season Urawa is currently leading the race (although it's very early) with 14 points from six games. The ACL however, has been a much different story as Urawa has only picked up one point (a 1-1 draw with Beijing) from four.

Much time has been spent trying to figure out why Japanese teams have been underperforming in the ACL the past few years, and Urawa certainly fits that description (underperforming). Before the draw with Beijing in Saitama, Urawa had lost all three games before: away to Suwon, home to Brisbane, and away to Beijing. Indeed if Urawa wants to have any hope of advancing they MUST win this one, any other result and they'll be eliminated before the make the long trip down under to Brisbane on the last matchday.

Goals have been in short supply for Urawa in Asia as they've scored just twice in the ACL (one for Makino Tomoaki and one for Moriwaki Ryota), and it's not much better at home where they've scored eight goals in six matches and no player has scored more than one in the league. Urawa has been depending on their defense to keep them in matches and score the odd goal to get them results.

Predicted result: Urawa 1-1 Suwon 

Kashiwa Reysol vs Jeonbuk Hyundai

When: Wednesday, April 22, 7pm (local)
Where: Hitachi Stadium, Kashiwa, Japan
Why: Asian Champions League, Group Stage, Round 5
Broadcast: Afreeca (Korea)
 
Last they met: Round 1 - Jeonbuk 0-0 Kashiwa
Jeonbuk was dominant in the round 1 meeting in Jeonju, but lacked the necessary finishing to turn that dominance into three points.

Jeonbuk Team News
Jeonbuk made a league record 22-game unbeaten run last weekend when they edged past Jeju 1-0. They'll look to continue that excellent form as they visit Kashiwa in Japan. Jeonbuk was criticized after matchday 4 for failing to beat Binh Duong in Vietnam, and that result could prove costly should they finish second in the group.

Manager Choi Kang-hee isn't really one for rotation and he generally relies on a smaller core of players. Choi also said before the start of the league campaign that 'if there were two rabbits [league and ACL] to chase, he would chase the [ACL] one.' So, I'd expect a fairly full-strength Jeonbuk side to take the pitch tomorrow.

Goalkeeper Kwon Sun-tae has started every game thus far, and that shouldn't change. In defense Lee Ju-yong and Cho Sung-hwan have been regulars and they'll likely start tomorrow. Cho's partner in central defense will probably be Kim Ki-hee, but he can also play in midfield as a holder. If he does, Australia international Alex Wilkinson would likely start. At right back will probably be Lee Gyu-ro. Jeonbuk usually lines up with five midfielders, either in a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-2-3-1, and I'd expect the five to be: Lee Jae-sung, Han Kyo-won, Leonardo, Jung Hoon, and Choi Bo-kyung (but maybe Kim Ki-hee). Edu has started most games in attack, and his experience with J League teams means he should start again.


Kashiwa Team News
Kashiwa's season has been a bit flipped from Urawa's. Kashiwa has overperformed in Asia, but is struggling a bit in Japan. Kashiwa only got into the ACL by virtue of Gamba's domestic treble win last year as they finished fourth in the league. Yet, Kashiwa (at this point) looks like the only J League side that will advance out of the group stages as Gamba, Urawa, and Kashima all currently sit outside the top two spots. Domestically, Kashiwa is currently in 12th place (18 teams) with seven points from six games.

Kashiwa's problems largely seem to stem from their defense which is . . .  a bit leaky. *Note Kashiwa regularly features Korean rightback Kim Chang-soo* The team has conceded six goals in four ACL games and 10 goals in six J League matches. Kashiwa hasn't had too many goal scoring problems, particularly in Asia, as they've scored 11 goals in the four group games thus far. That makes them the highest scoring side in Asia (both west and east brackets). Like their counterparts in Saitama, Kashiwa doesn't have one dominant scorer and tends to spread their scoring around. The Brazilian Cristiano leads the team with 2 goals in Asia while his partner Kudo Masato leads the team in Japan with 2 goals.

Predicted result: Kashiwa 1-2 Jeonbuk

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