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Jeonnam Dragons vs Busan I'Park: Preview

Two teams in poor form look to turn their season around this Saturday in Gwangyang.

It's a cliche in sports, but there's really no other way to describe the Jeonnam Dragons month of May than as a rollercoaster. League play has been absolutely atrocious and has seen them hand Gwangju their first win of the year, tie Daejeon at home, and then concede three goals on the road to both FC Seoul and Jeju. However, there was that little FA Cup tie up in Suwon. You know, where the Dragons stunned the hosts and won on penalties? Actually... with that being the only high point, Jeonnam's May has been more like the infamous Demon Drop.  Ascending to heights you never though possible, feeling a firm floor beneath you, then dropping fast enough to make you drool into your eyeball.

To say the Dragons desperately need this game seems a bit hyperbolic, but it's not at all. They currently find themselves on the wrong side of the table's dividing line at 9th and need to fend off lower teams if they have any hopes of staying out of the relegation round. The once staunch backline has allowed 9 goals in the last three games in all competitions, and 9 in the last four K-League games. The only team held off the score sheet was the hapless Daejeon Citizen, who's manager Cho Jin-ho just stepped down. So that's how well they were playing.

So who's to blame? Though he's a national treasure and easily has the best hair in the K-League, Kim Byung-ji's time in net may need to come to an end sooner than later. He's reeled back the clock and made some solid saves this season, but far too often he can't hang onto the ball and is spilling the rebound directly onto the opponent's feet. With set piece defending being as suspect as it has been lately, the Dragons need a truly solid number 1 and I'm not entirely sure that's Byung-ji anymore.

Though Jeonnam is still coming out on top of possession and shots in a number of their games, the notion of quality over quantity comes to mind. In last week's contest at Jeju, they had 5 shots on target to Jeju's 6, 10 shots wide to Jeju's 9, but a whopping 10 corners to Jeju's 3. And here's the real kick in the pants: Jeju scored the game winner on one of their three corners. Winning the quantity battle, but losing quality is a telling part of the Dragons recent slump. While their possession and wing play is earning them a great number of free kicks and corners, they're simply not doing enough with them.

It's tempting to lick the ol chops at the idea of 11th place Busan coming to town, but it won't be easy to turn things around against them. Yes, they're lower than the Dragons, but only by a three point gap they could close with another road win. While Busan has struggled mightily to a 1-0-5 record at home, they're 2-2-2 on the road and just picked up a win in Gwangju last week. Sure, it's Gwangju, but it's still IPark's second road win in a row and one they'll certainly be looking to build on heading into the reeling Dragons home ground.

But enough of the doom and gloom, there's some good news heading into this week. The foreigners are starting to play! Both Mislav Oršić and Leandro Lima found their way onto the scoreboard in convincing fashion last week, and may well be the spark the Dragons offense needs to put a few past Busan. Granted, Leandro should've had one more with his PK, but this is positive time, so we shan't focus on that. The goal Leandro did score showed an aggressiveness that's in sore need in the final third. Instead of letting yet another cross go to an awkwardly positioned Ristić, Leandro darting in front and got a whole lot on the header to knock it into the corner of the goal. Then there's the Oršić goal. Confidence, poise, and composure. Nice move to find space and then a curling shot that gave the keeper absolutely zero chance.

Hopefully these are more than flash in the pan moments for Oršić and Leandro and they can continue to put pressure on opposing defenses. The added marking I hope to see them require would not only open up the middle for Ristić, but might just spark some creativity from a managerial standpoint. Should they get into and stay in good form for the return of Lee Jong-ho, then suddenly this offense might be the strength of the team. There will be far fewer fantastic opportunities to prove themselves than this weekend back at home after a long month mainly on the road.

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