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playoffs

Suwon Bluewings vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview

(photo via dragons.co.kr)

The Dragons look to stay in form as they travel to Suwon World Cup Stadium for a midweek battle of 2nd and 3rd against the Bluewings.

At the tail end of their toughest stretch in the 2015 schedule, Jeonnam are holding their heads high and looking for one more signature win against a top opponent. Having already faced FC Seoul, Jeonbuk, and Pohang in the past month, the Dragons will round out playing the top 5 with a road trip to Suwon where they undoubtedly have fond memories of their May 13th FA Cup shock win. The Dragons come into the match undefeated in six and taking 14 of a possible 18 points in that stretch. Suwon is also undefeated in six picking up 12 of 18 points. Unfortunately for them that hasn't been enough to significantly close their gap with Jeonbuk at the top of the table. A home win against the surging Dragons would serve the Bluewings well as they eye what should be an easy weekend match against Busan. Six points in the matches leading up to a lengthy break and their final showdown with Jeonbuk on the 26th is their only real chance of a title claim. Should they squander either opportunity, the title may be too far out of reach by the time they travel to Jeonju.

Suwon will likely look to pick up all three points by relying on Santos and K-League assist leader Yeom Ki-hun working with their usual lone striker Jong Tae-se. Santos is doing what he's usually done in the K-League and is on pace for his average of 12-14 goals per season. Jong Tae-se is also doing exactly what's expected of him by contributing 6 goals so far and being a target man. Meanwhile, Yeom is enjoying what's been easily his best season in recent years. In only half as many appearances he has already tied his assist total and surpassed his goal totals of 2014 this season. Should the Bluewings come out in their usual 4-1-4-1, look for Santos and Yeom to to team up and feed the ball up to Jong.

On the other end of the field, the Bluewings have managed only four clean sheets all season and shockingly only one at home, so Jeonnam can expect to get on the board at some point. This is doubly true when considering the Dragons scoreless draw against Pohang was their only time being shutout in the past nine games. However, this shouldn't imply that this will be a high scoring affair. Though Suwon have only managed the four clean sheets, they've conceded a skimpy 21 goals this season for 1.05 goals against average, a mark that's only been bettered by Pohang (1.00) and Incheon (0.80). Also, their biggest defeat was a 2-0 road loss to Jeonbuk back in early May, so they certainly haven't been blown out of the water thus far this season.

So how do the Dragons pick up a win? Keep doing what they've been doing. Score early, lean heavily on Mislav Oršić and Lee Jong-ho, and keep the backline organized. While Suwon are averaging 1.60 goals per game, a meager 37.5% of those goals have come in the first half, so the Dragons usual M.O. of striking early should serve them well here. With Ahn Yong-woo doing well to get himself back onto the scoresheet against Ulsan all of the Dragons attackers are in form and extremely dangerous to any defense in the league. I'd expect them to start the game off with their usual wing play and lobbed balls into the middle. Should Suwon shut that down look for Oršić to take over the offensive possession and have everything flow through him. It's a strategy that's not only seen him rack up 5 assists in recent games, but has also given the Dragons a much more desirable tempo in the middle third.

At the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record, it's extremely important the Dragons score early in this game if they're to pick up all three points. Heading into the half scoreless isn't insurmountable for Jeonnam, but forcing Suwon out of their gameplan early and having them play from behind is the easiest way for the Dragons to ensure they can play their game. Also, the Bluewings have scored 9 of their 21 goals this season in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, so it can be expected that they'll come out of the locker extremely strong regardless of what the score is. As was the case against Jeonbuk on the road, allowing a tying goal to the home team early in the second isn't nearly as back breaking as allowing the go ahead and having to fight back for a draw instead of a win.

There's also the pivotal question of if the Dragons can score in the second half to close out a match. The eventual game winner against Ulsan was their first second half goal since Ristić's 59th minute tally in a 2-1 win against Seongnam back on June 17th. Failing to net a third while cruising along at Jeonbuk allowed the green bastards to get a draw. and the same inability to score after the 45th allowed Pohang to walk away from Gwangyang with a point. That's four points the Dragons could (and arguably should) have had that would have them on 31 points trailing Jeonbuk who would only have 41. But, regardless of fantasy world scenarios, if Jeonnam's to secure a top three finish this season, they need to start scoring with more regularity in the second half. With an average time of 51 minutes for the first goal conceded at home, Suwon's susceptible to being scored on in the second, but let's just hope it ain't the Dragons first.

On the defensive side of things Jeonnam will be looking for their third clean sheet in five matches. Assuredly Kim Byung-ji will get the nod in net, Hyun Young-min at LB, and Lim Jong-eun and Lee Ji-nam as the center pairing, but who will start at rightback? It would seem it's 21-year-old Lee Seul-chan's position to lose after getting starts against Pohang and Ulsan, but he's more of a midfielder and fellow youngster Lee Ji-min has been fighting for minutes in the backline all season. It'll be interesting to see who Noh Sang-rae slots into the important position ahead of this critical match.

Earlier in the season I would've tipped the scales in favor of Suwon, but I think the Dragons have really gelled into a team that knows how to work together and is difficult to break down. They've struggled on the road this season, but they've drawn the advantage of a mid-week game instead of a weekend crowd in Suwon.

Prediction: 2-1 to the Dragons

2 comments

  1. Oršić and Lee Jong-ho won't play tommorow. Both of them earned yellow card last game(it was their third yellow card this season) so they must sit out

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well... that changes things. I thought it was 5 yellows. Now I'm much more agitated at Lee Jong-ho for such a stupid yellow. Now a road draw would be pretty spectacular given the absence of those two.

      Thanks for the info!

      Delete

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