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AFC Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs. FC Tokyo

Jeonbuk Hyundai's recently sold Jung Hoon battling it out in the AFC quarter final first leg against Gamba Osaka (Source: Yonhap News)

After what seems like a long winter, competitive football has finally returned!

The first round of group stage games sees Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors take on FC Tokyo at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.


Jeonbuk, the current K-League champions, have been very active throughout the transfer window, signing a plethora of promising and experienced talent who look set to get their first taste of competitive football in the luminous green jersey. Seeing how Choi Kang-hee blends the new talent into the existing structure should give us some insight into how he plans to line up for the season curtain raiser against FC Seoul.

It will also be interesting to see how he copes with recently departed Kim Kee-hee, with the player having only moved to Shanghai last Friday (19th) thus giving the manager little time to prepare. The defender was a constant presence in the line-up last season, having made 33 league appearances for the club, so his absence is likely to be felt, especially in these opening games of 2016.

Last season saw Jeonbuk within minutes of reaching last year's AFC semi finals only to heartbreakingly crash out of the competition in the dying seconds from a last gasp Gamba Osaka goal. The wounds will still be raw for Motors' as they will look to take command of their group with this opening tie.

FC Tokyo

FC Tokyo have clawed themselves from three seasons of mid-table security up to an impressive position of 4th last year, conceding the fewest goals in the league and entering the competition via qualifiers. Their last and only flirtation with the Champions League however, came in 2012 when they made it all the way through to final 16.

Most noticeably, the Japanese side have amongst their ranks an Australian international at the start of his first full season since moving to the club last July. Whilst only scoring 2 goals in 10 appearances so far for FC Tokyo, Nathan Burns boasts a prolific strike record in the A-League having been runner-up for the golden boot in the 2014-15 season and will be looking to get back on track. If featured, Jeonbuk will be looking to their remaining defenders, and their newly acquired Australian international Erik Paartalu, to keep Burns quiet.

Jeonbuk's strikers will also be looking to find a way past Japanese International Masato Morishige, FC Tokyo's formidable central defender. With 31 appearances in the league last season, Morishige found himself in unusual good form in front of goal, managing 7 goals (4 from headers, 2 from penalties) and claiming the 3rd spot on the club's scoring charts. Jeonbuk will also be keen to ensure his aerial presence is kept to a minimum from set plays.

The qualifying rounds saw FC Tokyo demolish Thailand's Chonburi FC 9-0 with nearly all the goals coming from Tokyo's midfield. While the tie may have been favourable, a scoreline like that should be respected. As such, their confidence will be at a high on Tuesday evening.

Prediction

Jeonbuk's experience as a team in the competition, as well as the experience possessed by recent additions to the squad (see Kim Shin-wook), should prove to be too much for Tokyo. Coping with the departures of Kim Kee-hee and Jung Hoon so late into pre-season should prove their biggest challenge.

Tokyo however are on the up coming into this fixture and have it in them to cause an upset. I do not see them coming to Jeonju to attack though, and will probably set up to strangle a draw from the game. Jeonbuk will most likely seek to take the initiative early on to ensure this does not happen.

Predicted Scoreline: 2-0 to Jeonbuk

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