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Preview: Seongnam FC vs Jeonnam Dragons

(image via dragons.co.kr)
The Dragons will look to quickly shake off the calamitous defeat they suffered vs FC Seoul and try to take a point on the road from the league leaders in the second of three games in seven days.

Seongnam FCJeonnam Dragons

Competition:K League Classic

Date:Apr 13, 2016
Game Week:5

Tancheon Sports Complex

The night was already dark and full of terrors for the Dragons, but somehow that ominous bird of Seongnam makes things even worse. Following the gut-punch that was the last minute defeat to FC Seoul over the weekend, Jeonnam now find themselves in the unenviable position of attempting to pick up desperately needed points on the road against the surprising league leaders on short rest and what must be shaky morale. The spirits that seemed to be flying high after the gutsy draw in Suwon have been beaten down by back to back 2-1 defeats to keep the team winless and the Dragons are reeling.

If recent history's any indicator, hitting the road won't exactly cure what ails them either. Winners of just one of their previous 10 road matches dating back to last season, Jeonnam has not fared well away from Gwangyang Stadium. That lone win came in a meaningless match on the last day of the 2015 season in Incheon when neither team really could have cared less and Choi Hyo-jin simply did Choi Hyo-jin things to put the Dragons on the board. You have to go all the way back to July 2015 for Jeonnam's last road win before that when the late game heroics of Stevica Ristić's 80th and 90th minute tallies staved off an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the soon-to-be-relegated Daejeon Citizen. Additionally, Seongnam have fared quite well at home winning three of their last five dating back to last season and have yet to concede at home this year. The combination of the two doesn't exactly bode well for the Dragons come tomorrow afternoon.

However, continuing the look at history, there is one shining beacon of hope: Jeonnam has only lost twice to Seongnam in their previous fifteen meetings. For whatever reason, this is a team the Dragons simply get up to play against. Going 7-6-2 over the previous four seasons against Seongnam may not usually mean much, but it's a mental history the team will be banking on tomorrow afternoon with little else left in the morale reserves. The draw against Suwon Bluewings showed some character, but largely can be attributed to two strong individual moments. The 2-1 loss to Ulsan could've and probably should've been worse, and perhaps more demoralizing, the Dragons really had a chance at beating Seoul at home only to have it slip through their hands late. If there's any validity to the rumor of Kim Young-wook starting over Choi Hyo-jin vs Ulsan simply because Kim has a good history vs the Tigers, then there's little doubt manager Noh Sang-rae's a student of history and will be playing up Jeonnam's prior exploits.

Turning away from the past and living in the now, there are a number of problems the Dragons need to face. Namely the defense is anemic for the second year in a row with no signs of turning it around. Since holding a clean sheet in the home opener, Jeonnam have conceded six goals through three matches and it's little more than luck that's kept the number from being any higher. As mentioned in the Seoul recap, we've yet to see the same CB pairing this season and have had four different defensive lineups through four matches. When something's not working of course it makes sense to change things up, but none of the various defensive lineups have been given a thorough enough look to decide if they are or aren't working. The backline of Yang Juna, Hyun Young-min, Lee Ji-nam, and Choi Hyo-jin held Suwon FC scoreless on opening day and are still the only defense to do so this season as the "small" Suwon club has scored in their previous three matches and have yet to taste defeat. Yet, in spite of what results showed, that backline (and even that CB pairing) have yet to start together since. Considering the Seongnam match is coming a mere three days after playing FC Seoul, it's near a certainty that the backline will be switched around yet again and we'll likely see the fifth iteration of a defense in as many games.

Unfortunately for whatever defense gets put together for the match, they'll be tasked with shutting down the red hot Tiago Alves. The 23-year-old Brazilian has gone a perfect 4-for-4 so far this season scoring a goal in every game, matching his entire season's output with Pohang last year. In fact, he's just two goals away from tying his career best of six that he bagged while with Brazilian Serie B side Paraná in 2014. His success thus far this season has come from capitalizing on defensive mistakes and... well... the Dragons are more than slightly prone to making a few of those. If Jeonnam's going to grind out a draw, which is almost assuredly the goal, then shutting Alves down will be key. Ideally Lee Ji-nam will make a return to center back and be put in charge of man marking Alves, but we'll have to wait and see what starting XI comes out of the tunnel tomorrow as I've learned better than to even make a guess at this point.

On the other side of the ball, there may be some joy up the middle against Seongnam. Over the weekend, Incheon's big man (and honestly only hope) Kevin Oris found space time and again and eventually put one in the back of the net. With this in mind, it might be ideal for the Dragons to start Stevo tomorrow with the plan of pulling him in the 60th in favor of speed. If Jeonnam comes out big and plays consistently to Stevo to start the game they may be able to score early and put the home team (and crowd) on their heels a bit. Scoring early was what brought Jeonnam so much success last summer, but they've yet to score a goal in the opening 30 minutes. Should Jugović start in the middle again, then Jeonnam can attack the middle by both going route one to Stevo and one the ground through the proficient midfielder. Instead of sitting back and absorbing the pressure that's sure to come from Seongnam, the Dragons have the opportunity to come out and punch the favorites in the mouth early.

Whether or not Jeonnam can come out and score early will largely depend on who sees the field, and honestly throwing a dart at the roster ain't a bad way to predict who that'll be. Jugović had a strong showing up the middle on Sunday, but that certainly doesn't mean he'll get the nod there tomorrow. Kim Min-sik should be the undisputed number 1, but that doesn't mean he'll get the nod either. Choi Hyo-jin's easily the best defender and can pester Seongnam up the side, but maybe this is the game Noh decides to start the youngster Han Ji-won just for giggles. With so much uncertainty still surrounding the team and reeling from a tough defeat over the weekend, I just don't see Jeonnam having enough in the tank to pull off an upset against the thriving Seongnam side.

Prediction: Seongnam FC 2-1 Jeonnam Dragons

Don't agree? Think the Dragons have it in em to pull of the upset? Or do you think the home team will show why they're at the top of the table? Weigh in below!


  1. I think Seongnam are going to win by 2 or more goals. Jeonnam's game have been pretty awful so far. Only God knows how could Jeonnam scored 4 goals this season. No attack at all! As a men who loves to watch football this is really offending

  2. Decent preview but you barely mentioned Seongnam, still good to read

    1. Thanks for the read! Not much on Seongnam since I'm the Dragons writer for the site. For better or worse (and sometimes it's much much worse), I always look at things from their perspective.

    2. Something to think about for the future though. Thanks again for the read and the comment.


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