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Writer's Chat: Becamex Binh Duong vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors AFC Preview

The fourth round of group games in the AFC Champions League sees V.League 1 champions Becamex Binh Duong host K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. V.League 1 guru and Chief Editor of Football Channel Asia Erick Bui speaks with our site's Jeonbuk correspondent Matthew Binns (myself) about what we can expect from this fixture.

Matt Asks, Erick Answers

Matthew Binns: Binh Duong currently sit at the bottom of the group table, most likely requiring three wins out of the final three games to stand a chance of qualification. They were not favourites to qualify from the group, but are you disappointed with their showing in the competition this far?

Erick Bui: Certainly, seeing your team earn only a single point from three games is disappointing. Binh Duong have never been a favourite in the AFC Champions League and their actual target is to become more competitive year after year. As the Vietnamese club finished the group stage with 4 points last season, I can see they aim to achieve at least the same results in the 2016 campaign. Despite the club's underdog status, I'm happy to see Binh Duong try themselves against the best of Asia. The most pleasing part is the players always give their best and are hungry for upsets. 

MB: Since opening the new league campaign with a win in February, Binh Duong have been unable to find victory in any competitions. Is there any particular reason you can pinpoint for this concerning run of form?

EB: Yes, Binh Duong has been struggling for form recently. Aside from ACL duty, injuries are causing trouble for the Vietnamese champions. Several key players such as Moses, Abass, Trong Hoang and Michal Nguyen were sidelined. In addition to their absence, the new signings, particularly foreign attackers, haven't been up to scratch.

MB: Having lost 2-0 to Jeonbuk once already, do you see a change in Binh Duong's tactics on the cards for this encounter?

EB: I see Binh Duong will attack for first few minutes, trying to to grab a goal before sitting deep and relying on counter attack. They have pacey forwards to look to.

Becamex Binh Duong's Moses Oloya (right) is expected to return from injury ahead of the upcoming fixture against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Binh Duong's Moses Oloya (right) is expected to return from injury ahead of the upcoming fixture against Jeonbuk.
(Photo Credit: VietnamNews.vn)
MB: Who do you see as being key if Binh Duong are to secure three points against Jeonbuk?

EB: Moses Oloya and Anh Duc. The Uganda international should be back from injury and is expected to dictate the play of Binh Duong. Meanwhile, captain Anh Duc who has scored twice in the tournament can be the hope in the upfront.

MB: Finally, what is your prediction for this match?

EB: Jeonbuk are a strong side. Defeating them is not easy, even for Asian powerhouses. Meanwhile, Binh Duong has been enjoying some decent home results against ACL opponents. I hope the home side have sorted out their problems after the international break and bounce back for the Jeonbuk clash. I expect a draw, the same result as in 2015.

Erick Asks, Matt Answers

Erick Bui: Jeonbuk are currently sitting on top of Group E but still have two away games ahead. How do you rate Jeonbuk's chance of qualifying for next round? How crucial will the next game be?

Matthew Binns: Based purely on Binh Duong's current form, and without intending to be disrespectful, this is the most likeliest fixture of the remaining three that Jeonbuk could win. If they could claim victory in this match, it would really place them in a commanding position within the group, making their chances of progress very high. This match will be of the utmost importance to the Korean champions.

If they were to drop points on Wednesday, I can see the following ACL fixture in Tokyo being very tough as both teams would need victory to stand a chance of going through. The final game in Jeonbuk's group is a difficult home game to Jiangsu Suning, a game that they will not want as a decider to qualify.

Jeonbuk are top of the group at present, therefore they do have the best chance of progressing. This fixture though is a must-win for Choi Kang-hee's men.

EB: In your opinion, what is the biggest difficulty Jeonbuk will face in the game in Binh Duong?

MB: Jeonbuk have been inconsistent in defence recently. While recent results point to a number of clean sheets, their showing against Jiangsu Suning, demonstrates their frailty at the back. If Binh Duong were to set up to counter attack with pace, it could really pose some difficult questions to our centre-backs who are still coming to terms with the departure of Kim Kee-hee to Shanghai Shenhua.

In terms of threats from Binh Duong, I am particularly concerned about captain Anh Duc who has led his team by example by scoring the two goals as you mentioned. I want to highlight Moses Oloya as well, but I wonder how quick it will take him to regain his form after returning from injury.

Lee Dong-gook (centre) has now scored 30 goals during his AFC Champions League career.
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
EB: Lee Dong-Gook has scored 3 goals in his last two encounters against Binh Duong. Do you expect him to shine again? Apart from the Korean veteran, who are Jeonbuk's other players to watch in the next game?

MB: Lee Dong-gook is quite remarkable. At an age where most players would have already wound down, he still provides a consistent threat in both the ACL and the K-League. I would never bet against him shining as he always seems to help haul his team through, even when those around him may be underperforming. The concern for fans is who can reliably take up his mantle when it is time to bid farewell.

Admittedly he is a personal favourite of mine, but Lee Jae-sung is not only the single Jeonbuk player who made it into the last Korean national team (until Kim Chang-soo also received a call-up due to an injury), but he is one of only five players in the K-League who did. On top of this, he also featured in the starting eleven. The attacking midfielder has two full seasons under his belt and continues to improve. He is most likely destined for foreign shores at some point, but for now he has set his sights on taking the biggest prize available to him, the AFC Champions League.

Jeonbuk also spent handsomely in the most recent transfer window, bringing in a large number of players. Of these, the marquee signings include the likes of creative midfielder Kim Bo-kyung, defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu, attacker Lee Jong-ho and last year's K-League top scorer Kim Shin-wook. The only issue has been ensuring all these new players receive game time as well as time to gel together as a unit, an issue which the manager is still yet to resolve.

EB: Your prediction for the game?

Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee has rotated his squad in every game recently, making it difficult to predict which Jeonbuk will turn up. If he plays a similar team to that which he sent out in the home tie, then I expect Jeonbuk to just edge a victory as I can see Binh Duong being difficult to beat on their own turf.

However, if the manager opts for something similar in style to the Jiangsu game, the only other away game for Jeonbuk thus far in the competition, then the result will most likely be a draw. Seeing as the manager also played quite an attacking set-up against Jeju United at the weekend (although the performance at times suggested otherwise), this latter scenario would not surprise me and is perhaps more likely.

Choi Kang-hee also has a terrible conservative streak in him. With the importance of this game in terms of progression, and also seeing that he rested Kim Shin-wook, Erik Paartalu as well first team defenders Kim Chang-soo and Kim Hyung-il at the weekend, I fear the team is once again being set up not to lose, rather than to win. 

Predicted score: 1-1

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