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Writer's Chat: Seoul E-Land Vs Daejeon Citizen

After a bore draw away to Chungju and a disappointing home defeat to Daegu for E-Land and Daejeon respectively, Saturday sees Martin Rennie's Seoul E-Land entertain fellow promotion hopefuls Daejeon Citizen.

Before what will be the first ever meeting between these two sides, Seoul E-Land reporter Steve Waddell and Daejeon Citizen correspondent sat down to discuss Saturday's match.

Photo Credit: DCFC.co.kr

Steve Asks, Paul Answers:
Daejeon had a complete stinker of a season last season, how likely do you think it is they can bounce back up the Classic this year?
Last season was exactly that; a stinker. Daejeon looked relegated from the get go. But, in the words of Nina Simone; it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new season. I may have paraphrased that slightly. Daejeon, will have a much more positive season but I would be very surprised if they are challenging for the title again. I would expect Daejeon to be challenging for the playoffs but with Choi Moon-Sik in charge, Citizen are tactically naïve and are only two passes away from a disaster.
Things didn’t start very well with a 2-0 defeat at home to Daegu. What did you make of your season opener?
Daejeon were quick out of the traps but the early goal took the wind out of their sails. Choi Moon Sik’s insistence on passing out of trouble is admirable but to do that it requires a certain calibre of player. I am not sure that Daejeon have enough experience or know-how to be able to do that, certainly against quality opposition like Daegu. Moon-Sik’s team selection left a few surprises. Gustavo played very deep, presumably to have someone to bring the ball from midfield. But wasn’t that supposed to be Kim Byung-Suk’s job? I am not entirely convinced that the players know what is expected of them – hence the defeat last week.
-       There’s been a lot changes of personnel over the past few months, how does the 2016 version of Daejeon compare with last year’s team? Has much changed in terms of approach?
Still the same approach but I think now that Coach Choi has had time to bring in his own players we can safely assume that this is his team now. He wanted to make wholesale changes which he has now been able to do so the pressure is on to see whether his so-called “tika-taka” approach will pay off. Daejeon may play in dark red and navy blue but that’s about the only thing Citizen have in common with Barcelona. In terms of quality, though, this year’s squad is a lot better. Kim Dong-Chan and Seo Dong-Hyun, despite his penalty miss last week, are quality additions up top. Also, Jean-Claude Bozga, a mountain of a man, has been brought in to shore things up at the back. An experience and tactically sound centre half is what Daejeon have been crying out for for years. Judging from last week’s performance, though, he may need time to settle.
-       What can we expect from Daejeon when they visit Jamsil? Will they be looking for a win or content to take away a point? Do you think you can get your first win?
Daejeon will try and pass E-Land to death, quite possibly to their own detriment. Had Daejeon not lost last week, Coach Choi may have set this team up not to lose but he will be under pressure to get bring the points back from Jamsil. I would expect the formation to be similar to last week, a 4-3-3, but perhaps a few personnel changes. Potentially, we could see former Jeonbuk Hyundai man Kim Dong-Chan start and hot prospect Hwang In-Beom return to the fold.
-       Anyone in the side that we particularly need to worry about?
Wanderson is capable of producing magic but he may well play at the back. He played all over the park last season, despite being brought in as a defender. If there are any free-kicks around the edge of the box then Wanderson could do some damage. Elsewhere, Hwang In-Beom was left out last week, presumably for fitness reasons, but if he features than the lively youngster could be the man to unlock E-Land’s defense. He caught a few teams by surprise last year, Champions Jeonbuk included.
-          Lee Bum-soo will be coming back to his old team after just a few weeks away. He only managed a couple of starts for us last season but he looked decent enough. How did he look at the weekend? Do you think he will establish himself as a first choice at Daejeon?
I have nothing against Lee Bum-Soo but I really don’t know what Park Ju-Won has to do to be first choice at Daejeon. He is a real gem of a keeper yet Choi Moon-Sik seems to find any excuse he can to drop him. Admittedly, I have not seen too much of Lee Bum-Soo but Park Ju-Won would be my number one any day of the week. One thing I will say is that Coach Choi is ruthless and will not be afraid to change his goalkeepers. If Lee Bum-Soo drops a clanger at Jamsil then I would not be at all surprised to see Park Ju-Won back between the sticks not before long.
-       After last weekend’s half-time show, who is your favourite member of Girlfriend? 
Any, choosers are losers. Can we have them every week? We managed to get 18,000 people through the turnstiles last week. Surely, the 18,000 can’t all have come to see Daejeon. Get Girlfriend on the payroll.
Paul Asks, Steve Answers:
What happened last week, then? I saw your comments about the 0-0 draw. Was it just a case of nerves or is there a cause for concern?
I don’t think there’s any real cause for concern after one match out of forty but it was definitely a bit of disappointment to start the season looking so flat. I’d really expected us to take the game to Chungju and win comfortably but the reality was far from that. The front three of Tarabai, Joo Min-kyu and Belusso really didn’t combine well but it’s the first time those three have played together as Tarabai wasn’t around for pretty much all of pre-season (and looked it). In time you’d expect that line-up to come good as they bagged fifty-odd goals between them last season in the Challenge. Someone will be on the end of a pasting at some point.
Probably my biggest concern was just how little desire the team seemed to show to actually win. We didn’t create a lot of chances and the match looked more like a pre-season game than the season opener of a team chomping at the bit to get promoted. Sometimes I think the team is too ‘nice’ and lacks the kind of character that would kick their granny to win a match. Someone on the park to grab games by the scruff of the neck and kick a few backsides would really help but I don’t think the K-League has too many Vinnie Jones-type characters.  
This is the first ever encounter between these two sides, what Daejeon expect from Seoul E-Land this Saturday?
The Olympic Stadium can be funny and it has a bit of a surreal atmosphere at times. There won’t be a huge crowd and I’d expect the visiting Daejeon fans to make more noise than the home support will for most of the game. I can’t help but think that sometimes the team plays better away from home where the atmosphere is less sterile. I don’t think it’s any surprise that some of the team’s best results have come on the road. Often it feels like the home performances lack a bit of drive and passion and maybe the stadium and support contributes to that a bit. When it does click though E-Land have the quality to destroy teams and goals all over the pitch. When they have the confidence to attack teams and put them under pressure there aren’t many sides in the Challenge that can match them. On their day they can look like Brazil 1970.
Tactically Martin Rennie tends to stick to a fairly narrow 4-3-3 as his preferred formation so your defence should be kept busy with our front three. Elsewhere keep an eye out for national team stars Kim Jae-sung and Kim Dong-jin both of whom should be in the starting eleven. Our most consistent performer over the past year has probably been the keeper Kim Young-kwang and ‘Glory’ was in fine form last weekend earning his place in the K-League Challenge team of the round. He’s saved our bacon on a string of occasions and really should be playing in the Classic still so you’ll have to go some to beat him.   
 Last season must have been a disappointment having come so close, is another promotion push on the cards? 
The squad definitely looks good enough to get into the playoff spots so matching last season’s placing at a minimum should be on the cards. Whether they can go one better and actually get promotion might depend as much on the form of other teams as it does on E-Land. I really expected Busan and Daejeon to be tough opponents this season and was pretty surprised that both lost on the opening weekend. It’s definitely going to be tight. The margins between success and failure are incredibly tight in the Challenge and there won’t be anyone running away with it like Daejeon did last time down in the lower tier. It might just come down to who wants it most over the course of the season.
Is Martin Rennie the man for the job? Being a foreign coach in the K League, do you think this would hinder him or could it work in his favour do you think?
His mum might read this so I’m not going to say he isn’t the man for the job! I think like every manager he makes decisions that you agree with and some that you don’t and as a fan the manager always drives you mad whoever he might be. I’d imagine it can’t be easy for any foreign manager to come into the K-League and adapt to the culture and language and everything else. Even more so when you turn up to a team that doesn’t even really exist yet and doesn’t have any players. I’m sure the first season must have been a steep learning curve to say the least.
He’s certainly done some things differently and had some successes. I don’t think a Korean manager would have signed Joo Min-kyu from Goyang and stuck him up front for example. Some of the football we played in spells last year was fantastic and really stood out from some of the ultra-conservative stuff you see played in the K-League week in week out. On the other hand, sometimes you do wonder how much of an influence Rennie can have from the touchline during games via a translator and how much gets lost along the way. With his first season under his belt you’d think that players and coaches should be more familiar and comfortable with each other this season so hopefully that helps.
Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday? Surely not another 0-0 stalemate?
It took us until May to get our first win last season so we’ll have to see if we are going to be perennial late starters or whether things click into gear earlier this time around. There’s definitely goals in both sides if they can find their form but neither seems to be firing on all cylinders just yet. I think this will be a close match so I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.  

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