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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Sangju Sangmu

Jumping for Joy: Leonardo celebrates his second goal against Melbourne Victory with the man who created it.  (Photo Credit: Howard Cheng)
Jumping for Joy: Leonardo celebrates his second goal against Melbourne Victory with the man who created it.
(Photo Credit: Howard Cheng)
Once again versing military side Sangju Sangmu on the back of a strong ACL performance, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will be hoping to keep the spotlight fully focused at their on-field performances rather than the recent allegations off it.

Last time these two sides faced one another, Jeonbuk had just returned from Tokyo with a 3-0 win in a ruthless performance that raised a fair few eyebrows. On this occasion, after a convincing second leg win over Melbourne Victory on Tuesday, the military team will once again be hoping that Jeonbuk will underestimate them this weekend.

After that FC Tokyo clash, Choi Kang-hee opted to make five changes despite a four day rest, resulting in twice conceding the lead and leaving Sangju with a 2-2 draw. With a midweek fixture once again not imminently following though, and with the title race looking tight, perhaps this time the manager will opt to make less changes.

Despite being on a winning streak of three games in the league, as well as being unbeaten and in second place with a game in hand, Motors still manage to concede on a regular basis. Their last clean sheet in all competitions was their aforementioned victory away in Japan back at the end of April (nine games ago). In regard to the league however, you have to stretch back to the second game of the season when they stole a goalless draw at Ulsan.

In addition to this, Jeonbuk's three main strikers Lee Dong-gook, Kim Shin-wook and Lee Jong-ho (Han Kyo-won and Lopes feature predominantly on the wings) have only scored six league goals between them, five of which have been from the 37-year old Lee Dong-gook.

It is also worth mentioning Kim Shin-wook has only recently returned from injury, making his first appearance in a month coming off the bench against Jeonnam Dragons last weekend. Afforded notable chances towards the end of the game by the obliging Dragons defence, Jeonbuk's marquee signing proceeded to either shoot high, wide or find himself unable to place it beyond a solitary defender on the line. His brief cameo against Melbourne Victory midweek was also forgettable. You could argue he may be lacking in match sharpness, but this sharpness was not evident prior to his absence as well. The towering striker is on increasingly borrowed time at Jeonju. He will be hoping that an appearance on Sunday could be the ideal opportunity to make amends.

Sangju Sangmu

Sangju have only played five competitive games since these two sides last met, winning two and losing three of them. These two wins came against the bottom two sides in the league; Jeonnam Dragons and Incheon United. In terms of their defeats, they lost to fellow promotees Gwangju as well as Dankook University in the FA Cup. They also lost to a top three side in Seongnam FC but put in a decent display, eventually losing 3-2 to a Lee Woong-hee own goal.

When these sides also faced off against each other, I pointed out that they had yet to find a consistent goalscorer. The last six games however (including against Jeonbuk), has see Park Gi-dong come to the fore, scoring 5 further goals bringing his tally for the season up to six and levelling his record for the whole of last season.

On loan from struggling Jeonnam Dragons, Park Gi-dong's sharp ascent up the goal scoring charts for a team that is a supposed relegation contender has been quite remarkable. It was his two goals and assist that brought them back from behind against Incheon to win 4-2. He also obtained an assist and a goal to twice bring Sangju back level when they played Jeonbuk at the end of April. Seeing as the champion's high-profile strikers are somewhat lacking of recent, Motors may not only be wary of the damage Park can do, but possibly even envious.

Predictions

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors have continued to dominate on home turf, winning all but two games in Jeonju across all competitions, and drawing the others. While there may be some mild rotation from the manager who cannot help himself, if the majority of the team that featured on Tuesday play (especially the excellent Leonardo), then victory should be relatively routine.

Despite having a habit of constantly finding the net, Sangju Sangmu's recent form has been somewhat erratic and their record against the teams top of the table is poor. They may still be one of the strongest military sides in a long time, but they are unlikely to overcome the champions who will be focused intently on their title race.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-1 Sangju Sangmu

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