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Writers Chat: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Melbourne Victory AFC Preview

K-League's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors host A-League's Melbourne Victory in the AFC Champions League
After a hard fought 1-1 draw down under, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors returned to Jeonju with an away goal and are now set to welcome Melbourne Victory for the second leg on Tuesday evening. Having hosted the first leg writers chat over on East Asian Soccer, editor Lew Dub is also away from home for the second round as he joins us over at K-League United to speak once again with Jeonbuk columnist Matthew Binns (myself) about what to expect from this tantalising fixture.

Matthew asks, Lew answers

Matthew Binns: How do you feel Melbourne Victory performed in the first leg of this fixture?

Lew Dub: Melbourne got away to a strong start and went ahead through Berisha. Looking at possession stats Melbourne were totally dominant, but closer examination uncovers that Victory’s possession was largely in safe zones.

Additionally the teams went to the break with much closer possession stats. This is an indicator that Jeonbuk were satisfied once they had grabbed their away goal (scored by Leonardo in the 13th Min)

Melbourne did have a couple of genuine chances in the second half, most notably Besart Berisha’s header that wasn’t. Personally I feel the striker’s view was obstructed.

Post match manager Kevin Muscat said, “We can take confidence from the amount of chances we created. We should have won the game, we limited them to very few sightings of our goal.” Muscat makes a valid point about the number of chances his team made, but such profligacy rarely goes unpunished in this game.

MB: Was their any particular performance (from either side) that impressed you?

LD: I thought that Lee Jae-sung was probably the most impressive for Jeonbuk in the first leg. He had high involvement and a sureness of touch that make him a great outlet for the K-League champions.

Leonardo’s free kick stamped his class on the first leg though trawling through footage I’m sure Melbourne Victory would have known his capabilities. Some things can’t be stopped.

For Melbourne Besart Berisha and Kosta Barbarouses were the most impressive. The kiwi seems to be back to his best, dribbling at speed, taking on players, sending in dangerous crosses. Of course Berisha showed his predatorial instincts hadn’t weakened in the late season shadow.

It’s most likely the second leg will be decided by a moment of brilliance from one of these players.

MB: Melbourne Victory tend not to travel well in this competition, having never won overseas during their history in the Asian Champions League. There is a first time for everything however, so my question is can you envisage any changes to the line-up or tactics that were played in the first leg?

LD: In regards to not travelling well I don't think that will be a factor. Melbourne Victory had two weeks break prior to the first leg and adding to that they arrived in South Korea over the weekend.

It's very hard to predict tactical changes, but judging by Muscat's comments post-match he was happy with the first leg with the exception of finishing. For this reason I'll wager Melbourne will go out with the same 4-3-3 formation and the same mindset.

On the subject of playing staff again there is unlikely to be change. Jeonbuk's goal in the first leg came from a set piece, so defence can't be shuffled around for that. In attack if Melbourne were frustrated by not converting their possession into goals, it's hard to imagine Muscat looking to his subs for the player with a more penetrating pass or finishing touch.

No changes.

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

LD: 2-1 Jeonbuk. I've been punished before for betting against Australian teams and it wouldn't surprise if it occurred again in this match, but forced to take sides I see Melbourne taking more risks and Jeonbuk eventually benefiting from this. So little separates the teams, but Jeonbuk - seasoned pragmatists - should be able to grind out a suitable result.

Lew asks, Matthew answers

Lew Dub: Do you see/imagine Choi targeting a specific area or player in the second leg?

Matthew Binns: If Choi Kang-hee had not specifically been choosing to mark Berisha in the first leg, then after his performance he should definitely be given more attention this time around. Jeonbuk were very fortunate not to concede a second goal and it was because of bad day at the office for the A-League’s third top scorer rather than due to excellent defending. If he is afforded the same opportunities, then I am not sure the Korean champions will be so lucky.

LD: Post match, Kevin Muscat said, "we need to improve when we've got the ball." Keeping in mind possession stats read MVFC 64% Jeonbuk 36%, will the home team allow Melbourne to do better?

MB: As I alluded to before the first leg, Jeonbuk would head to Australia to counter in a manner that they did against FC Tokyo where they averaged 38% possession and won 3-0. Unfortunately the performance they turned in was not as ruthless, but the possession stats could suggest this is the intended strategy. In fact, the only two times Jeonbuk have dominated possession away from home in this competition, has seen them lose to both Becamex Binh Duong (58% possession) and Jiangsu Suning (61% Possession).

Going by their three home games thus far in the Champions League, Jeonbuk have averaged a possession of 58%, with the lowest of these being 52% during the tightly contested home draw with Jiangsu. Jeonbuk tend to dominate proceedings on their home turf, having not lost in Jeonju this year and drawing only two games across all competitions. Therefore, to answer your question, I do not believe Melbourne Victory will be afforded as much opportunity as they had in Australia. Given Jeonbuk’s tendency to concede however, especially from crosses into the box, there will definitely be chances for the visitors to cancel out Jeonbuk’s away goal advantage.

LD: It looks a tough game to predict. Is there a player at Jeonbuk that can be the difference between the two teams? In what way is this player's capable of changing the game?

MB: If there is any place on the pitch where the difference will be found, it will be in midfield with the likes of Leonardo, Han Kyo-won, Kim Bo-kyung and Lee Jae-sung set to start. Of these four, I think Leonardo has been the most consistent and will be the one to watch out for. He spent the beginning of this season bizarrely sidelined despite being one of our stand out players last season. His eventual inclusion in the team though has coincided with our stronger performances this year, with his runs and delivery being some of his strongest attributes.

LD: What is your prediction?

MB: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 Melbourne Victory (Agg: 3-2). I believe Jeonbuk should just about have the edge in this encounter, but I do not think they will be able to shut Melbourne Victory out completely, thus cancelling out the away goal and making for a tense finale.

Missed the first leg? Match reports from both sites can be viewed here (K-League United) and here (East Asian Soccer)

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