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FC Seoul vs Jeonnam Dragons FA Cup Preview

The suddenly reeling FC Seoul welcome a new look Jeonnam Dragons side to Seoul World Cup Stadium this Wednesday for the Quarterfinals of the FA Cup. Seoul is on a quest to defend their Cup title from last year while the Dragons cling to the competition as the only chance for silverware. FC Seoul columnist John Emanuelson and Jeonnam columnist Ryan Walters discuss how each team may line up and what the competition means for their sides.

Ryan Asks, John Answers

Ryan Walters: As per usual these are two clubs on the opposite ends of the league table. However, this isn't the high flying FC Seoul of the early season and the Dragons may be looking at this as the perfect time for this match up. Add in the point Jeonnam picked up in their last visit to Seoul World Cup stadium, and the intimidation factor may well be gone. Any realistic chance of that or will Seoul reassert their dominance against the 11th place team?

John Emaneulson:  This is the perfect time to play Seoul.  Right now they are absolutely devoid of confidence.  The defense is error prone, the midfield non-existent, and attack suddenly impotent. They have not won in their last five league games and each performance has been worse.  Even though Seoul did not win on Saturday, I was not disappointed since they kept a clean sheet and did not lose.  However, this would be the perfect time to end their slump.  On paper, Seoul is the superior team and if they cannot win at home, then questions need to be asked about the whole damn set up.

RW: You recently said fatigue is one of the factors holding the team back right now, do you think new manager Hwang Sun-hong will rest the usual starters and kind of allow Seoul to bow out of this competition to focus on K-League and ACL?

JE:  There is not a chance in hell he will passively accept defeat.  If he does, it will be bad for the morale of the team and especially, the fans.  The fanbase has been patient with the team's loss of form recently, but if he names a weakened line-up and decides not to go for the win, I think the fans will turn on Hwang for sure.  Fatigue is somewhat of a problem, but not enough to justify wholesale changes.  Seoul will want to win this game to stay in the competition to defend their crown and because it enables automatic entry into the ACL.  With the table so tight right now, Hwang would be a damn fool not to go for the FA Cup trophy and perks it brings.

RW: In theory Adriano should be able to play this game since his suspension for unsporting behavior was picked up in league play. Any official word if he'll be available?

JE: I'm not sure about this at all, but my fingers are crossed that he will.  The team definitely miss him as the attack has struggled to create anything of note in their last two games.  Hwang keeps starting to Dejan and Park Chu-young, but these two players skill sets' are too similar and in my opinion, end up canceling each other out.  On the other hand, Dejan and Adriano have formed the perfect big-man-and-little-man partnership.  At the game on Saturday, the camera kept going towards Adriano's suite whenever there was a break in the action, so if he is here and can suit up, I think he will play.

RW: The Dragons defense has come on of late and hasn't lights out, but has only allowed 4 goals in their previous 4 matches and shut out Incheon in that stretch. What do you think Seoul will do to break down the newly reformed backline?

JE: Ideally, I would like to see Seoul come out of the box strongly and press Jeonnam aggressively when they have ball.  Maybe this would create a bit of havoc and the team can get an early goal, which will help relax the nerves and remove doubts.  I doubt that will happen though and I think Seoul will want to try and avoid any mistakes, so they will play conservatively and have a go in the second half.  I think if they want to break down Jeonnam's newfound defensive resilience, they should play a 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 and use the skills of Go Yo-han and Yun Il-lok to go at Jeonnam's wing-backs.  Maybe Seoul will be able to find some space behind the backline.

RW: Prediction?

JE: If Seoul can't win at home against the 11th place team, then what the hell is the point of this team?  FC Seoul 2-1 Jeonnam 

John Asks, Ryan Answers

John Emaneulson: It has been a busy couple of weeks for Jeonnam in the transfer market.  Stevo retired and Oršić departed to China, but Tomi and Jair join.  With the new boys doing so well in Saturday’s win over Jeju United, does it feel as though the club has turned the corner finally?

Ryan Walters: It felt fantastic to finally be on the right end of some late drama, and as I mentioned in my recap, there weren't any Ugly notes to be taken. However, the win didn't move them out of 11th place and that served as a reminder that they'll have to string together more than one result for it to feel like a corner's been turned. The difference from before the transfer window and now is that there's at least a path forward and the talent to move in the right direction. The potential's certainly there, and I'm delighted to finally see the manager abandon the 4-2-3-1 he seemed glued to, but there's still a long slog ahead.

JE: Jeonnam are unfortunately in the thick of the relegation race, but only a point behind Incheon for the much coveted 10th place spot.  In your opinion, which is more important, staying in the Classic or winning the FA Cup?  Should Noh Sang-rae rest the first 11 and focus on the league or play his best squad Wednesday to try and advance further in the FA Cup?

RW: The FA Cup is the Dragons only shot at silverware, and therefore some much needed respect, in 2016. There's absolutely no chance they climb as high as 3rd and earn an ACL spot, so if they want to put themselves on an international map and gain some recognition domestically, then this is the tournament to win. The Dragons just finished a grueling month of June where double game weeks were the norm, and are only fighting in two competitions (unlike Seoul), so fatigue really shouldn't be an issue. Furthermore, they have last place Suwon FC up next this Saturday, so slightly weakening the squad midweek for a shot at glory shouldn't be too big of a concern. More to the point, there's nothing to lose by throwing out your best 11 in the FA Cup if you're Noh Sang-rae.

JE: Last time these two teams played Jeonnam set up in a defensive shell, but still managed to get a point from an Osmar own goal. Do you expect Noh to employ this same tactic or go with the attacking 3-5-2 that he utilized against Jeju United?  

RW: If it ain't broke, right? The 3-5-2 stifled one of the league's highest scoring teams in Jeju over the weekend, so it should do well against a struggling Seoul side that only has one more goal than Jeju in league play. With Choi Hyo-jin and Hyun Young-min as the wingers, the team has defense-first wingers that have the ability to get forward. Admittedly Choi was playing much further up much more often, but he has the pace to get recover well enough without causing issues for the back line. I'd say Jeonnam will still be defensive in nature Wednesday night, but they'd be foolish to abandon something that worked so well over the weekend.

JE: It is a knockout competition, which means the cliché that anything can happen tends to prove true, so how well do you fancy your chances of coming away victors? 

RW: As much as this is an opportunity for Jeonnam to head North and pull off a shock win, it's equally a chance for Seoul to pound a team that's far below them in the standings and get their heads on straight. The Dragons have been playing much better of late, but they only have one road win this year and seem to have hangups when playing the big teams this year. However, simply because my predictions have been quite crap of late and I'm in an optimistic mood after Saturday's win, I'll say yes, I do fancy Jeonnam's chances in this one. Seoul's on a slide and in something of an identity crisis and the Dragons have absolutely nothing to lose in this game. All the pressure's on Seoul and it may well be their undoing.

JE: Prediction?

RW: FC Seoul 1-2 Jeonnam Dragons

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