Jeonnam Dragons vs Suwon Bluewings Preview
In a surprisingly close matchup in the standings, the 11th place Dragons host 10th place Suwon Samsung in an important relegation battle with the result potentially reverberating throughout the remainder of the season.
|Jeonnam Dragons||Suwon Samsung|
|Date:||Jul 23, 2016|
|Game Week:||Round 22|
Few would've predicted the Dragons and Bluewings would be anywhere near each other in the standings this season, and far fewer would've predicted it would be at the bottom of the table. Though Suwon's fall from grace was somewhat expected, sinking this low is something of a surprise. After an absolute howler beat them last weekend, the Bluewings rebounded well and picked up an extremely rare win in Sangju. Which version of the team will show up Saturday is anyone's guess.
Going on the road and picking up a point will never be a terrible thing, and that's just what Jeonnam did Wednesday night in Gwangju. However, given that the Dragons had 10 shots (5 on target), and 5 corner kicks, one would've hoped for more than the single point they walked away with. Gwangju's a team that's been struggling at home and showed that form in the midweek game. For large stretches the Dragons dominated possession and created a litany of chances. However, the finishing just wasn't there and the visitors had to settle for a draw. Again, road points aren't bad, but a win would've seen them leapfrog Gwangju in the standing, and the Dragons need to start winning those 6 point battles if they're to escape the relegation playoff.
On the bright side, Jeonnam held their first clean sheet in league play in almost a month, making it 7 on the season. In fact, since Mrčela's signing and the shift to the 3-5-2, the Dragons have only allowed 3 goals through 4 games. Add in the stellar play of Lee Ho-seung in net and they don't exactly seem prone to concede much more any time soon. With Suwon, Ulsan, and Seongnam in the next three matches the defense will need to keep this form for there to be any chance of picking up points, especially against the top of the table opponents.
After begging for his run out nearly all season, I've finally got my wish and Cho Suk-jae has started the last 4 matches in all competitions. The results however... have not been stellar. His pace and off the ball running has helped the offense tick a bit, but his hold up play and finishing simply needs to be better. Far too often Cho dribbles himself into trouble or turns over possession with a bad touch or errant pass. However, he's not exactly a hold-up attacker, so that can be forgiven... kind of. What can't is his lack of execution in the final third. Not only has he failed to hit the back of the net, he's mainly failing to even get his shots off. When a poaching attacker like him should be hitting it on frame, he's taking an extra touch or looking for a pass. If he gets another start this Saturday, he needs to strike early and often. Pepper the Bluewings keeper with as many shots on target as he can and at least make him work. Should Cho fall short yet again this weekend, he'll likely be relegated back to the bench and I can't say it'd be undeserved.
The once perennial powerhouse is having a rough season. In spite of being in the semifinals of the FA Cup, the rest of the year's been a bit of a mess. From fan protests to the aforementioned howler of a goal, the once mighty's fall from grace is nearly complete. Relegation would secure that fall, and a year after challenging for the title, that's a very real possibility. The Bluewings have 11 out of 21 games conceding 2 or more goals, and have only held 3 clean sheets this season. Unsurprisingly that's resulted in only 5 league wins this season. However, as is often the case in K-League, they haven't really been getting blown out in their losses. 4 of their 7 losses have been decided by a single goal margin and they're playing well on the road. Suwon's scored at least one goal in 90% of their away games this year, so they're putting up a fight. And, much like the Dragons of late, they tend to leave a good portion of their scoring for the late stages. 26% of the 27 goals Suwon has scored this year have come after the 75th minute. So if the Dragons should see themselves in the lead late, they'll certainly need to batten down the hatches.
Who To Watch
The go to here would be Santos Junior. After scoring 12 last season, their Brazilian attacker has 8 goals just past the halfway point this year and may well eclipse his personal K-League best of 14. He's been on something of a drought since late June only scoring once (vs Seongnam last weekend) through 7 games in all competitions, but has proven capable of turning such slumps around in the past. So, he's one to keep an eye on, but personally, there are few more graceful and polished players than Yeom Ki-hun in this league. Though he has 4 goals to his name this season, Yeom's brilliance comes from his setup play and unbelievably good crosses from the wing. As Stevo said in his interview last year "[Yeom] is not for K-League, he’s for some big league. Because you see his cross, and his pass, and his style, if he has a good striker he can make over 20 assists for the season with no problem." With 8 to his name already this year, he may well reach that mark before we close the book in 2016.
Though it wouldn't surprise me to see this end in a draw (possibly even 0-0), I'll be optimistic and say the Dragons find a way to score.
Jeonnam Dragons 1-0 Suwon Bluewings