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playoffs

Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gwangju FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker Kim Shin-wook feels the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders as he scores the winner against Ulsan Hyundai
Kim Shin-wook feels the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders as he scores the winner against Ulsan Hyundai
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
Having won their last four league games all against tricky opposition, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to Gwangju FC this weekend. Gwangju are only one of two sides this season to have not been defeated by the champions, but with the form Motors are in, it could prove to be an interesting affair.


Jeonbuk Continue to See Off Threats to Their Crown

After an enjoyable match away to 2nd placed FC Seoul which saw Jeonbuk run out 3-2 winners, last Sunday saw third place Ulsan Hyundai visit the Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Having recently purchased a promising striker in Mendy, as well as finding strong form that has seen them become unlikely title challengers, the visitors were set to pose some serious questions for a Jeonbuk side with only one regular striker available; the misfiring Kim Shin-wook.

This was not to be however, with both sides creating plenty of entertainment for the neutral viewer. After an embarrassing (and rare) nutmeg for Kwoun Sun-tae at his near post saw Ulsan take the lead, Jeonbuk responded with two splendid goals (more on them in a bit) in two minutes to remind the visitors, and the rest of the K-League Classic, why they were recognised as overwhelming favourites when the season began.

While the occasion was soured by an injury time altercation that led to players from both teams scrapping and a bizarre red card for Choi Chul-soon, the match on the whole served as an example as to the consistency and determination in this Jeonbuk side. It will take something very special now for them to lose the title, but Motors must remain focused in these upcoming weeks to make sure it is put beyond doubt so focus can be shifted onto the AFC Champions League.

Match highlights from SPOTV can be viewed here.

Lopes One of the Signings of the Season

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors midfielder Lopes celebrates another stunning effort to draw the scores level against Ulsan Hyundai
Lopes celebrates another stunning effort to draw the scores level against Ulsan Hyundai
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
Admittedly there is some hyperbole behind that subheading, but the acquisition of the Brazilian during the winter transfer window looks increasingly astute with each passing game in which he features. Lopes scored the first of Jeonbuk's goals in the teams comeback against Ulsan, taking the ball to the edge of the area and unleashing a curling shot into the far post beyond the keeper's reach.

Joining the club from Jeju where he also had a successful season scoring eleven goals in thirty-three league appearances, the Brazilian has already surpassed the half-way mark to that total and you would bet on him to continue to find the back of net against any domestic opposition he faces. What is more remarkable is that his last four goals have come in his last three games, all against top six opposition in Jeju (1), FC Seoul (2) and Ulsan (1). This now brings his tally level with Jeonbuk's other top league scorers this season; Lee Dong-gook and Leonardo.

As he features on the right wing for Jeonbuk, this makes the feat more notable. What should also be pointed out his ability to assist, for which he has five in the league. This means he has now had a direct hand in 25% of Jeonbuk's goals scored this season, more than any other player.

There has been a lot made of Kim Bo-kyung as the signing of Jeonbuk's season, but the addition and impact of Lopes should not be undervalued. With Leonardo and Lee Jae-sung making up the rest of the midfield, they are a frightening prospect for any team they come up against.

I Wish It Could be Kim Shin-wook Day Everyday

Kim Shin-wook celebrates scoring against his old club in dramatic fashion (Photo Credit: JTBC3 Fox)
Kim Shin-wook celebrates scoring against his old club in dramatic fashion (Photo Credit: JTBC3 Fox)
While the chances of Jeonbuk commissioning Wizzard to rewrite their infectious Christmas tune in honour of Jeonju's favourite Wookie seem somewhat doubtful, there was no doubt that there was one man destined to take all the headlines.

With the club having deemed the day "Kim Shin-wook Day" in honour of their winter marquee signing, celebrating with free wristbands, signed footballs, and focusing their whole marketing scheme around the player, Kim Shin-wook scored the winning goal against his former club in the team's turnaround.

Admittedly, my opinions have contrasted on the Wookie as the season has progressed. I have despaired at his inability to score when provided chance after chance, but have also praised efforts when he is employed in the right situation. I have even sympathised with him as ultimately I think he has been bought for a style of play that Jeonbuk are moving away from. However, I was delighted for him when his intelligent movement to latch onto the end of a Lee Jae-sung cross and slot home saw him score his second league goal of the season, his first being the opening day goal against FC Seoul way back in March.

It was hard not to feel for him. His facial expression upon realisation it had gone in was a cocktail of relief, redemption and unbridled jubilation. One Jeonbuk fan put it best when they said "It looked like the weight of the world had been lifted his from his shoulders". He looked on the verge of tears after being mobbed by his teammates in front of the stadium's cheering section.

With the shadow of the recently-returned Edu looming large over his place in the team, as well as the recovering Lee Dong-gook and in-form Lee Jong-ho (who was suspended for the Ulsan fixture) ahead of him in the pecking order, the stakes on him scoring were higher than ever. I only hope that this goal could be the lucky break that he so desperately needs.

Gwangju FC

K-League Classic Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gwangju FC
(Photo Credit: GwangjuFC.com)
Gwangju are one of only two teams yet to suffer defeat to Jeonbuk (the other being Incheon United), having claimed two 1-1 draws in both of the previous meetings this season, with both results seeing them come back from behind.

They are also the only team to have not visited Jeonju, with fixture rearrangements and agreements in preparation for Jeonbuk's friendly against Manchester City seeing the home round originally rescheduled to Thurs 28th July, before being moved again to this weekend after the KFA cancelled the exhibition game. It was originally swapped to ensure that Gwangju were able to have both of their home games on a weekend where revenue would have been greater and therefore not lose out through Jeonbuk's desire for a glamour friendly. With Jeonbuk having won all but one of their home league games though, Gwangju will be under no illusion of the task that will be facing them this Saturday evening.

Gwangju's previous game saw them make amends for a recent poor run of form (two points from four) with an unexpected yet convincing 4-0 win against fifth placed Sangju Sangmu.  Admittedly, Sangju Sangmu were reduced to ten men with the scores still at 1-0, but this should not detract from what was a professional and ruthless performance from the southerners.

Jung Jo-gook also continued his impressive season by scoring his fourteenth league goal of the campaign in the drubbing of Sangju. Since finally moving from FC Seoul, the 32-year old is having the best season of his career and is responsible for nearly half of the team's goals. Having scored the equaliser the last time these two sides met, Jeonbuk will be well aware of the threat he is capable of causing, especially against their weakened defence.

Jeonbuk would be wise to also keep an eye on Kim Min-hyeok. The 23 year-old has been almost ever-present for Gwangju this season and has become a key part of the midfield make up since securing a move from Seoul last winter. 2016 has seen him score his first league goals as well as making five assists during the campaign. I imagine that FC Seoul are most likely regretting his decision to leave given their current form.

Predictions

In short, I think both teams will score here, but I expect that Jeonbuk are probably going to score more. Jeonbuk's back line continues to be very obliging as well as being significantly weakened through the number of injured absentees and Olympic team call ups. However, with the quality of midfield and strike options available in Jeonju, fans have become accustomed to expecting the goals to come and I see Saturday being no different.

Despite Gwangju's recent win, their prior form had not been totally convincing. Whereas a month ago they were within the top 6, they have now been edged out with the gap opening up to three points. With just two wins since May (twelve games), I do not see them adding another this weekend.

Predicted Scoreline: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-1 Gwangju FC

Have Your Say

Who do you think will come out on top tonight? Please feel free to leave your comments below or contact me directly via Twitter. Also make sure to vote in our poll to gauge other people's opinions.

3 comments

  1. With regards to Kim Min-hyeok, I imagine that you are indeed right sir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He definitely would be able to offer you something. Why did he leave so early? Just lack of opportunities?

      As a Jeonbuk supporter, it is hard not to smirk at Seoul's collapse, but as a follower of the league it really has been disappointing to see them decline so sharply. I expected them to drop points, but a 14 point gap really is remarkable as I still don't think Jeonbuk are the best they can be yet. I also still subscribe to the view that Seoul's new manager is finding his feet, but with each passing game I am not sure he has it in him to coach a team that is not entirely his. What do you think?

      Delete
  2. I think he left because he did not have many opportunities. Last year he only played six times, and with Ju Se-jong, Takahagi, and Shin Jin-ho (at the time) ahead of him I think he saw the writing on the wall. No matter what, it was a smart move for him, but damn, Seoul could definitely use him this year.

    This year has been massively disappointing and in some ways worse than 2014. It is unfair to blame Hwang because I think this collapse was on the cards before Choi's departure. Maybe he recognized the signs and is one reason why he left. I agree about Hwang and not being able to coach players he did not sanction, which is why he needs a year or two to see how things play out. While I do not harbor any animosity towards Choi for getting a massive pay bump, his departure really has left Seoul in the shit.

    ReplyDelete

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