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playoffs

Jeonnam Dragons vs FC Seoul Preview

Two of K-League's hottest teams face off in a midweek clash where both sides will be fighting to keep their season aspirations alive. FC Seoul needs to keep winning if they're to have any hope of catching league leaders Jeonbuk, while a win for Jeonnam could push them even further up the standings and closer to the top 6.

Jeonnam DragonsFC Seoul
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Competition:K-League Classic

Date:Aug 17, 2016
Game Week:Round 26
Kick-off:19:00
Venue:Gwangyang Stadium


The Dragons will look to keep their summer run going this Wednesday when they host a red hot FC Seoul side hoping to get their title aspirations back on track. Jeonnam will be looking for their first win vs Seoul this year having drawn once and lost to them once in K-League and the FA Cup. Picking up all three points will be a steep challenge vs the 2nd place team who have won four in a row largely due to the feverish form of Dejan Damjanović. However, there are signs it's quite possible for Jeonnam...

Cardiac Dragons Strike Again

Yet again the Dragons left it late to pick up a win at home. This time the victim was Incheon United who saw a crucial two points slip out of their grasp at the death and further cemented their position in the relegation zone. Heo Yong-joon played the part of hero for the Dragons with a tricky pivot shot that proved to be the winner in the 93rd minute. With two goals in his previous three games (and three goals in the last six) the young attacker may be starting to round into form. That he found himself in position for the game winner isn't much of a surprise as the offense has been flowing well in yet another formation shift. The 3-5-2 Jeonnam switched to and stuck with after Mrčela's arrival (which he discussed in Part 2 of his interview) has been left aside in favor of a 3-4-3 to allow more wing play with the arrival of Maurinho and Jair's preferred position. And it's going relatively well. On the whole the offense is still settling for far too many shots from distance instead of looking for the final pass, but having three attacking options should help alleviate that problem. Especially after they get a few more games under their belts and gel as a unit.

Defense Wins Championship (Round)

On the other side of the ball, the defense remains quite stout. The two goals conceded vs Seongnam resulted in the first multi goal game from an opponent since Jeonbuk put two by the Dragons on June 29th. The six game stretch between those matches propelled Jeonnam from 11th to 8th in the table with a scant 3 points separating them from the top 6. Should they hope to climb further up the table, they'll need to stay resolute against a free scoring FC Seoul side and will mainly need Lee Ho-seung to tighten up between the sticks. Though the goal tally hasn't been high, he's allowed some truly weak goals of late. In fact, he should be shouldering more than a fair share of the blame in all 3 conceded in the previous two matches. He was beat 5 hole and on a slow bouncer vs Seongnam, and was beaten far post by a Velkoski bicycle kick that wouldn't have broken a toothpick vs Incheon. With Damjanović lurking in front of him Wednesday night, Lee will need to step his game back up to the levels that saw him record three clean sheets in a row.

Road From Rio

Jeonnam's lone Olympian, Lee Seul-chan, is officially done in the tournament after Korea's run came to an end in a 1-0 loss to Honduras. According to our friends over at the Tavern of Taeguk Warriors, Seul-chan was "somewhat admirable" in his first Olympic performance. Tavern author Jinseok said of Lee "he attacks more than he defends and yes, he has made some mistakes, but in many instances he did his job very well. He was good in attack, and his assist on the Germany goal especially comes to mind." With captain Choi Hyo-jin already bombing up the right side in the 3-4-3 it's difficult to see where Lee could get minutes with the Dragons, but surely his form at the Olympics has earned him a nod? Where he fits and what formation to play him in is something of a mystery at the moment, but having too much talent in defense is a pretty good problems to have. It'll be interesting to see if he's in the squad this weekend assuming he's already made the trip back from Rio.

The Adversary

One of the true giants in Korean football, FC Seoul is back in form and still fighting in three competitions... and doing well in them. While they certainly regret their missed opportunities to gain ground on Jeonbuk during an abysmal June and July (including a head-to-head loss during that stretch), they've returned to their winning ways of late and look as intimidating as they did in the early season. They're still 10 points off undefeated Jeonbuk at the top of the table, but Seoul's four game winning streak may actually make the K-League into a more interesting campaign. And though they'll certainly be taking Jeonnam seriously Wednesday, there's a chance they'll be looking past the Dragons to the decisive home matches they have coming up next. Next Wednesday they host Shandong Luneng in the first leg of the AFC Champions League quarterfinal and just four days later host league leading Jeonbuk. The players and coaches will all say their focus is on Jeonnam, but there's a good chance they're already looking ahead to arguably their biggest two matches of 2016. Combine this with the fact that Seoul's only kept 1 away clean sheet this season and the Dragons may be able to come away with all three points.

Who To Watch

Even though Seoul rarely keep a clean sheet on the road, they often don't need to as many teams fail to keep pace with Dejan Damjanović. The 35 year old Montenegro striker has pushed himself into the MVP conversation having scored 5 goals in his previous 6 games. A stretch that has him tied with Adriano for the team lead 3rd in the Golden Boot race. Whether it's playing off of team's making Adriano the focal point of their defensive strategy, or simply finishing the chances he's been given, Dejan is on fire and is the biggest reason Seoul can even think of the K-League title this year.

Prediction

Seoul can't keep a clean sheet on the road and Jeonnam's rarely shutout at home, so the Dragons should get on the board. And though the defense has been strong in the past few months, Lee Ho-seung's recent blunders make me think there'll be at least one he has to pick out of the back of the net Wednesday night.

Jeonnam Dragons 1-1 FC Seoul


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