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Preview: Incheon United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defender Kim Hyung-il celebrates after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Suwon FC (Photo Credit: HyundaiMotorsFC.com)
Kim Hyung-il celebrates after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Suwon FC (Photo Credit: HyundaiMotorsFC.com)
After an edgy 0-0 draw at the weekend away to Pohang Steelers, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors travel north to face Incheon United, the only team they are yet to find victory against in the K-League Classic this season. 

Will Choi Kang-hee play Edu? (Reprise)

Now I did ask this question prior to the last week's match against Suwon FC, but that was more of a case of "When will we finally see him?". Edu has now started that aforementioned game as well as the trip to Pohang at the weekend. On both occasions Choi Kang-hee has had to restructure a winning formation in order to accommodate him and on both occasions Jeonbuk's performance has suffered.

This drop in performance though has not solely been down to Edu, but his glaring missed opportunities in both games have shown just how lacking he is in match sharpness. Incheon United could prove a perfect foil for him to get himself off the mark, but their is also reason to doubt this.

With this being the last game before their crucial ACL quarter final away to Shanghai SIPG next week, Choi Kang-hee has the option of both resting players against opposition who are near the foot of the table, and also trying out his preferred line-up for that important clash. Based on previous evidence however, the manager usually likes to try out his strongest options and strategy before a game of that magnitude. If this is to be the case, will he revert back to the 4-1-4-1 formation that yielded five straight league wins and a draw very recently, or will he continue to use either a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 in order to shoehorn in his summer signing?

There are some other factors to consider first...

Seeing Yellow

The Pohang game was quite the edgy affair, with ten cautions being handed out by the referee in total. Seven of these bookings were given out to Jeonbuk players, which has potential effects on the line-up for this match.

Lee Jae-sung, Cho Sung-hwan and Lee Ho should all be suspended for this fixture due to now accumulating six, three and three yellow cards respectively after the weekend's match. This goes against my earlier idea that the manager may opt for a squad similar to the one he will send out next Tuesday in Shanghai. In an ideal 4-1-4-1 formation, this would mean Kim Bo-kyung would likely line up against Incheon alongside an alternate central midfielder and defensive midfielder. With Jeonbuk lacking those options though (and with Choi Kang-hee still refusing to play Erik Paartalu), it is most likely that defensive midfielder Jang Yun-ho will be recalled to the squad with Lee Jong-ho playing in attacking midfield role, resulting in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  However, with Lee Dong-gook both the manager's preference and also back to full fitness, Choi Kang-hee could conceivably once again select the ineffective 4-4-2 formation that boasts a strike force with a combined age of 71.

As an aside, three of the top fifteen most disciplined players in the K-League this season are now Jeonbuk defenders (Choi Chul-soon, Choi Kyu-baek and Lim Jong-eun). Whilst the team may boast the least number of goals conceded, it is a worrying stat as it further emphasises that Jeonbuk's back line are needing to foul in order to prevent goals. This could imply they are often left exposed with a foul being their only option which, if so, would highlight the increasing number of defensive errors this season. A lot of assumptions are being made here perhaps, but the statistic is food for thought. The only other team with three defenders in the top fifteen is Suwon FC, who currently reside at the foot of the table.

Ko Moo-yeol

Whilst players who signed in the winter window fell into the category of good, bad, and exiled (sorry Erik!), Ko Moo-yeol has often found himself in the category of "Oh, I forgot we signed him!". The player's appearances this season have been mostly reduced to ineffective cameos from the bench, but he did look lively against Suwon FC when he came on. Against Pohang he was deployed in an unlikely attacking midfielder role behind Kim Shin-wook, another possible option when considering future line-ups, although admittedly he proved not to be that effective.

The clock is ticking on the player who once claimed the young player of the year award. This is partly due to being in a midfield roster bulging with talent, but also due to not taking opportunities when he is afforded them. With the potential line-up for this game being quite up in the air, he is likely to make another cameo. If he is to make it at Jeonbuk though, and not be shipped out in the winter, he needs to start taking his chances and proving to supporters why he was purchased in the first place. More game time against a team lower down the table might be just what he needs.

Kim Hyung-il

Despite often bemoaning Jeonbuk's defensive options (despite them having conceded the least this season), Kim Hyung-il put in a noteworthy display against Pohang Steelers on Sunday. Whilst his last-gasp sliding tackle to prevent Pohang's Shim Dong-woon scoring an almost certain goal being what was certainly the highlight, he performed this feat on a couple of other occasions whilst also proving himself to be difficult against the Pohang front line. With Choi Kyu-baek still in Brazil with the Olympic squad, and the fluctuating form of Lim Jong-eun, Kim's resurgence in form has just came at the right time. With another good display against Incheon, especially due to the absence of Cho Sung-hwan through suspension, he should surely set himself up for a starting berth against Shanghai SIPG next week.

Incheon United: Jeonbuk's Bogey Team

The last time these two teams faced one another, I mentioned Incheon had just started to show signs of life. The game itself resulted in 0-0 draw, with Choi Kang-hee opting to select a heavily rotated squad that nearly allowed Incheon to take all three points.

In addition to this, Incheon are the only team yet to suffer defeat to the champions during this league campaign, taking a rare point in Jeonju (a feat that was only very recently matched by Ulsan) as well as the goalless draw mentioned above.

Incheon have not won in their last four matches however, drawing two and losing two with only one of these four being against top six opposition (Seongnam). Roll these statistics back further and they have only one win in the last seven league games. Despite the occasional draw, the reason why they are so far down in the table is very much evident.

Kevin Oris still continues to be there main threat however, with eight league goals to his name, which is double that of Song Si-woo who sits in second. Oris continues to be the spark in this team who will no doubt attract suitors come the season close. As like my previous preview, he is still the man Jeonbuk should be most wary of.


I do not think Jeonbuk will win. There is too much reason and temptation for the manager to adjust the winning formula into a tactic that has yet to succeed this season. Both times Jeonbuk have deployed a 4-4-2 this year (with the first time being against Incheon at home coincidentally) they have struggled to score and have walked away with a draw. The strikers are too slow, and they are either out of form (Kim Shin-wook), still recovering from a lengthy lay-off (Lee Dong-gook), lacking match fitness (Edu) or looking destined to fall down the pecking order due to managerial preference for the others (Lee Jong-ho). The midfield will also not be at full strength due to suspension, but if there are to be goals, then looking towards the in-form Lopes or, more surprisingly, Jeonbuk defenders would be a safer bet.

I also think Incheon have shown enough fight recently to warrant a goal in this game, but I do not see them having enough to claim victory. Whilst Jeonbuk struggle to perform, they still find points, even if only the one. I eyed this up as a potential banana skin in the last preview, and it could still prove to be. After dropping two points at the weekend though, Jeonbuk will be motivated to correct their form sooner rather than later. I just doubt they will have enough here to reinstate their league dominance.

Predicted Score: Incheon United 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

K League Classic Preview: Incheon United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Stat

Have your say

Who do you think will be victorious during Wednesday's game? Make sure to vote in the Twitter poll and leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.

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