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Writers Chat: FC Seoul vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Preview

FC Seoul vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors K-League Classic Preview
With both teams coming off the back of midweek Asian Champions League action, this Sunday evening sees the K-League's first and second place sides face-off as FC Seoul plays host to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Our FC Seoul columnist John Emanuelson speaks with Jeonbuk contributor Matthew Binns about what to expect this weekend.


John asks, I answer

John Emanuelson: I feel like Jeonbuk had the toughest ACL draw.  How would you rate their performance against Shanghai SIPG?

Matthew Binns: Shandong Luneng would have certainly been more preferable opposition than Shanghai SIPG. I think a draw was a fair result, although a score draw with some away goals would have been ideal. It was far from a dull 0-0 and I think Jeonbuk's defence did very well for the ninety minutes, containing the likes of their talisman Wu Lei for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, the Korean side's attacks were somewhat restricted due to both their pressing approach as well as some tough challenges from the home side, with their most notable effort being a longer range effort from Leonardo which rattled the top corner of the goal frame. It is all still very much to play for in Jeonju, but I do wish Jeonbuk had taken advantage whilst Shanghai SIPG were without their record signing Hulk. It will likely prove to be an interesting second leg.

JE: Jeonbuk have yet to lose a game and have beaten every team at least once even though they have had issues with Choi Kang-hee's mad scientist approach to rotation.  If Jeonbuk go undefeated, how much credit does the manager deserve for this feat?

MB: If we look back to the period when he was rotating heavily, Jeonbuk were still trailing FC Seoul in the league and had yet to win away from home. It was only when the ACL ceased for the summer, and a regular eleven was trotted out for each game, that Jeonbuk began to fully capitalise on FC Seoul's mid-summer capitulation. He does deserve credit for this season because the feat he has achieved is record-breaking and the club is still in with a shout at the Asian Champion's League. He also has this team of players fighting for him as well, with them coming back from losing positions on numerous occasions this season to claim all three of the points. In regards to rotation though, I do feel that his hand was forced into playing a more regular eleven once he lost in Vietnam, subsequently placing the prospect of group stage elimination on the cards as well as the possibility of being showed up by what was then a free-scoring FC Seoul in the league.

JE: You have praised Lee Jong-ho's efforts when leading the line this season.  So, do you think the signing of Edu was a wise one or, considering the defense and numerous forwards on the roster, excessive?

MB: Choi Kang-hee only tends to select from four players for the attacker role, with these being Lee Dong-gook, Lee Jong-ho, Kim Shin-wook and now Edu. These four players have scored 16 of Jeonbuk's 54 league goals this season, which for strikers in a title-chasing side, is not enough. I therefore slightly understood his need for a reliable striker, but most of Lee Jong-ho's five goals came when he was given a much-needed run in the side due to Lee Dong-gook's injury and therefore perhaps he deserved to continue in that position for longer seeing as he was in-form. Looking back though, the signing of Edu looks to have been planned before a ball was even kicked this season. With this much fuss having gone into signing a 34 year-old significantly lacking match sharpness for the most crucial part of the season, Choi Kang-hee has almost had to shoehorn him in and is now quickly discovering that you should never go back. I will give Edu the benefit of the doubt over Shanghai as he was starved of service, but he was unable to open his account against Suwon FC, Pohang Steelers and Incheon United, three struggling teams lingering in the bottom half of the table. Fortunately, having rested Lee Jong-ho for the entirety of the Shanghai SIPG match, I expect Choi to hand him a role in Sunday's clash.

JE: Prediction?

MB: I see Jeonbuk struggling after a tiresome midweek jaunt to China, in addition to FC Seoul being the form-side having now won their last six games across all competitions. That said, Jeonbuk are not as obliging as Shandong Luneng and FC Seoul are not as tough in the tackle as Shanghai SIPG. I predict Seoul to find a way through Jeonbuk's defenders early on, with the visitors replying late on to share the spoils.

Matthew's Predicted Scoreline: FC Seoul 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

I ask, John answers

Matthew Binns: The midweek Asian Champions League quarter final saw FC Seoul defeat Shandong Luneng 3-1 in the first leg. What was your thoughts on their display?

John Emanuelson: Against Shandong Luneng, Seoul were brilliant, especially in attack.  As usual, there were some wobbles in defense, but I am becoming accustomed to this.  Montillo's free kick was sublime and there was little that could be done to prevent it, but I felt as though Seoul were in great danger of blowing a two goal lead at the end of the first half.  Still, attack wise Seoul were fantastic, especially Dejan and his vision.  Dejan's cheeky through ball to set up Adriano for the third goal should be on every highlight reel hitherto.  In sum, this was one of Seoul's best performances of the year - up there with the 4-1 thrashings of Hiroshima and Shandong in March.

MB: Seoul are coming into this on the back of five straight league wins. What tactical changes have led to this spell of good form?

JE: I think switching from a 3 back system to a 4-4-2 has helped give some stability.  Rather than playing a high line with centerbacks out of form, it is a better option to double up on the wings to help cut down on the mistakes that were happening.  Choi Yong-soo's intransigence with regards to his beloved 3-5-2 was one of his foibles that I found maddening.

Likewise, slotting players into their preferred positions instead of shoehorning them into roles that they are uncomfortable with has made a difference as well.  Yun Il-lok is having a great run of form right now because he is playing out wide and has space to utilize, whereas he struggled when played centrally because he did not have the strength nor space to express himself in those areas.  Players win games, not formations, and I think Choi Yong-soo failed to realize this at times.  I have been critical at times of Hwang Sun-hong, but he deserves props for bringing Yun Il-lok back to his best, making Cho Chan-ho a servicable option on the wing, and bringing Lee Seok-hyun back from the dead.

MB: Do you think Hwang Sun-hong will make any particular changes to counter specific threats from Jeonbuk?

JE: On this questions, I must plead ignorance. I have not watched enough Seoul matches as of late.  I am sure that Hwang will stick with a 4-4-2 formation since it has worked quite well the last six games, so why change. Seoul have the form right now and are playing much better than the last time these two teams met.  Rather than make systematic changes, I think the players just need to minimize their mistakes. Seoul have done well in this regard, for the most part as of late and because of this, luck is now going in their direction again.

MB: Prediction?

JE: Having traveled to China for ACL and with everything still 0-0, I think that Jeonbuk might have other things on their mind and might even feel quite comfortable with a 10 point lead.  Therefore, like the Super Match, I think Seoul win in a tight, tense game 1-0, ending Jeonbuk's streak.

John's Predicted Scoreline: FC Seoul 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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