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Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United Preview

In the last match of the regular season the Dragons find themselves in a "win and in" situation where a victory vs Jeju United on Sunday afternoon would guarantee them a the Championship Round when K-League splits on Monday. It's possible to remain in the top half should they fail to secure all three points, but that requires a lot of scoreboard watching and hoping for numerous teams to do numerous things. Jeonnam's in a rare position where they control their season's destiny on the final match day and can ensure it ends on a joyous note with a win Sunday.

Jeonnam DragonsJeju United
WDWWDWDDDW
Competition:K-League Classic
Date:Oct 2, 2016
Game Week:Round 33
Kick-off:14:00
Venue:Palma Stadium

Missed Opportunity

I called it a trap game in the preview, and while the Dragons didn't fully fall victim, they at least got their foot stuck. Against a team that's mired in the basement with a paltry 30 points through 32 matches, the Dragons failed to secure a place in Championship round by picking up all 3 points available. Suwon have conceded at least one goal in 76% of their home matches, but through a lack of offensive cohesion from the Dragons in the first half and Suwon goalkeeper Lee Chang-keun standing on his head in the second, Jeonnam failed to find the back of the net. Park Gi-dong continues to struggle mightily at the top of the Dragons formation and may need to start coming off the bench. His presence alone has been enough to alter the offense that was flowing so well during its late summer run into the top half of the table. Far too many long balls are being lobbed at the sizable target forward, and nothing's coming of it. It would be a touch surprising if manager Noh Sang-rae replaced Park after just a few games, but the offense needs to start clicking again. Perhaps Heo Yong-joon's play has been enough to earn him a start?

The Situation 

The Dragons enter the match in 5th place, 1 point ahead of Sangju, and 2 points ahead of Seongnam, and Gwangju. 6th place Sangju will host red hot and still undefeated champs, Jeonbuk, so that's a favorable matchup for the Dragons. However, 7th place Seongnam will host a Pohang side that's only won once in their previous five. Back on the positive side of things 8th place Gwangju's hosting a frustrated and likely quite angry FC Seoul side that will be looking for a morale boost after having their asses handed to them in midweek ACL action. There are a number of scenarios where Jeonnam could lose and still make Championship Round, but the easiest way would simply be to win against a Jeju side that's already clinched top 6 and doesn't have much to play for this week. Should the Dragons pull it off, it would guarantee their best finish to a season since 2009 when they finished 4th.

Home Is Wherever I'm With You

Starting Sunday, the remainder of the Dragons home matches will be played at Palma Stadium in Suncheon. They've left the friendly confines of Gwangyang Stadium so the field there can get some much needed new sod for next season. While Palma is one of the many Korean stadiums with a running track, it's 12,500 capacity is a much better size for the Dragons average attendance and they'll be drawing from Suncheon, which is a much more densely populated area. However, the team will need to get on a bus and drive close 30 minutes to get to a stadium that doesn't have their locker room, doesn't have their usual staff, and doesn't have the usual home game feeling. It's not quite like playing on neutral ground, but it's not too far off. For a team that's built their season success at home as the Dragons have, this weekend will be a key test to see if they can keep that ball rolling in a new location.

The Adversary

Both Jeju and Jeonnam head into Sunday's match unbeaten in six and hoping to challenge for an AFC Champions League place after the split. Jeju will be looking to do so by out-dueling their opponents with the league's second best offense. On the season, only juggernauts Jeonbuk have scored more goals than Jeju's astounding 58 this year; and Jeonbuk's only ahead by a lone goal. Jeju's averaged 1.81 goals per game through 32 rounds, has been held scoreless in only 22% of their matches, and will be looking to to increase on the 25 road goals they've notched thus far. Aside from slowing down the prolific offense, the Dragons also have a bit of a historical monkey on their back with Jeju. Though recent memory has a few key wins in there, Jeonnam has only defeated Jeju twice in their previous 10 meetings dating back to 2013. Jeju has picked up 5 wins vs the Dragons in that same span. However, it's not all doom and gloom for the pride of Gwangyang (or Suncheon I suppose due to the change in venue). As good as Jeju's offense truly is, their defense is equally as bad. Their 50 goals conceded is second only to Sangju's 52 this year and is the glaring reason Jeju isn't already in pole position for an ACL birth. 17 out of 32 games have seen Jeju concede 2 or more goals in 2016, and they've only managed to keep four clean sheets on the road. Additionally, 9 of Jeju's 12 losses have come on the road this year. So if the Dragons can get the offense going again and put at least two on the board, there's a good chance they'll secure top 6 all on their own.

Who To Watch

Of the 58 goals Jeju's scored this year, 10 of them have come from Brazilian Marcelo Toscano. Currently in his first year in K-League, Jeju brought in Marcelo as a replacement for the currently on fire Ricardo Lopes after Marcelo helped América Mineiro get promoted to Brazil's Série A last year with 14 goals. And Marcelo hasn't disappointed. He currently leads the team in scoring and is in the top 10 league-wide. Though he's a good pace off Gwangju's Jung Jo-gook in the Golden Boot race, the 31-year-old has had a solid first season in K-League and Jeju will continue to lean on him for goals down the stretch. Keeping him in pocket will be key for the Dragons this Sunday.

Prediction

Jeju's already secured top 6, don't play overly well on the road, and the Dragons know what's on the line. Look for the home side to get the job done.

Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 Jeju United


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