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Jeonnam Dragons vs Sangju Sangmu Preview

With just three games left before the league splits into Championship and Relegation Rounds, the Dragons have a golden opportunity to vault themselves up the table and get a bit of revenge in the process. 6th placed Sangju Sangmu visit Gwangyang Stadium Wednesday night for a six point matchup that may well determine which of these teams finishes in the top 6. Sangju has come out on top in the previous two meetings this season, but this is a very different Dragons team from the one they last played in June.

Jeonnam DragonsSangju Sangmu
Competition:K-League Classic
Date:Sep 21, 2016
Game Week:Round 31
Venue:Gwangyang Stadium

Who'll Stop The Rain

I spoke briefly with Vedran Jugović after the Dragons dramatic 2-0 triumph over Gwangju FC on Saturday night and he jokingly said "this was not soccer." In the middle of a flat out monsoon, Jeonnam managed to do what they've done for months now: score late and secure points at home. Heo Yong-joon went down in a heap of bodies in the box in the 74th, earned a penalty, and promptly celebrated like he'd won the Championship. Jair converted and Ahn Yong-woo belted in a screamer 15 minutes later from a ball that had simply died in a puddle about 10 feet from the goal line. The clean sheet was the Dragons first since July 30th and their 11th on the season, tying them for the league lead with Ulsan Hyundai.

Military Men

After going on about Park Jun-tae and Park Gi-dong returning from military service in the Gwangju preview neither made the game day roster for the Dragons Saturday night. They've officially been released from their military service and should be back with the Dragons, so their appearance seems imminent. As mentioned Gi-dong lead Sangju in scoring this season with 9 goals, and Jun-tae was tied for second with 8, and both have played over 1,500 minutes this season. They're tremendous late season additions that should help Jeonnam push themselves into the top 6, hopefully starting as soon as Wednesday against their former club.

Movin On Up

Despite beating an opponent directly above them in the table, Jeonnam stayed firmly in 8th place after beating Gwangju Saturday night. 6th place Seongnam picked up all 3 points vs Suwon FC and stayed ahead of the Dragons with 41 points on the year. Currently in 8th place on 39 points Jeonnam could vault as high as 5th with a win and the following results Wednesday night: Seongnam loss at Ulsan, and Gwangju loss or draw vs Suwon Bluewings. Ulsan's currently clinging to an AFC Champions League birth in 3rd place and will be doing everything they can to stay in that spot, so they'll likely come out strong against Ulsan. Additionally, the Bluewings are likely in a far less than savory mood after seeing a win slip away late in a rather physical game in Jeonju, and will likely give Gwangju all they can handle. So there's reason to keep eyes on the scoreboard Wednesday night, but first and foremost the Dragons need to focus on what's in front of them and do something they haven't done yet this year: beat Sangju. At the very least a win would see them move above the military team in the standings and sit in 7th at the very worst. Still a strong spot to be in with Suwon FC and Jeju the only two teams left on the schedule after Wednesday.

The Adversary

Jeonnam needing to avoid a draw shouldn't be much of an issue facing Sangju, as they've only had one road draw this season: their 0-0 affair in Incheon over the weekend. A statistical anomaly considering the match was supposed to be a home game for the army team, but was postponed and eventually cancelled and moved due to their field flooding. Additionally Sangju have only held 3 away clean sheets this season, and aren't likely to pick up a 4th against a confident Dragons attacking side. That's just the road woes, the bigger issue facing Sangju is 11 players that left after finishing their military service. After the exit, Sangju have been left with just 5 goal scorers on the season, all of which have 2 goals. With the roster excessively in flux, their top 4 leading goal scorers hitting the road, only picking up 1 win in their last 7, and being shut out in 3 of their previous 4 matches, now is certainly the time to play this team.

Who To Watch

With so many goal scorers hitting the exit, the focus of the attack shifts to 27-year-old former Albirex Niigata standout striker, Cho Young-cheol. He's now the attacker with the most minutes on the team, is tied for the team lead in goals... with 2... and will need to find another gear if Sangju's going to stay in the Championship Round. He hasn't found the back of the net since a June 19th match against the Dragons, but has consistently been getting minutes for Cho Jin-ho's side and is a bit overdue to make good on the time he's been given.


This has the makings of a potential trap game, but I think the Dragons are a bit smarter than that right now and know what's at stake. It'll likely be more of a nail biter than I'd prefer, but look for the home team to get it done.

Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 Sangju Sangmu

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