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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Seongnam FC

K-League Classic player of round 31 Kim Shin-wook will be looking to build on a good performance at Jeju.  (Photo Credit: Hyundai-Motors.com)
K-League Classic player of round 31 Kim Shin-wook will be looking to build on a good performance at Jeju.
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-Motors.com)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors manager Choi Kang-hee surprised supporters by rotating heavily for the midweek clash against Jeju United and, as a result, only came away with a 2-2 draw. With the prospect of participating in one of this year's biggest game's in Asia looming on the horizon, Saturday's match against Seongnam may not be getting the full attention is deserves, something which the recently struggling visitors will be hoping to take full advantage of.

Choi Spins The Rotation Roulette Once More

It became pretty clear in the first twenty minutes that my preview for the Jeonbuk vs Jeju game could be deemed redundant as Choi Kang-hee shocked every one by giving the squad a major overhaul to face a team away from home and residing in fourth. The manager opted to drop the entirety of arguably the strongest midfield in Asia for three military recruits who had just returned to the club (Shin Hyung-min, Jeong Hyuk and Lee Seung-gi) and occasional cameo maker Seo Sang-min on the right. Choi also played 4-4-2, a tactic that is yet to bear a win this year, with Kim Shin-wook and out-of-favour Lee Jong-ho leading the line. It was certainly a risky move, with the champions eventually fortunate to come out with a 2-2 draw.

It was not clear if he is resting players ahead of the ACL Champions League semi-final in a week's time and whether they will reinstate the preferred choices for Saturday's home game against Seongnam. Having now dedicated the day to the three returned army players, I think supporters can expect a similar midfield to that which we saw in Jeju.

"We All Dream Of A Team of Kim Shin-wooks!"

Well, if we are, we should really stop consuming dairy produce before bed. With an absence of regular first-team talent in other areas of the pitch, Kim Shin-wook came out as one of the team's stand out performers, bagging himself two goals for his efforts and nearly doubling his league tally in one match. His performance was even enough to earn the "Player of the round" award from the K-League. The towering striker proved a nuisance to the Jeju defence, first turning in a header to take the lead early on, and then reclaiming the lead after first helping scrap for the ball, and then having Lee Seung-gi lob the ball over the defence for him to run onto and slot home. It still may not be a performance that lives long in the memory, but it was a lot closer to the top scorer Kim Shin-wook of last year than we have seen this season.

Jeonbuk's Defensive Woes

For a team with the most formidable defence in the league, Jeonbuk do feel like they commit an awful lot of errors. Having found some stability in a back line with Park Won-jae, Cho Sung-hwan, Kim Hyung-il and Choi Chul-soon, the manager sent out a fresh back four to hold out Jeju. While admittedly the coach's hand was forced by the suspension of Cho Sung-hwan (a suspension which has since been extended another five games by the KFA due to its severity), the back line consisted of  Lee Ju-young, Lim Jong-eun, Choi Kyu-baek and Kim Chang-soo. You would be forgiven for thinking this was mostly the first choice defence based on the early games of the season, but it took ninety minutes in Jeju to remind us why they have fallen down the pecking order.

Jeju's first goal arose from a questionable penalty. It might have been clear cut, but the match highlights only offered one from an inconvenient angle. The Jeju's Wanderson was deemed to have been fouled just within the box, although the camera angle suggested it might have been slightly outside. As the referee was in a much better position then I will give him the benefit of the doubt. Regardless though, it was a very soft challenge, with the Shin Hyung-min perhaps just clipping him as he turned. Wanderson made no mistakes in dispatching from the spot.

Jeju's second equaliser of the game came in the 85th minute through defensive errors and apathy from Jeonbuk. Lim Jong-eun left his line to make a tackle in midfield. His attempts proved fruitless though as the ball was played out right where Lee Ju-yong failed to close down quick enough. A low cross was played in and cut out by a sliding Choi kyu-baek, but with no other defenders to clear the loose ball on his behalf, intended cross recipient Lee Kwang-seong ran around the floored centre-back and slotted home.

Seongnam's Under New Management

Seongnam's recent spell of poor form and slide towards the lower half of the table has seen manager Kim Hak-bum resign from his post in a bid for the club to remain in the top six ahead of the league split. The change in personnel has yielded quick results, with a fightback to claim all three points against Suwon FC, and a heartbreaking yet encouraging loss away to Ulsan, where they managed to hit the post four times and led (albeit by a single goal) for the majority of the match.

Seongnam have won three times in the last fourteen, with one of those coming against Suwon FC last weekend, a game they had initially fell behind in until a Kim Hyun double turned their fortunes around. A full strength Jeonbuk team would certainly be a tall ask for Seongnam. They may have a chance this Saturday though as their motivation is focused solely on the league, whilst Jeonbuk are perhaps already focusing on their upcoming AFC semi-final, especially when you consider the champions have drawn their last three league games.

Since the summer departure of Tiago, Hwang Ui-jo has taken on the mantle of top scorer for Seongnam. Whilst adding to his tally on Wednesday at Ulsan, he could have easily added three more, with three of his efforts seeking out the woodwork. The Korean national team striker has found goals hard to come by since the Brazilian's departure, having previously scored just over a month before. He definitely possesses the skill to cause problems for Jeonbuk, but it will depend if he can start making his shots count. If Jeonbuk opt for a second string defence again, he may just get that opportunity.

Predictions

I am not actually too sure on how this is going to play out. With FC Seoul not playing this weekend, ensuring that their players will be well rested for the massive semi-final against Jeonbuk next week, you would be tempted to think Choi Kang-hee would match them and also rest his key assets. That said, most of them did not feature against Jeju and therefore, if rested again, having ten days off prior to a semi-final is not ideal. Surely some game time would be beneficial, but with the aforementioned day dedicated to the returned soldiers, it seems highly likely Jeonbuk will at least rest most of their usual midfield. Purely because the predicted line-up is at its cloudiest since early in the season, and because Seongnam, under new management, are fighting to hold onto that top six spot, I will cautiously predict a draw,

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Seongnam FC

Have Your Say

Disagree with any of the point above? Feel free to take it up with me in the comments below and make sure to vote in the Twitter poll to see how others are feeling ahead of the game.

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