Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
|Jeonbuk's Kim Shin-wook holds off FC Seoul's Osmar in a thrilling 4-1 victory at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium |
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)
Let me start this with somewhat of an apology. I have heavily criticised Jeonbuk's winter acquisition on numerous occasions throughout the season but his performance in the 4-1 drubbing of FC Seoul was simply excellent.
With his player of the round performance at Jeju, and his recent surprise recall to the national squad to face Qatar, this is a player finally finding the confidence that had deserted him so quickly into his Jeonbuk tenure. If it were not for Leonardo's two goals, the Wookie would have even been a shoe-in for man of the match in this game. The player showed awareness, was integral to attacking movements and somehow even found the pace to outrun the Seoul back line and score the team's fourth. He even showed great theatrical ability to win Jeonbuk's opener from the penalty spot but shining a spotlight on what was his only major negative of the night in order to criticise him would be unfair. He will not have won over many national team supporters in Seoul though.
Kim Shin-wook's role in the squad has moved away from the goalscorer he was at Ulsan, and instead has become an outlet for both Jeonbuk's onrushing wingers to attack without breaking stride, often holding the ball up or playing the ball through into dangerous areas. The 192cm striker flicked on an inch perfect header into the path of Lopes to create the second goal, he found himself involved in the build-up to Leonardo's second.
However, with this new found confidence has slowly returned the ability to convert, With less than ten minutes remaining, the Wookie outpaced (yes, you read that correctly) FC Seoul's right back to the ball, drove into the penalty box and finished with precision past the keeper, scoring in such a manner that would make you believe he has been doing this all year.
If he keeps this form up until the end of the year, my Jeonbuk Season Preview might not look so naive after all.
Areas for Rotation
With four players called up for national team duty next week, there has never been better confirmation of just how well this Jeonbuk team has performed throughout the season. Whilst admittedly Lee Jae-sung has been a regular name on the international squad list, the return of Kim Bo-kyung, Kwoun Sun-tae and the surprising inclusion of Kim Shin-wook have nearly all been justified. With this in mind, Choi Kang-hee may consider this game an apt occasion for these four to rest, most likely reverting to his military midfield that was dispatched at Jeju.
With Edu and Lee Jong-ho also not being involved midweek, I foresee their return to the match day squad and starting line-up. I also imagine Lopes and Leonardo taking their place among the substitutes to be brought on in case they are required.
Jeonbuk Could've Won The Title This Weekend
With news breaking that Jeonbuk's punishment is to take immediate effect, their fourteen point lead over second placed Seoul has now been reduced to five. Whilst debate about the effect the punishment rages online, it is safe to say the champions have got away very lightly for their misdemeanours. They are still favourites to reclaim their title though but may have to refocus when it could have originally all been wrapped up as soon as this weekend.
Jeonbuk do have other reasons to stay focused though regardless of punishment. They are six games from achieving the impressive feat of going a whole season unbeaten. It would be an impressive accomplishment in any league, but given the K-League's league split format, it means teams in top 6 play each other four times a year. With this in mind, going through all the games undefeated, having played the best teams on numerous occasions, certainly makes it that extra bit special.
Sangju Sangmu come into this game on horrendous form having had many of their players recalled to the parent clubs. To further worsen matters, they are now looking over their shoulder at the teams in seventh and eighth who could steal their spot in top half ahead of the split if they were to lose to Jeonbuk. They certainly have a lot to fight for, but will be facing the toughest of challenges.
Sangju has scored just two goals and picked up two points in their last six games, with their last game seeing them lose 5-1 at home to fourth placed Jeju United. Quickly running up a 3-0 deficit before the half way mark, Sangju did manage to pull one back after the break through Cho Young-cheol before proceeding to concede another two.
With the likes of top scorers Park Gi-dong (9 goals) and Lim Sang-hyub (8 goals) no longer on the book, along with a plethora of talent who had helped them reach the giddy heights of third this campaign now departed, Sangju's current highest scorer is the aforementioned Cho Youn-cheol with just three. In fact, the players still at the club have only scored 11 of the club's 49 league goals this season; meaning over 75% of their goal-scoring talent is no longer with them at such a crucial part of the season. Supporters of the club will at least be pleased though they sought to avoid relegation early on whilst they had the players at their disposal and should at least hold on to top-flight status even if they do not make the split on this occasion.
Although I expect some rotation from Choi Kang-hee this weekend, I still expect Jeonbuk to have more than enough capable players to win this game. While there may be some hangover from the fallout of the KFA bribery punishment, I see Jeonbuk motivated to push on and wrap up this title as quickly as possible. Sangju will also be motivated to secure their top flight status, but should not have enough to trouble the champions unless they are grossly underestimated.
Predicted Score: Sangju Sangmu 0-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors