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Writers Chat: Jeju United vs Jiangsu Suning Preview

In what will be the first game of the season for both teams, Jeju United will welcome Jiangsu Suning to the Seogwipo world cup stadium on Feb. 22. How will Jeju's new signings fit into the squad? And will Jeju be able to deal with the likes of world football superstars Ramires and Teixeira? In this look ahead to the midweek game, Duncan Elder teamed up with Ning Sun to preview the crucial ACL clash.
(images via fc.suning.com and facebook.com/fcjejuunited)

Duncan asks, Ning Sun answers

Duncan Elder:
Jiangsu made the headlines last year when they signed some real world class players. However, I guess many people who don't follow the CSL haven't heard so much about them since. Can you give us an update about whether or not they have lived up to expectations and what we can expect from them during the game?

Ning Sun: I believe you are referring to Ramires and Alex Teixeira. Last year they joined Jiangsu from Chelsea and Donetsk Shaktar. They became Jiangsu's key players almost from the very first game. Through the year both of them have worked pretty well with the team. Especially after Korean coach Choi Yong-soo took over the team, Teixeira's power was maximized. In 2016, Ramires had 38 appearances and 5 goals. Teixeira had 42 appearances with 19 goals and 15 assists. No doubt Jiangsu will slot them into the starting 11 for this game. Teixeira can be the most dangerous player to Jeju and I expect him for the opener.

DE: Jiangsu finished second last year so I'm sure you also have some great Chinese players in the squad. Anyone we should look out for?

NS: Yes, we have great domestic players. Most of them were trained from our youth system so they have played together for quite a long time. Wu Xi (number 22), our captain, is the heart of Jiangsu. He had an assist and one goal in last year's ACL vs Jeonbuk Hyundai. Also you need to pay attention to No.24 Ji Xiang, No.11 Xie Pengfei and No.2 Li Ang. All of them have experience with the Chinese National Team or U23s.

DE: What is Jiangsu's general style of play? What do you expect from them when they play Jeju?

NS: Just like he did at FC Seoul, Choi Yong-soo brings his 3-5-2 to Jiangsu. In most games the team plays pretty open and offensively. Choi Yong-soo told media he wants beautiful and passionate football. That's quite a change compared to the team under previous manager, Dan Petrescu. After this year's winter camp, I hope the team can become better tactically and not rely on individual players too much.

DE: What are Jiangsu's expectations for the ACL group stages and also the competition as a whole?

NS: This is Jiangsu's 3rd ACL, and I should say we were unlucky in the previous two. 2013 and 2016 we were just 1 point away from qualification. This year the team will try their best to exceed the group stage first. Given that Group H has four great teams, I think the group stage will be pretty tight and there is no easy game at all.

DE: What are your predictions for the game?

NS: The first game of the season is always full of unknown, especially for us Jeju is an unfamiliar opponent, it's really hard to predict. As a Jiangsu fan, I choose 2-1 that Jiangsu will take the 3 points.

Ning Sun asks, Duncan answers.

Ning Sun: If I recall correctly, this is Jeju's second ACL and the last time was at 2011. Is there any player in Jeju who has ACL experience? And is there any Korean NT players in Jeju?

Duncan Elder: 
Jeju have a few players with ACL experience, but goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun is the only player whose ACL experience came with Jeju in 2011. As well as Kim Ho-jun, we have actively set out over the winter break to sign players with ACL experience. Kim Won-il, Cho Yong-hyung, Park Jin-po and Choi Hyun-tae all have some ACL game time under their belts. We don't currently have any national team players, although a few of the players in our squad do/have represented Korea at the U23 level.

NS: I saw Jeju signed Jovanovic from CSL side Tianjin TEDA. How many other players has Jeju signed in this winter, both foreign and domestic?

DE: Jeju have been busy this year. They managed to keep most of their key players from last year while also strengthening both the starting eleven and the overall squad. Key players include Jovanovic at CB, Mendy at CF, as well as the players with ACL experience mentioned above.

NS: Who are Jeju's key players in defense, mid-field and attack?

DE: In attack, Marcelo is our most dangerous player and he can both create and score goals. Kwon Soon-hyung in midfield is a good passer and also protects the defense well. At wingback Chung-woon offers a direct attacking threat along with defensive stability. It could also be worth keeping an eye out on Ahn Hyun-beom. He is a young winger and gained some well deserved praise last year for some promising performances in his break out season as a pro.

NS: How do you compare the four teams in group H?

DE: It will likely be close. I think that essentially Jeju being in the group instead of Jeonbuk opens it up hugely and now anyone could finish in first place. Osaka probably have the strongest ACL pedigree, but both Jiangsu and Adelaide finished well in their leagues and will be hoping to do well in the group.

NS: Your prediction?

DE: Coming up against the likes of Ramires and Teixeira will undoubtedly be a challenge unlike most the players at Jeju have faced before. However, there are nine other players and there is no reason to think that Jeju won't be able to put in a good performance.

Jeju are at home so I'll go for a closely fought 2-1 win for Jeju.

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