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Writer's Chat: Incheon United vs Jeju United

(Header Pics from AFC ACL website & Incheon United FB page)

This Sunday in the Classic round one brings together Incheon United, who just survived the drop last season, and Jeju United, who finished 3rd behind Seoul and Jeonbuk. Both clubs will want to start with a win, and fresh from 4-1 win over Gamba Osaka, can Jeju keep up the momentum?  Who is going to come out on top when they face each other at the Incheon Football Stadium on Sunday afternoon? 

Jun asks Duncan answers

Jun: Jeju have finally made it to ACL after 6 years - do you think there is enough depth in the current squad to handle 2 major competitions?

Duncan: Surprisingly yes I do. We managed to keep most of our players while adding quite a few others who should be fighting for a place in the starting line up. Assuming the new signings fit in well I think we should be fine.

Jun: What are they hoping to achieve in K League and ACL?

Duncan: Of course, despite having enough depth to handle both competitions I think winning either will be a step too far (fingers crossed though!) With neither Jeonbuk nor Seoul looking as strong as they have recently and with traditional powerhouses Pohang and Suwon coming into 2017 off the back of very poor seasons this year could be a good chance for someone to push the league’s bit hitters to their limits.

However, Jeju really aren’t used to fighting at that level and realistically I’m sure qualifying for the ACL will be our highest goal in the league.

 In terms of the ACL, we have shown in our first two games that we can compete with the other teams in the competition despite not being regulars there. Obviously Jeju want to go as far as possible but I think they will be hoping to reach the knock-out rounds and then considering everything after that be a bonus.

Jun: Jeju boast very exciting offence - but they conceded a lot of goals last season’s (57 goals; average 1.5 goals/game). What have they done to address this issue?

 Duncan: A lot of the work to address the defensive issues came at the end of last season and it was these improvements in defence, combined with our attack, that got us into third place. In the off season, we have once again strengthened defensively and in our two ACL games we have looked solid. Hopefully, these improvements will continue into the new year.

Jun: Lee Keun-ho left for Gangwon - can Jeju cope with this loss? Can you tell us who is likely to step up to take his place?

Duncan: Yes, I don’t really think the loss of Lee will be a problem for us. In the two games so far this season we have really rotated attackers any number of players could fill the position/positions he played in last year. Options include Hwang Il-su, Magno Cruz, a bigger role for Ahn Hyun-beom, or Fredrick Mendy if we want to do something a bit different.

Jun: How do you think the game will go?

 Duncan: I have to say I think Jeju should win this one. Incheon look like they have lost a few big players and we are stronger. Plus have had the two ACL games to help our squad work out how to play together. Last season we beat Incheon at home 3-1 on the opening day of the season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar result again.

Duncan asks Jun answers

Duncan: Last season Incheon didn’t guarantee their survival until the last day of the season. However, this was after a huge upturn in form in the final 10 games of the season. Does this mean Incheon are going into the new season with a bit more hope?

Jun: Yeah, Incheon left it very late but as you mentioned, the final 10 games proved that this club deserves to compete against the best in the Korean top flight. I think a lot of Incheon fans are hoping that this season will be more positive under Lee Ki-hyung as they played completely different from the Kim Do-hoon's team. I also believe that Incheon are capable of surprising everyone this season.

Duncan: In the K-League United 2017 predictions, Incheon were second favourite to be relegated. Do you think this is a fair assessment of their chances this season?

Jun: haha I wasn't too surprised, to be honest. Incheon were lucky to turn things around so late last season, if they play like they did in the first 28 games of the 2016 season, Incheon are definitely going down. But I'm sure they won't make those same mistakes; Incheon have lots of new faces this season and they will bring much-needed new spirit to the team.

Duncan: Incheon seem to have changed a lot of players this season, is it likely that they will have jelled in time for the Jeju game?

Jun: Yeah, Incheon have had a massive overhaul - so far 21 players have been sold/released by the club. Including key players like Matej Jonjic and Kevin Oris. With so many new faces, it will be interesting to see how quickly the players can click together. Can they get things going against Jeju? To be honest, I don't think so; but hopefully individual brilliance from players like Moon Seon-min and Kim Do-hyeok can plug any gaps in the teamwork.

Duncan: Jeju United poached Jin Sung-wook from Incheon during the winter transfer window. What can Jeju expect from their new signing?

Jun: I was surprised to see him leave Incheon; Jin is a promising player and he had just extended his contract with Incheon back in February of last year.
Jin Sung-wook is a versatile forward; although he started off as a centre-foward, the 23 year-old is also capable of playing out-wide. Jin uses his speed well and isn't afraid to shove and tussle with the defenders, either. Although he has questionable stamina, he makes up for it with his skills and pace.

Duncan: How do you think the game will go?

Jun: I've seen Jeju's two ACL games and I must say they were fantastic. Although I would like to see Incheon put up a good fight at home, Jeju's momentum and their better preparation will be difficult to overcome. I will go with 2-1 to Jeju United.

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