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Writers' Chat: Incheon United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Preview

This Saturday in the Classic brings together Incheon United, who picked up their first point last weekend away to Daegu, and Jeonbuk Hyundai, who are perfect with two wins out of two. Both clubs have lost their key players this season as they face each other at the Incheon Football Stadium. With exciting new players for both teams, Jeonbuk expert Matthew Binns and I will discuss how these two teams with very different goals and priorities will face each other.
(Header Pics from Incheon United & Jeonbuk Hyundai FaceBook pages)

Jun Asks, Matthew Answers

Jun Kim: There were some worries with Jeonbuk before the season started - loss of hugely influential players Kwoun and Leonardo - but with already 2 wins out of 2, is it fair to say that Jeonbuk are still the main contenders for the league title this season?
Have Jeonbuk done enough to fill the void left by those two players?

Matthew Binns: I would say it is still very early days, and the first victory against Jeonnam Dragons was far from convincing. That said, Jeonbuk did look strong against supposed title contenders Suwon Bluewings so perhaps I have been a little too pessimistic in my season predictions. I still think there is a lack of depth though, especially with the increasing injury list, but Jeonbuk's new look defence is a definite improvement on last year and could prove something to depend on as we venture deeper into the campaign.

In regards to the two players who have left, Ko Moo-yeol has taken on the Leonardo mantle so far but has failed to live up to his billing. Last season he did not get a run in the team however, so I am hoping with more exposure to first-team football that he will rediscover the form that made him such a big deal at Pohang.

As for Kwoun Sun-tae's replacement, Hong Jeong-nam has done a more than adequate job so far. There have been a couple of heart-in-mouth moments, but also enough glimmers of potential to suggest that Choi Kang-hee was right to give him a shot. I look forward to seeing him develop further. The void is certainly not filled, but perhaps it is not as gaping as first anticipated.

Jun: Choi Kang-hee actually showed his tactical flexibility against Suwon by opting to go for 3-4-3 and it worked very well. Will Jeonbuk use this formation more regularly this season?

Matthew: I have a tendency to criticise Choi Kang-hee, but credit is due in regards his tactics against Suwon. Allowing Kim Jin-su and Lee Yong to advance down the wings certainly played to their strengths whilst simultaneously allowing Ko Moo-yeol and Lee Seung-gi to move inside to benefit from a Kim Shin-wook's ball winning headers, cumulatively putting the Suwon defence under significant pressure. I understand the 3-4-3 is currently the fashionable tactic in the wider footballing world at present, but within the K League, Jeonbuk could have some of the best options to fully utilise such an approach.

Jun: What are your thoughts on Kim Jin-su? What does he bring to the team?

Matthew: It may only have been two games, but I thought his purchase was a smart move when he first arrived. While he may have fallen out of favour at Hoffenheim, he still had more than enough ability to play in this league so I was naturally delighted he opted for Jeonbuk. I was surprised there were not more suitors clamouring for his signature, especially with Suwon losing Hong Chul to military service, but perhaps Jeonbuk possessed the funds, Champions League football (at the time) plus also being based in the player's hometown of Jeonju.

Kim Jin-su already has one goal and one assist to his name within these first two games, which is a good haul for a player considered as a left-back. What I particularly like about him is his willingness to advance further up the pitch whilst not shirking his defensive responsibilities, hence helping make the 3-4-3 Choi employed work. He also seems to have a decent eye for a pass, and his work rate seems to be good. He definitely looks like a player with a point to prove in regards to his reputation, and long may it continue whilst he is clad in neon green.

Jun: Which players are likely to cause problems for Incheon?

Matthew: The aforementioned Kim Jin-su is certainly set to cause a few headaches and is the standout player I would highlight for this match. Seeing as I have just gone over the threat he poses though, I'll opt for another.

Surprisingly, I think Kim Shin-wook could create a number of problems for Incheon on Saturday, and that is not because I am still flying hifh after his 93rd minute winner two weeks ago.
whilst he did not score against Suwon, I would say his performance was stronger that that against Jeonnam the week prior. When operating as part of the team, rather than the expected source for goals, Jeonbuk have tended to get the best out of him, with Leonardo and Lopes both strongly benefiting from his run in the side towards the end of last season.

Unfortunately, Lopes' temporary replacement Lee Seung-gi is out injured for at least a month after that horrific, now punished tackle from Suwon's Seo Jung-jin. Therefore, Choi Kang-hee will likely select Eder Luiz in his place. Eder is still new to the club and, while offering some promise, is yet to ignite his Jeonbuk career. Assuming Choi opts for a 3-4-3 or 4-1-4-1 formation, having someone like Kim Shin-wook to win the ball up front in what could prove to be a tight defence should also provide a new signing with enough opportunities to feed off and hopefully open his account.

Jun: How do you see the game playing out?

Matthew: Backed with individually talented defenders that continue to develop an understanding with one another, I can see Jeonbuk neutering the threat being posed by Incheon, with the visitors' constant pressure eventually resulting in a goal or two, especially if Choi decides to repeat his tactics from the game against Suwon.

Matthew's predicted score: Incheon United 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

Matthew Asks, Jun Answers

Matthew: In their previous game, Incheon United made a spirited comeback against Daegu FC to draw the game two goals apiece. What were your thought on Incheon's performance in that match and was the draw a deserved result?

Jun: Yeah I can't complain about the result as it's better than nothing, but I think that Incheon were lucky to walk away with a point against Daegu.
Daegu really tested Incheon's defence and they were able to nullify Incheon's defensive midfielder Connor Chapman; the Australian was meant to provide stability and work as a link between Incheon's back four and their wide-men.
Unfortunately for Chapman, he wasn't able to dictate the play in the middle and the rest of Incheon midfielders were bullied into giving up possessions and were also slow at getting back to help out in defence.
On a positive note, Incheon showed some nice interchange of play in front of the Daegu defence towards the end of the game and were able to eveutually draw the game.

Matthew: What notable differences would say there are between current manager Lee Ki-hyung and previous manager Kim Do-hoon in terms of Incheon's approach?
Whilst it is still early days somewhat, do you believe Lee will prove to be an improvement as time goes on?

Jun: We are already seeing some significant differences between the two managers; Lee isn't afraid to urge his team to push forward when they're behind. Under Kim Do-hoon, I think Incheon were quite happy to just sit back and defend. They were playing not to lose. Lee Ki-hyung on the other hand, wants to see his players move the ball forward, this is crucial for Incheon because they have some speedy players out-wide and they must find ways to maximise their abilities.
From what I've seen so far this season (against jeju and Daegu), they still need more work on their wing play and overlapping runs from fullbacks.

Matthew: How do you envisage Incheon United lining up ahead of this particular fixture?

Jun: It will be interesting to see if Lee Ki-hyung will switch back to last season's 5-4-1 against Jeonbuk; they will want to tighten up the defence against possibly one of the strongest attacks in the league.
However, I wouldn't be surprised if Lee decides to stick with his 4-1-4-1.
We saw two very different lineups in first two games; Lee Ki-hyung must be still trying to figure out his best eleven.
It is going to be difficult for me to guess who are likely to start against Jeonbuk, but based on recent form, I'd say "Dali" Veselinovic will start up front and Kim Dae-kyeong to play as left-wing.
Kim Yong-hwan will start at left-back alongside centre back pairing of Bunoza and Lee yun-pyo.

I'm not too sure if Connor Chapman will get to start against Jeonbuk. He looked uncomfortable playing in central midfield, although he could be brought in to provide some height to go up against Jeonbuk's towering forward Kim Shin-wook.

Matthew: Which Incheon player is likely to cause Jeonbuk problems?

Jun: I was worried at the start of the season because Incheon's ever-present Croatian centre back Matej Jonjic had left for Japan. But, it turns out, our new signing Gordan Bunoza is capable of plugging the gap left by the two-time K League Best XI player.
Bunoza is very good at tracking his players despite his height (6ft 5in). The 29-year-old K League newcomer is also not afraid to spray the ball forward from the back. I think Bunoza will be able to handle Kim Shin-wook and frustrate Jeonbuk's attack.
However, for Bunoza to succeed this weekend, he needs help from his fellow defenders to cover other Jeonbuk attackers from making runs into spaces.

Matthew: How do you see the game playing out?

Jun: I expect Jeonbuk to attack Incheon relentlessly. But hopefully opportunities will present themselves for Incheon; if Incheon's defence can hold Kim Shin-wook by not allowing him any time and space to free up his team mates, then I'm pretty confident that Incheon can stop Jeonbuk from scoring.
on the other hand, Incheon must be swift with their counter attacks to really threaten Jeonbuk. There is no point in trying to hold possession against Jeonbuk; Incheon must focus on carrying the ball forward,

Jun's predicted score: Incheon United 0-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

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