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Writers Chat: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul Preview

This Sunday afternoon sees the reigning Asian champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to the current K League champions FC Seoul in their first meeting since the visitors claimed the title in Jeonju back in November. Our Jeonbuk writer Matthew Binns spoke with our FC Seoul columnist Ryan Walters on expectations ahead of what is set to be a hotly contested clash.

Matthew asks, Ryan answers

Matthew Binns: With FC Seoul's dreams of becoming Asian champions this year pretty much lying in tatters, what effect do you think this will have on the players’ mentalities and do you think this team has what it takes to kick on and at least claim some domestic success in 2017?

Ryan Walters: There are two possible routes this could go and it will be interesting to see which the teams takes. The first option would be succumbing to the obvious disappointment of going winless in and barely looking up for ACL thus far. There's no question it's been a humbling experience for the team and they need to take a long look at the organization from the top down and address why they have been so ineffective internationally this year. However, that's likely something that will need to be addressed in the off season and something the team has perhaps already moved past in the present. Which leads to the second route of simply shrugging off disappointment and focusing on what's next. Sure it's disappointing to perform so poorly in ACL, but there's still a chance to defend the title and win the double with another FA Cup trophy this year. With veteran leaders like Kwak, Park Chu-young, and Dejan in the locker room, I think the mental strength is there for this team to find success domestically, it's more a matter of staying healthy and figuring out where the goals are going to come from. No small task, but certainly something they're capable of in the long run.

MB: Both teams come into this game on seven points, yet FC Seoul have looked far less convincing in their league performances thus far. What do you feel are the reasons for this?

RW: The easiest thing to point to is Yoo Hyun's play in net. He was so bad early in the ACL campaign journalist Scott McIntyre suggested the AFC should look into potential match fixing. Those of us that actually watch K League on a regular basis know Yoo simply isn't up for it anymore and never should've been trusted as Seoul's number one heading into the season. His uninspiring play combined with shoddy defense has left an entire side of the field vulnerable at times for the defending champs. Luckily those holes have only been a true problem in ACL and they've been able to mask it in league play, especially with the reversion to a four man back line vs Gwangju last weekend.

At the other end of the pitch, it's as simple as Adriano being an irreplaceable striker in this league. Few (if any) have been as ruthless in the box in recent years as the Brazilian, and unfortunately it doesn't appear Dejan can handle the load on his own and will need someone else to step up. The Montenegrin has done well to get into position, but has lacked power on the turn a number of times and has cost the team goals. Either Yun Il-lok or Lee Sang-ho will need to pinch into the middle more and offer an outlet for Dejan or simply be there for the rebound.

MB: FC Seoul’s last match saw them come from behind after two questionable penalty decisions were given in their favour; decisions so poor that they led to the referee being suspended from the league indefinitely. Despite this good fortune though, do you feel there were any positives on display which Seoul could look to build on?

RW: First and foremost, both penalty calls were woeful and the ref was rightly banned after far too many questionable calls including punching people on camera. Secondly, there was one key takeaway from the match for me: the offense moved the ball quite well at times. Kim Chi-woo's defending may be spotty on occasion, but he was strong on the overlap and pinged in some great crosses. Additionally, Dejan found space and created opportunities singlehandedly. Yun Il-lok made a spectacular run beating the offside trap and rounding the keeper... but forgot he had a left foot and instead took five minutes to line up a shot with his right. But I digress. The main thing was the team moved the ball better in the 4-1-4-1 than they had against Gangwon in their previous league match and should be able to build off of the success this weekend.

MB: Based on what we have seen so far, how are FC Seoul likely to line up against Jeonbuk on Sunday?

RW: It was reported as a 4-1-4-1 last weekend, but looked and played more like a 4-3-3 and I think Hwang would be wise to line them up that way again. The four man backline was picked apart on Gwangju's goal, but looked better throughout the match than they had in the three man backline from games past. Also, having an additional man covering Yoo in net is never a bad idea, so expect four at the back again. Up top, I was shocked to see former Jeonnam Dragon Maurinho starting as the lone striker last week and while he was okay, I don't think he did enough to earn the start over Dejan or Park Chu-young. Ideally one of those vets will start up top flanked by Yun Il-lok and Lee Sang-ho. If the offense doesn't click this week, then it's time to at least look at a two striker option and go more direct.

MB: How do you see this clash playing out?

RW: Aside from the title match to end 2016, Jeonbuk has owned this rivalry taking four of the last six in league play and will be at home. Well... as much as you can call Jeonju Civic Stadium home. Regardless, they'll have their fans behind them and will want to prove last year was a fluke win for Seoul. It might not always be beautiful, but it should be pretty back and forth with the home team more likely to eek out a win.

Ryan's Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 FC Seoul

Ryan asks, Matthew answers

Ryan Walters: In spite of all the preseason jitters, Jeonbuk are exactly where they would expect to be three games into the season, fighting for the top spot. However, much like Seoul, they haven't been overly convincing in staying undefeated. Is this a good team still finding its feet or are there cracks in the foundation that simply haven't shown yet?

Matthew Binns: As mentioned in my season preview, Jeonbuk's weakest area is their attack, which is frankly bizarre given the number of goals they scored last year. Somehow the team finds itself in a situation where Kim Shin-wook genuinely seems the best option as the lone striker. The team has also had to contend with serious injuries to key personnel such as Lopes, Lee Jae-sung and Lee Seung-gi, as well as a manager who has used a different formation (possibly due to these injuries in fairness) in each of the three rounds played in 2017.

On a more positive note though, the new look defence has proved to be a significant upgrade on last season, allowing Jeonbuk to perfectly execute a 3-4-3 in defensive terms at least. Out of the three formations selected this year, this has been by far the most impressive and has been something the manager has reverted to in the two other games late on. It is also not a huge departure from the successful 4-1-4-1 that guided them to continental glory last season so I think, with time and consistency, as well as players returning from injury, this side should continue to improve as the season goes on.

RW: You recently took in the glory that is Incheon Football Stadium, but weren't exactly treated to a glorious game by Jeonbuk. What went so wrong that they were shutout by the still winless Incheon United and how do they correct it? 

MB: As just touched upon above, Choi Kang-hee decided to move away from the 3-4-3 that had proved strong enough away to Suwon Bluewings in order to include Edu up front with Kim Shin-wook in a 3-4-1-2 formation. Whilst aesthetically similar to the 3-4-3, the inclusion of two slow strikers up front with Kim Bo-kyung tasked with sitting behind them and linking them to the midfield halted any fast counter attacking, with Jeonbuk often opting to play out to the wings, even if already in the box, and cross it in via Lee Yong or Kim Jin-su with the hope of Kim Shin-wook heading it from within a tight Incheon defence. Unsurprisingly, when Eder Luiz replaced Edu late on and Choi reverted back to the 3-4-3, the team looked more dynamic going forward but it was too late to have any impact on proceedings.

RW: Both squads have a big name 30+ year old striker making appearances from the bench this year in Jeonbuk's Lee Dong-gook and Seoul's Park Chu-young. Both have logged over 100 minutes, had one starting appearance, and Park has a penalty goal to his name. Do you see either of these vets playing into the match late on Sunday?

MB: Lee Dong-gook has only started one game this season but has featured in the club's marketing material for this game which, if last season is anything to go by, means he could very well feature from the kick-off. I certainly hope not as Jeonbuk play a lot better with a single striker and, as much as it pains me to say it as a fan of Lee Dong-gook and a regular critic of his replacement, the answer at this moment is Kim Shin-wook because he is capable of winning the ball and bringing others into play, namely Ko Moo-yeol and Eder Luiz if selected. That said, if you want an experienced head in these high stake games with a better conversion rate, then having the man lovingly referred to as "The Lion King" start up top instead would be far from a disaster. The real concern would be if Choi decides to start with both of them as this has often proved ineffective.

As for Park Chu-young, it seems he starts even when he is reported as injured as evidenced in the game against Gwangju last week. With Kwak Tae-hwi possibly still out of action, Park could be required to step in as he is the present vice-captain. I also think he does provide FC Seoul with an additional threat and believe it would be wise for him to be included in a game of this magnitude.

RW: As mentioned neither Jeonbuk nor Seoul has hit their stride this season, but a statement win on Sunday against a growingly bitter rival could change all that. Do you see Choi Kang-hee playing up home field advantage and going overly offensive to secure all three points? How do you think the team will line up?

MB: After the aforementioned Incheon game, I would like to think Choi Kang-hee will have learned from the match and will opt for either a 4-1-4-1 or 3-4-3 on Sunday, with a starting spot given to Eder on the right who has been underwhelming so far, but had nowhere near enough game time to write him off. He certainly would be easier to slot into that formation rather than shoehorning Edu in once more. As for the rest of the starting eleven, I see Choi Kang-hee sticking with three centre backs in the form of Choi Chul-soon, Lee Jae-sung and Kim Min-jae, with Lee Yong and Kim Jin-su pushing into wide midfield positions with the responsibility to track back if required. The central midfield will feature Kim Bo-kyung and Shin Hyung-min, and the front three will include Ko Moo-yeol on the left with Kim Shin-wook and the previously mentioned Eder taking up the other positions.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Predicted Line-up

It will certainly take some cool heads to come out looking just to defend this game, especially when the majority of players may still bear a lingering resentment of having watched FC Seoul overly celebrate a title win on their own patch that they will feel was not deserved. While Jeonbuk did bribe in 2013 and were punished for those offences, the majority of players on that final day in 2016 will have had nothing to do with that side and could feel that they were punished for something they were not a part of as individuals, conceding a title which, in any other year, their hard work and performances would have seen them claim the trophy at a canter. Regardless of what the record books will forever state, and it certainly is not FC Seoul’s fault that they state that, Jeonbuk did more than enough to win that title. I therefore see Jeonbuk attacking FC Seoul in order to exact out their revenge. The narrative is just too succulent for me to overlook.

RW: Score prediction?

MB: I do not particularly enjoy predicting the matches between these two as I am perhaps more emotionally involved in the outcome than against other sides. That said, Jeonbuk had the upper hand in the majority of these fixtures last year and I feel they will still have on Sunday based on the recent performances of both sides. Additionally, the home side's defence looks assured and should not be bogged down with the drama and narrative of last season seeing as they are nearly all new arrivals, hopefully making for more focused heads. However, there is a midfield and attack who were there and could want to set the record straight, hopefully displaying a hunger that will drive the team forward. All of this leaves me anticipating an entertaining Jeonbuk victory.

Matthew's Score Prediction: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 FC Seoul

Have Your Say

Disagree with either of our writer's opinions? Feel there's something we've overlooked? If so, then make sure to voice your thoughts in the comments below. You can also see how others predict this match going by voting in the Twitter poll below.

1 comment

  1. Have never been less excited about this fixture. It's a sad state of affairs when both teams could dream of playing football as good as Jeju.


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