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Preview: Jeju United vs Suwon Bluewings

Suwon finally picked up their first 3 points of the 2017 Kleague Classic season last weekend and despite a nervous final 10 minutes, looked in good shape and deserved their 2-1 victory. Jeju, likewise recorded a memorable victory by bouncing back from their previous home loss to Gangwon, beating Daegu comfortably. That win allowed Jeju to keep pace with Jeonbuk at the top of the table, and despite Suwon having contrasting fortunes this season, a win in Jeju would be a real statement of intent from the team in blue. (Photo courtesy of www.bluewings.kr)

Last Time Out

Despite the difficult journey to Gangwon's Alpensia stadium and the home team's decent form there, it was quite a surprise that Suwon produced what was probably their best performance of the season, last weekend. For the first time this season, an attacking threat was posed throughout the game, from the first minute, until the last minute, and the whole team defended as a unit, limiting Gangwon to a couple of half chances. If it were not for an insane deliberate handball from Lee Jong-sung in the first half, then Suwon would have kept a clean sheet and could have potentially cruised towards victory. As it was, it took a brilliant 94th minute penalty save from Shin Hwa-yong, after yet another Kleague refereeing mistake, saw Gangwon given the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. 

Lee Jong-sung carried on this season's form with another under-par performance, and it wasn't until he was replaced in the 51st minute by Kim Min-woo that Suwon began to start to fully control the game. It was the first time since the opening day of the season that Kim Min-woo had been deployed in a central position and the tactic really paid off and should be utilised more often by Seo Jung-won. The partnership of Kim Min-woo and Kim Jong-woo struck the perfect balance and Jong-woo has been the highlight of Suwon's rather grim season thus far. With 3 assists to his name, along with his first ever Suwon goal, he has been one of the brightest attacking performers in the Classic. 

Kim Jong-woo carried that performance over into the midweek ACL game, providing a number of great opportunities for misfiring striker Park Ki-dong. And the striker's wastefulness resulted in a rather disappointing loss to Kawasaki Frontale, leaving Suwon's ACL hopes in the balance. Despite a decent performance, Suwon found themselves on the end of a 1-0 loss, partly because of sloppy set-piece defending, but mostly because of their own profligacy in front of goal. Several golden opportunities to take the lead, and then after Kawasaki scored, equalise were spurned leaving the team with an uphill challenge to qualify for the knockout stages of the continental competition.


 Jeju have stormed out of the blocks this season and look set to mount a real title challenge, something they have flattered to do for a couple of seasons now. But the 2017 Jeju are beginning to look like the real deal as they sit just 3 points away from top spot. 

A superb start to the season has seen them score plenty of goals (12 in 7 games) and keep 4 clean sheets on their way to only conceding 5 goals, a stat which only Jeonbuk and Seoul have bettered. But it's their fluency and style of football that has really caught the eye. Whilst Jeonbuk look to be the best coached team and are playing strong and disciplined football, Jeju have played a much more pleasant to watch, open style of football, and their attack can be devastating when it is on form, as Daegu, Ulsan and Gamba Osaka have all discovered. However, they have shown some frailties at home, and their gun-ho approach has seen them caught out with 3 losses at home, although 2 of them came against ACL teams. 

How Suwon can combat and contain Jeju's explosive front line of Mendy, Magno Cruz, Marcelo and Lee Chan-dong will be the influencing factor in this game, and as I have said previously, a change in formation should be the solution to Suwon's recent problems. And that change in formation which I have been touting for the last 3 weeks, finally happened on Tuesday night against Kawasaki. With the team a goal to nil down, the manager finally switched to a 4-3-3 system and finally opted to play Yeom Ki-hun in his more natural, left-wing position. And it is no coincidence that the team controlled the game much more once they reverted back to their more conventional system. Ki-hun again, produced a few telling passes from the left, but one cross in particular was so inviting, it would be easy to assume that had a striker with more confidence than Park Ki-dong had been on the pitch, Suwon would have leveled the game and have qualified for the next round of the ACL. 

The continued absence of first choice right-back Jang Ho-ik remains to be a concern for Suwon, but his replacement Koh Seung-beom has performed admirably, and has again, been one of Suwon's bright sparks in a distinctively average start to the season. However, Johnathan has declared himself fit on social media, and should be available to go straight back into the starting line-up. The reliance on the Brazilian striker is becoming extremely troublesome, especially given that his loan spell expires in June and the club is yet to secure the permanent signing of the South American.

This week's ACL result aside, Suwon have shown enough promise in recent weeks to suggest that things are slowly getting better for Seo Jung-won's men. This game might come too soon for them to register a victory against a team with title aspirations, but if Suwon perform to their strengths, then there is no reason why they can't at least take a point away from Jeju Island with them. 

Predicted Score: Jeju 1 - 1 Suwon

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