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Writers' Chat: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Bucheon 1995

Korean FA Cup Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Bucheon 1995

Wednesday afternoon sees Bucheon 1995 travel to the Jeonju Civil Stadium to face Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in a replay of last year's quarter final which shockingly saw the then reigning league champions fall to the K League Challenge side. Will Bucheon be able to pull off a repeat or will Jeonbuk exact their revenge? Site columnists Matthew Binns and Alastair Middleton sat down to discuss form, flaws and... floodlights?

Matthew asks, Alastair answers

Matthew Binns: The weekend saw Bucheon's recent winning streak come to a halt as they drew to Daejeon. What did you make of the game?

Alastair Middleton: I think Paul Neat summed it up well in his match report. Bucheon started brightly and deserved their goal but that seemed to wake up the visitors and they quickly struck back. After that, very little of note happened (this is the K-League) and a draw was a fair, if mildly unsatisfying, result. The winning streak has come to an end but the unbeaten one is still going.

MB: Last year, Bucheon went all the way to the semi finals in this competition, memorably knocking out Jeonbuk en route (although I do my best to try and forget). If they are to cause an upset once more, which players will prove instrumental in making that happen?

AM: It’s stating the obvious I guess but an in-form Waguininho could be the difference. Jeonbuk will be familiar with him as he scored against them last season (I can send you the youtube link if you’d like to review that game in forensic detail) and he’ll need to be at his dangerous best again if Bucheon are to have a shot. Likewise Kim Shin is ever present this year and as I keep saying, is a real talent. Of course, Jeonbuk know plenty about him they’ve held his registration and have been loaning him out the past few seasons. Stopping Jeonbuk from scoring may be the tougher part and the performance of whoever gets put on “Wookie-duty” (assuming he plays) will be the key.

MB: Are there any areas of the team you feel Jeonbuk could exploit?

AM: For starters they can exploit the fact that they are top of the Classic and Bucheon are 4th in the Challenge! There isn’t a single Bucheon player who would displace his Jeonbuk counterpart in a combined starting line-up. The defence is perhaps likely to be most vulnerable. The new line-up at the back has proven more than capable of dealing with the threat from Challenge teams but Jeonbuk will pose a whole different test. The clumsy concession of Daejeon’s equaliser from a corner makes it concerning as to what Jeonbuk can do in those situations.

MB: Do you expect Bucheon to considerably alter the way they approach this game given their underdog tag?

AM: No. At least I hope not. Manager Jung has built a settled team and while the league is obviously the priority, there is no reason to change things as the fixture list isn’t exactly onerous for a Challenge team. The new Uzbek midfielder Pardeyev has come off the bench three times without making a start so if match fit and if Jung wanted to mix things up, he may start but I would expect them to be unchanged.

MB: How do you see this clash playing out?

AM: Naturally I expect Bucheon to hand Jeonbuk a humiliating defeat which, just like last year, acts as the catalyst for the home side’s season to begin crumbling around them. I think Bucheon will give it a good go but if they concede early, they’ll be up against it.

Alastair's Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Bucheon 1995

Alastair asks, Matthew answers

Alastair Middleton: Jeonbuk are Champions of Asia* and one of the traditional K-League powerhouses. They have the backing of the mighty Hyundai group and boast one of the larger fanbases. And yet, here they are, kicking off a home game in the nation's premier Cup competition on a weekday afternoon. What's going on?

Matthew Binns: While I long to fuel notions of pro-Seoul bias from the KFA in regards to competing for television rights, the alleged reason is far less exciting. As a fellow aficionado of stadium floodlights, I know it will also be something that you personally will be disappointed with. The lighting at Jeonju Civil Stadium is rumoured to run under 1,500 Lux, a standard too low to play a football match in. Because of this issue, Jeonbuk requested that the game be moved to a mid-afternoon kick off. This would be consistent with pre-season murmurs amongst fans that Gwangju was being considered as the stadium to host the club's ACL group matches. The fixture list also sees Jeonbuk leaving the Civil Stadium in June, prior to the commencement of evening kick-offs. If true, it is just one more item to a list of increasing pitfalls of Jeonbuk's temporary ground. The return to the World Cup stadium cannot come quick enough.

The less light shed on that pitch though, the better

Why it cannot be televised though is certainly peculiar. There are no other games being broadcast at 3pm and it would certainly prove ample viewing to those who wish to be distracted at their desks. I suppose it would not quite draw the figures required to make it worthwhile, but that did not stop them from showing Seoul E-Land to at least one keen viewer at the same time in the last round.

AM: Following Sunday's pumping of Sangju, Jeonbuk are top of the league and are the only unbeaten team in the Classic.  Is there anything you can think of that can give Bucheon heart going into this game?

MB: I was very impressed with Jeonbuk's performance on Sunday, which is unusual for me as I tend to find fault with at least something. While it may not be my preferred line up, nearly all the players selected were the best available, playing in their most effective formation, so it is difficult to complain, especially when they looked so assured. If we assume that the line-up will be similar, then Jeonbuk's weakest link would be either Edu or Ko Moo-yeol. Although the former scored a well taken goal against Sangju, his return to Jeonbuk has been a well-documented and expensive misjudgement, with the striker often looking unfit and too often non-threatening, evidenced more so by his horrendous penalty kick in the weekend's game.

Ko Moo-yeol has never properly found his stride in neon green either. For a youngster who once promised so much at Pohang though, it would be unwise to give up on him, especially as last season he ended up playing second fiddle to the far superior Leonardo. To say the attack is Jeonbuk's weakest link however, in a game in which they won to the tune of four goals to one, just goes to show how much they seem to be coming together despite the injuries to key personnel.

AM: Jeonbuk are league leaders despite having key players missing due to injuries. Those players will soon be back and there's no ACL distraction**. League and Cup double must be the target so should we expect them to play the strongest possible team or will there be rotation?

MB: Choi Kang-hee mentioned after the Gangwon game that this season's tactics have been regularly adjusted to match the opposition rather than play to his desired style due to the lengthy injury list. While this may cue smirks of amusement as it seems he finally has the perfect excuse to just play long balls to Kim Shin-wook for ninety minutes, credit must be given regardless as he seems to be proving yet again that he can keep this side winning regardless of obstacles (and for anyone who knows me or has read my precious pieces, that is something I find very difficult to admit).

However, while his tactics may be varying of recent, his team roster is pretty limited. I do not expect Jeonbuk to rotate heavily, although their maybe the odd tweak here and there. As Kim Shin-wook was on the bench this weekend, I imagine he was being kept with this game in mind, so I do expect him to return to the fold. As we do have an excess of defenders, he may rotate a number of these as well, but nothing too drastic as to upset their rhythm. A domestic double is certainly the season's target for the club. Playing a strong team here would prove that this is actually the case.

AM: From a neutral's point of view, the Classic has been pretty dull so far this season, so it was nice to see Jeonbuk bang in a few at the weekend. They weren't exactly free-scoring prior to that though. Was it a one-off?

MB: Again, because of all the injuries, and the low-key purchases after Champions League disqualification, Jeonbuk's attack is effectively a depleted version of last year. Fortunately the defence has been solid thanks to purchases made on the promise of continental football. With this foundation in place, Jeonbuk have been able to create regularly with reasonable faith that they are well covered at the back if it all goes wrong. If you create enough chances, some will eventually go in, even if your only two fit strikers are Edu and the Wookie.

AM: Prediction?

MB: Jeonbuk looked very good at the weekend against what should still be considered a decent enough Sangju side, certainly one that should not be flirting with relegation come the latter stages of the year. The North Jeolla side have also held out a number of opponents considered strong enough to mount a title challenge, only conceding three goals so far, with just two coming from open play. Jeonbuk's defence is incredibly tight and well drilled, so I believe it will purely depend on what form the attack is in as to how great the margin will be.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Bucheon 1995

*disgraced
**due to being disgraced

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