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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United

K League Classic 2017 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United FC

Wednesday's national holiday has coincided with first place Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors playing host to second place Jeju United. With both sides looking to recover from shock weekend defeats, hopefully this hotly anticipated clash will live up to it's billing. (Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)


(Photo Credit: Soccerway.com)
Last Time Out

Last Sunday saw the Asian Champions suffer their first league defeat of the year, dashing any unlikely ambitions of repeating last seasons 33 match unbeaten run. While the team and supporters will certainly be concerned by the loss, they could not have chosen a better weekend to drop three points with all three sides immediately below them in the table also doing the same. Furthermore, the unbeaten run became somewhat of an unwanted burden last season, with the wind noticeably being taken out of their sails when they suffered their first defeat so late in the season (coincidentally at home to Jeju).

As for the defeat itself, Jeonbuk were forced into a change early on, replacing injured right back Lee Yong in the ninth minute for striker Kim Shin-wook, switching the formation from an initial 4-1-4-1 to a 4-4-2 despite having the personnel on the bench to keep the original shape.

The North Jeolla side dominated for large periods of the match, striking the crossbar three times in search of the lead and later an equaliser. Surprisingly, Edu seemed determined to get his name one the scoresheet, finding the confidence to take on the Gwangju defence alone on multiple occasions and getting his shot away. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, he was unable to add to his single goal for the season.

Gwangju did prove worthy opponents though, creating a number of their own chances in the first half and ultimately what proved to be the winning goal. Yeo Bong-hun sent in a stunner from the edge of the area just before the half-time whistle to buoy his team ahead of their dressing room team talk.

Jeonbuk spent the second half desperately searching for an equaliser but to no avail. Kim Bo-kyung thought he had levelled proceedings for the visitors on 67 minutes but his header was correctly deemed offside. Moments later, Jeonbuk's 2017 top scorer Kim Shin-wook was presented with a free header but sent his effort wide.

The surprising return of Lee Seung-gi, a player who looked set to be sidelined for a while after a horror tackle away to Suwon Bluewings earlier this year, saw the substitute almost make his return with a dramatic equaliser. His instinctive turn and shot however could only find the crossbar.

Gwangju would find themselves down to ten men on 86 minutes as Jung Ho-min would see his second yellow for fouling Ko Moo-yeol in the centre circle. Jeonbuk would not have enough time to make use of their one man advantage though and, despite seven minutes of injury time, had to accept their loss.

Gwangju players fell to their knees at full time, recording an impressive scalp and much needed victory to lift them from eleventh. Jeonbuk will rue their missed opportunities, but should not be too disheartened given the amount they created.

The result continues Jeonbuk's poor form away form home, having won once in four attempts against teams that are also coincidentally in the lower half of the table. It is also an unwanted trend continuing on from last season where they did not record an away victory until round 9, winning only seven of their twenty away games in 2016.

Fortunately for Jeonbuk, their next fixture is in Jeonju, where teams rarely come away with anything.

Highlights of Jeonbuk's trip to Gwangju can be viewed here.

Team News

The good news for Jeonbuk supporters is that most of the team's injured players are due to return this month, although Wednesday is perhaps too soon for most. Lee Jae-sung is still rumoured to be just over a week away from featuring, whereas Jang Yung-ho and Mazola could return later. Lopes is the only long term remaining injury, with his return slated for the second half of the season.

In addition to these, Lee Yong's injury is set to see him sidelined for a month meaning that Choi Chul-soon will likely replace him at right back, especially now as captain Shin Hyung-min will have returned from suspension and can take up his usual role as a defensive midfielder.

Jeju United

Jeju United have been one of the league's more entertaining sides this season, scoring thirteen goals to Jeonbuk's twelve as well as enjoying an eventful continental campaign in which they look set to progress through to the knockout rounds.

The islanders have shown the odd indication of stuttering in recent weeks though as they look to manage multiple commitments. Their very solid victory away to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning in last Wednesday's Champions League was undermined on Sunday as they fell to surprising K League strugglers Suwon Bluewings.

While little could have been done to prevent the rocket that was Suwon's opener, Jeju squandered multiple chances and required a penalty to bring them level. A positive performance from the Bluewings however saw the away side retake the lead with five minutes to spare via a soft Johnathan bicycle kick. While the technique of such a move should be applauded, Jeju keeper Lee Chang-keun should have perhaps done better to keep it out. Wrong-footed, the ex-Suwon FC man managed to get a palm to the shot but his save was too weak to prevent it from bobbling in.

There are a number of players Jeju United tend to look towards in hope of making a difference, with these names no doubt also being relied upon come Wednesday. Jeju boast three strong attackers in Frederic Mendy, Magno Cruz and Marcelo Toscano, the latter of which tends to drop into attacking midfield if the former two are already on the pitch. Across all competitions, these three boast three, four and five goals respectively. In addition, attacking midfielder Lee Chang-min also has four goals to his name in 2017, three of which have impressively came in this year's Champions League.

One other player to look out for is talented youngster Ahn Hyun-beom. The 22 year-old has featured on both wings at some point this season, and could be useful if Jeju wish to exploit Jeonbuk's vacant wing back spot brought about by by Lee Yong's injury, although likely replacement Choi Chul-soon should be more than capable cover. Ahn possesses pace, a strong dribbling ability and an endearing knack for running directly at defences. Although he is still slightly unpolished, a strong showing from him on Wednesday could really cause a headache for Jeonbuk.

Jeju United have tended to stick to variants of a 3-5-2 this season and will likely deploy the same strategy when they visit Jeonju Civil Stadium. Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee does have a track record of matching his opponents like-for-like when he deems them troublesome, and the fact that he is yet to notice how ineffective playing two strikers has proven this season does make this a realistic and concerning possibility. However, I predict that Jeonbuk will likely deploy their 4-1-4-1 to try and nullify the threat posed by Jeju's attacking strength.


Despite their capability in the final third, Jeju United's desire to push forward has occasionally led them to be caught out. Jeonbuk do not really have the pace to exploit this though, but should opt for Kim Shin-wook alone up front to lay balls off to either Éder or Ko Moo-yeol to take advantage of. Jeonbuk's record against strong teams should also not be overlooked, but I am on record as stating that this Jeju team is the real deal and do not intent to renege on that. I do expect the islanders to find consistency once summer comes and ACL is put aside temporarily. At this point in time though, I see both sides having and doing enough to cancel one another out.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Jeju United

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