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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Lee Jae-sung celebrates scoring a sublime effort for Jeonbuk Hyundai motors against Incheon United

Having squandered a lead to Incheon United the previous weekend, a stuttering Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to a resurgent Suwon Samsung Bluewings in their last game at their temporary home before returning back to the World Cup Stadium next month. Despite contrasting starts to the season, both teams' fortunes have somewhat reversed of recent, meaning victory for the away side will see them overtake Jeonbuk in the standings and push them out of the ACL qualifying spots for the first time this year.
(Photo Credit: Facebook.com/jhmfc)

Last Time Out

With the focus in the pre-match build up being fixated on the starting berth handed to the recently returned midfielder Lee Jae-sung, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at times looked as if all they thought they had to do was turn up to secure the three points against the league's bottom side, Incheon United. Despite a number of decent half chances for the home team, it would be Lee who would also open proceedings, controlling the ball with a back heel to knock it into space on the edge of the area, before turning to face the goal and striking the ball first time, sending it curling into the top left corner beyond the full stretched Incheon keeper, Lee Tae-hee. It was a goal worthy of the hype that often surrounds the player and reminded the Jeonbuk faithful of exactly what they have been missing all season.

With the second half underway, Jeonbuk would begin to grow in confidence yet were unable to find a goal to double their lead, despite numerous attempts. A Lee Dong-gook header in the 77th minute especially looked destined for the net, but the sharp reflexes of Lee Tae-hee demonstrated exactly why Incheon manager Lee Ki-hyung has been right to praise him recently.

Ultimately Jeonbuk were eventually made to rue their squandered opportunities when Incheon youngster Song Si-woo, brought on as a substitute, drove in another well taken shot from range to ensure the visiting side claimed a share of the spoils. Somewhat sickeningly for the home support, it was also Song's late equaliser in Jeonju just over twelve months ago that also robbed an underwhelming Jeonbuk of two points.

Highlights for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Incheon United can be viewed here.

Suwon on the other hand visited army side Sangju Sangmu on the Saturday, leaving with all three points and continuing their rich vein of form that now sees them with a chance to leapfrog Jeonbuk on Saturday.

The visitors took the lead from the penalty spot after Yeom Ki-hoon, through on goal, was felled by a clumsy challenge from Sangju keeper Oh Seung-hoon, who saw a straight red. Santos, with a frustrating elongated run-up, sent back-up keeper Yu Sang-hun the wrong way to give Suwon the advantage after thirty minutes.

Despite only having ten men, Sangju would equalise before the interval after the Bluewings struggled to cope with an aerial ball. Presented to him eloquently in tonnes of space, Ulsan loanee Cho Young-cheol lashed his shot into the bottom left corner.

Although Sangju fared admirably after the break, it would be an unsurprising assist from Yeom Ki-hoon for Johnathan to head home that would restore the visitors lead. The three points would then be guaranteed through an unfortunate comedy of errors. A pulled back pass on the edge of the six yard box from Yeom would be intercepted by Kim Seong-jun, whose clearance would hit the sprawled out Lee Kyung-ryul (who had failed in his slide to cut out Yeom's pass), bounce over the floored keeper and into the path of the onrushing Ko Seung-beom to tap in unchallenged and secure the win.

Highlights for Sangju Sangmu vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings can be viewed here.


Previous Meetings

Despite having a recent history of contending in the upper echelons of the league, last year saw both these sides face off just the three times as a struggling Suwon shockingly failed to make the league split. Their meetings last year culminated in two victories for Jeonbuk and a hard fought draw.

Jeonbuk have since continued forward with that record, taking all three points off them and a clean sheet as well when they visited the Big Bird in the second round of fixtures this year. With Suwon being in form of recent however, whilst also considering Jeonbuk's recent stutters, perhaps Suwon can arrest their poor run against the Asian Champions with a first victory against them since 2015.

Team News

Jeonbuk's Jang Yun-ho is fit for selection after finding himself among the substitutes on the bench last weekend. That said, with Lee Jae-sung and captain Shin Hung-min occupying central midfield, most likely alongside Jung Hyeok who has now served his one match suspension, Jang will not be likely to find himself in the starting line-up. Annoyingly for Choi Kang-hee, he will be without Kim Bo-kyung who picked up his third yellow card of the season against Incheon and therefore will not be available on Saturday. Mazola and Lee Yong are still not expected back until next month, and Lopes is still continuing his recovery from serious injury.

Bluewings also seem to be at relatively full fitness, with the only notable absence being Kim Min-woo who is out for the long-term. There are no suspensions to note, meaning manager Seo Jung-won should have a relatively strong pool to select from for this game.

The Adversary

Hotly tipped by our pool of writers for a strong season this year, most were surprised that the Bluewings continued their poor league performances into 2017, despite a wealth of new signings in January. However, a narrow victory away to Incheon United in the cup marked their first domestic win of the season and since then, Suwon have played six league games; winning five and losing one (in which they fielded a heavily rotated squad against Ulsan). This impressive run has seen them shoot up the table, first overtaking bitter rivals FC Seoul for the first time since 2015, and then comfortably into ACL contention. They currently sit fifth in the league, yet are only three points off the top spot and two points off their opponents this weekend.

Despite looking reassured of recent, there is still concern amongst some sections of their support as the 3-4-3 formation the manager persists with it still leaving the side relatively exposed at the back yet rarely sees them kill off games early on to compensate for that risk. Having seen form fluctuate wildly under Seo Jung-won's tenure, there is always somewhat of a lingering feeling that it could all come crashing back down with an incredible thud at any moment.

That said, they do look to be showing more resolve at the back recently, especially when you consider the side's frequent capitulations, something so infamous that Incheon United fans christened it "Seo Time" in their 3-3 draw earlier this season. Their recent form has seen them manage to hold on to victories against high scorers Jeju United (away), Pohang Steelers (home) and Jeonnam Dragons (away). They are team growing in confidence and looking increasingly dangerous. The trip to Jeonju will likely not prove as intimidating as it once was, and they will have little to fear from in the home side's ageing strikers.

Who To Watch

Even though the manager has bizarrely shoe-horned him into a striker's position this season, captain Yeom Ki-hun continues to be Suwon's driving force. While arguably not being expolited to his full potential in his current role, his continued ability to create for others and lead his team by example makes the 34 year-old a tricky proposition.

Brazilian Santos will also be on Choi Kang-hee's watchlist. The 31 year-old attacker is always in amongst the top goal scorers every season without fail, yet has only found the net on four occasions so far in the league this year. Worryingly though, those four goals have been acquired in his last four league games. He is a player in form and will certainly pose questions of Jeonbuk's back line.

Prediction

Jeonbuk can take some positives from their recent displays, with the midfield, bolstered by the return of Lee Jae-sung, always capable of creating chances. It is their strike force that is unable to finish these opportunities however that is the problem. Suwon Bluewings look quite the force at present and face Jeonbuk at one of their weakest points in a considerably long time. I fully expect the visitors to run out victorious.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0-2 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

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