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Writers' Chat: Busan IPark Vs Daejeon Citizen

Second-place Busan IPark host the K League Challenge's basement side Daejeon Citizen on Monday night in a game that sees IPark gaffer Cho Jinho face his old club for only the second time. Even though Busan are likely to be without star man Lee Junghyup, they are hot on the heels of that illusive automatic promotion spot and are on are sterling run of form of just one defeat in 11 games. Daejeon, meanwhile, have just one league win all season and make the long trip south on the back of seven straight defeats and will be looking to the Cristian Dănălache to get themselves back to winning ways.

Ahead of Monday's game, Busan IPark Columnist and Daejeon Citizen columnist Paul Neat discussed what's going right for Busan, what's going wrong for Daejeon and how they see this one panning out.

Paul Neat asks Jaehyuk Lee,

Paul Neat: First of all, can we have Cho Jinho back? He has really got you playing some good football, expansive and attacking - has he said much about automatic promotion, does he believe it is possible/realistic?

Jaehyuk Lee: Haha, I think we'll keep him for a little while. Yeah, Busan has looked quite good at times, some of the attacking moves are up there with what you see from some of the better Classic clubs. He has certainly stressed the idea that promotion is a must for Busan this season, although he has not said as much about automatic promotion. Going into the season Seongnam was largely seen as the favorites for the title and auto promotion, and now with Gyeongnam's excellent start, that talk has been kept quiet.

PN: Busan are six points clear of third-placed Asan, Gyeongnam are still unbeaten and are eight points clear, do you expect them to have a bit of a wobble? Is it a case of Busan just getting their collective heads down and seeing where the results take them? 

:JHL: The Challenge season is a long grind, and while eight points are significant, I won't rule out catching our westerly neighbors just yet. That being said, Gyeongnam have clearly looked the better side thus far, and are fully deserving of their position in the table. It is a bit of a sports cliche, but yes I think Busan would be better getting their collective heads down and just taking care of their business. The summer window will surely offer a test of Gyeongnam's will to keep their best players and things can change very quickly

PN: Lee Junghyup is still out and given that he's the top scorer with seven how much of a miss will he be? Who will be filling his boots come Monday night?

JHL: He has been a significant miss. While Lukian is a solid center forward, he's much less mobile, and the way Busan seeks to play certainly has changed without Lee Junghyup. Lukian will probably start against Daejeon, but Cho Jin-ho showed last week against Suwon that he's willing to be a bit unconventional in trying to fill Lee Junghyup's position.

PN: Do Busan need to tweak things tactically without him? Or is it a case of the system working well, as opposed to Lee Junghyup's individual skill?

JHL: The answer is certainly "yes". As mentioned before, Lukian is a good center forward, but he seems to be in the more 'classic' mold. Someone who can get on the end of crosses and knock down long balls. Choi Seungin also tends to fall in that mold as well. Lim Sanghyup is a wide forward with decent pace and finishing, but not much physical presence. Ko Kyungmin also lacks a bit of presence as well and plays better from a slightly more withdrawn role. Lee Junghyup, while often derided for his National Team performances, can take facets of all of those players and put them on the pitch. He has the aerial ability and strength to win aerial challenges, the movement and speed to drift wider, and the ability to bring in other players through passing.

PN: Cho has shown a lot of flexibility with his formations this season, he opted for a 4-4-2 vs Suwon last week, what was his reasoning behind that do you think? Do you think this flexibility has helped with the good form, teams just don't know how Busan will line up?

JHL: That choice probably mainly came down to the fact that he didn't field a natural center forward against Suwon. Ko Kyungmin and Lim Sanghyup were up top with Park Juntae and Kim Moonhwan on the wings. I think the idea was to offer more fluidity and movement through the attackers rather than have a main focal point for the attack, but I could be wrong of course.

I'm hopeful that Cho's rather constant chopping and changing of the formation and personnel will pay off in the long run (through a variety of potential game-plans and systems and fresher players), but in the short-term I fear it's actually slightly hampered Busan. Only a small handful of players (Lee Junghyup, Danny Morais, Kim Moonhwan, and Heo Beomsan) are regulars in his team with the others pretty regularly being rotated.

PN: How do you think he will line up come Monday? Back to the 3-4-3 with an emphasis on attack?

JHL: I think it's certainly possible. Cho, in a rare move, basically started the same side that eliminated Seoul midweek in the KFA Cup against Suwon FC last weekend, which would suggest he will rotate this week. The formation decision will likely come down to, as mentioned before, who starts up top. If it's Lukian, then we should see some sort of 3 man attack on the pitch (even if it's still a two-top on paper).

Daejeon are winless in their last seven matches (including cup), starting from when Busan beat Daejeon 3-2 at Purple Arena. Citizen are 0-1-6 on the road, and everything would suggest they're there for the taking. It's not a particularly "Korean" thing to do, but I would hope Cho is gearing this side up to go out there and end this one early.

PN: Just one defeat in eleven, and a FA Cup giant-killing in the midst of that, surely it's a straight forward home win, isn't it? What are your predictions?

JHL: On paper, yes, it's definitely lined up for Busan to cruise through this weekend. But, anything can happen of course, and Daejeon have always seemed to push us pretty well the past few years. I think the match won't be as comfortable as I'd like it to be, but Busan to win it 2-0 with one goal early on, and then another late to wrap things up.

Jaehyuk Lee asks Paul Neat,

Jae-hyuk Lee: Winless in their last seven for the Citizen, and in the last 10 matches the only side Daejeon has beaten is a university side. What's going on? Why can't Daejeon get anything going?

It is as bleak as the league table suggests. Daejeon lack leadership, they lack energy in midfield and they lack tactical nous in the attacking third of the pitch. I had high hopes for Kim Jinkyu, the former FC Seoul and Rep. of Korea centre back, he's supposed to be Daejeon's captain but with a defense that leaks so many goals, one would have to question his organisation and leadership skills.

Confidence is clearly an issue at present, the team look beaten before the game even kicks off, the manager makes significant changes to the team on a game-to-game basis and this simply cannot help with continuity or cohesion. Also, it must damage a players confidence when there is the risk of a player losing his place without any real justification.

Take the goalkeepers for instance, Lee Youngik has chopped and changed in that department too; rotating between Jeon Soohyun, Lee Youngchang and even gave third-choice Kim Kiyong a run out. Jeon Soohyun started the season as number one then lost his place without really doing anything wrong. Lee Youngchang came in and the same thing happened to him. The manager doesn't know his best team, nor does he know how to get the best out of his best players, particularly those who should be firing Daejeon to promotion.

Jae-hyuk Lee: Last time we talked, we discussed Cristian Dănălache and Hwang In-beom. You described Dănălache as being a very good signing, but one that wasn't quite getting the service needed or quite on the same wavelength with his teammates. Hwang, tipped to be Korea's next big midfield product, was also having an underwhelming season. Is this still the case or have things changed since?

Paul Neat: Nothing has changed in that respect, but again the change of personnel and system hasn't helped. Hwang Inbeom benefited from Kim Dongchan's movement off the ball when coming from deep. Kim Dongchan would stretch the defense, often take players out wide with him and this would allow the likes of Hwang Inbeom and Gustavo Sauerbeck to exploit the little pockets of space.

This term, however, Hwang Inbeom seems to be playing a bit deeper, filling in for Kim Byungsuk at times and also seems to have less time on the ball. Daejeon's midfield is weaker than it was last year, they really miss Kim Sunmin and Kim Byungsuk. Hwang has shown glimpses of what he is capable of but he hasn't got to the level that Daejeon fans know he is capable of.

As for Cristian, the midfield can't get the ball to him quick enough and in the right areas. This is partly down to Lee's selection bingo, fielding no fewer than seven different wingers/inside forwards alongside him such as Levan, Kim Junghoo, Lee Hoseok and a few others. Daejeon's sluggish midfield hasn't helped either.

LJH: We also talked manager Lee Youngik - in his first full managerial gig. The Challenge season is long, but as we past the quarter mark, Daejeon is still in single-digit points. There may be no threat of relegation, but has there been any talk of making a change at the top?

PN: I would like to see Daejeon replace Lee at the helm with someone younger who has fresh ideas. Lee simply doesn't possess the tactical guile or knowledge to build a team that is capable of winning football matches. Kim Eunjung is reportedly looking to return to Korea, having had a spell as a coach at AFC Tubize and was even the caretaker manager. The K League in general needs an injection of fresh ideas and new methods, someone like Kim would add that as well as giving the whole place a lift; he is a Daejeon legend.

LJH: Any important team news Busan fans should know about?

PN: There are no suspensions of which to speak of and the only injury Daejeon had had was Kim Jinkyu but he is back now. To try and second guess Daejeon's team would be pure folly has Lee seemingly draws the names out of a hat, or plays selection bingo in the dressing room before the game.

LJH: Predictions? More misery and frustration for Daejeon fans?

PN: I am expecting a comfortable, perhaps comprehensive Busan win. Perhaps a 3-0 home win; I am genuinely quite worried that Busan will put Daejeon to task with the score bordering on embarrassing.

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