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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Jeonnam Dragons

Gangwon FC, led by their young playmaker Moon Changjin (above), look to keep the pressure on league leaders' Jeonbuk as the underdogs from the north-east look to ride their wave to a win against the visiting Jeonnam Dragons.
Photo: Daum

Prelude: Hey everyone, it's great to be back writing for K League United again. I covered some FA Cup stuff two years ago, and then a little bit on Ulsan Hyundai last year, but I'm looking forward to covering my second club in Korea, Gangwon FC, as they ride their RB-Leipzig-like wave from here to the end of the season. Follow me on Twitter @korfan12 or read my other work at taegukwarriors.com!

Last Time Out

Gangwon kept their first clean sheet all season in league play on the weekend against Sangju. Han Kook-young, who made his first appearance for the north-east side after transferring from Qatar over the transfer window, was essential to that effort. The World Cup capped defensive midfielder provided effective shield for a backline that's conceded heaps of goals and this could signal the beginning of a robust title challenge from the recently promoted side.

Gangwon boss Choi Yun-kyum's 4-3-3, with both Han and Vietnamese youngster Luong Xuan Truong at the base of the midfield, seemed a little too cautious and uncharacteristically timid from the usually forward-minded side. Though it was a surprise to see Truong, who has struggled for playing time in Gangwon, come off before half-time, it certainly was a worthwhile call, as the more attacking-minded Moon Chang-jin scored his 3rd goal in 3 games, completing an effective counter. Lee Bum-young wasn't too troubled between the sticks and centreback Kim Oh-kyu's cracking finish from a scrambled corner kick late in the game sealed the deal. Gangwon went 2nd.

Jeonnam have been punching above their weight in their last three games, and did so last time around with a solid 1-1 draw away at Pohang. I confess I didn't watch the game, but the Dragons drew first blood thanks to the spectacular work on the wing from Jair, who found fellow foreigner Jugovic making a late run. All the Croatian had to do was get it on target past a blinded keeper.

However, Pohang grew more comfortable as the game went on, and the Dragons couldn't weather a late storm from the home side, with Yang Donghyun's late headed goal exposing Jeonnam's defensive indiscipline (you can't leave the league top scorer alone in the box like that!). All this could have been averted had Fesczsin not missed a sitter 10 minutes earlier. But Jeonnam will take a point, given that Yang almost completed the comeback from the same spot in the 5th minute of injury time.

Team News

Han Kook-young transitioned surprisingly quickly from a off-season break due to the end of the Qatar Stars League to playing for this side, and though his fitness didn't allow him to complete the game, he was important in the minutes he played, and as such, he will, fitness allowing, be maybe even the first man on the team sheet this time around. Jeonnam possess two creative central midfield hubs in Jugovic and Han Chanhee, and it will be fascinating to see if Han Kookyoung will neutralize these threats.

Jung Jo-gook remains out with an injury, and will be for close to six weeks. Perhaps a debut then will be handed to recent signing Jonathan Nanizayamo. Also watch to see if defender Gerson will deputize for the first time in midfield as Choi Yun-kyum inevitably needs to rotate his side in the summer flurry of fixtures.

The Adversary

Jeonnam have traditionally been a mid-to-lower table side, and this season has been no different, with a very impressive output of 31 goals in 19 games, but an equally disappointing 31 goals conceded (the worst in the league). Jeonnam's leaky defense almost kept a surprising clean sheet against an initially unincisive Pohang, but they couldn't keep at bay the league's top scorer for much longer. Given their struggles with Yang in the air, perhaps this is the perfect occasion for Nanizayamo to open his K League account.

Going forward, Jeonnam's threats lie with the dangerous Jair and the mobile ball-carrying of Vedran Jugovic. It will also be interesting to see if U-23 midfielder Han Chanhee returns to the side, after resting on the weekend and putting in an impressive shift against Jeju last week.

Prediction

Pohang didn't really have anybody to worry about on the wings, but Gangwon do. This will be a different kettle of fish for the Dragons and their defensive record doesn't lie. With Lee Keunho and Moon Changjin in searing form, it should be a fairly comfortable win for the north-easterners, even if they've dropped two games against Jeonnam this season.

Gangwon FC 3-1 Jeonnam Dragons

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