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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Lopes celebrates his first goal after a long injury as Jeonbuk Hyundai motors defeated Ulsan Hyundai 4-0

After a strong performance days prior, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were given a reality check in a thrilling affair away to Jeju United. Can the North Jeolla side bounce back from defeat yet again when they travel to face Sangju Sangmu on Sunday evening?
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Last Time Out

Coming into their previous game as slight favourites, Jeonbuk were stunned in the first half by a threatening Jeju side who racked up two goals before the away side then knotched up one of their own prior to the interval. Jeju pressed well for most of the first 45 minutes, breaking the deadlock via a Lee Eun-beom goal, although it was his teammate Jin Seong-wook who should be credited with the goal's creation. The striker ran through the defence and managed to poke it to his teammate despite having fallen to ground under the challenge of the keeper.

The fortieth minute then saw an error from Jeonbuk goalkeeper Hong Jeong-nam when his powerful pass wrong footed centre-back Lim Jong-eun who fell over in turning for it, allowing Jeju's Lee Chang-min to pounce on the opportunity and drill in a shot unchallenged. Jeonbuk would equalise immediately however when some good build up play from Lee Jae-sung and Lee Seung-gi played the ball into the path of Lopes who shot ferociously from the edge of the area before half time.

Despite a much improved second half from Jeonbuk, they were unable to unlock an increasingly compounded Jeju back line as the home team held on and looked solely to add to their tally via counter attacks. There were a few notable chances for Jeonbuk, but perhaps the best opportunity fell to Lee Dong-gook late on. Breaking quickly, Jeonbuk's Lee Jae-sung and Lopes picked out Kim Shin-wook, who held up the ball well and managed to get a through ball away despite going to ground. With just the onrushing keeper to beat, veteran striker Lee’s chip had too much loft and sailed agonisingly over. One can only think that a Lee Dong-gook of a few year’s ago would have buried such an opportunity without a moment’s hesitation.

Perhaps then, Jeonbuk supporters should once again look to draw form the positives on show. In the second half, their team’s passing play was high paced and they kept up the pressure for the majority of the 45 minutes, carving out a number of opportunities that they would score with ease in most other fixtures. Still, with the recent defeat to FC Seoul also still lingering in the mind, a strong performance against Sangju is very much needed to get things back on track.

Highlights for Jeju United 2-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors can be viewed here.

Sangju Sangmu overcame a one goal deficit to defeat bottom of the table Gwangju FC away from home, although Gwangju FC striker Wanderson did see red before the military side completed the turnaround.

Defensively, Sangju seemed to stand off their men for the opening exchanges. Joo Hyeon-woo, unmarked on the edge of the area, simply had to wait for the cross to pass to him before slotting home. Moments later and the army team's defensive woes continued as they then proceeded to gift Wanderson a chance, which he fortunately missed. However, the away side levelled just after the half hour mark through midfielder Yeo Reum who unleashed a low volley from range that left the keeper stranded and the home crowd stunned.

Shortly before the end of the half, Wanderson would see red for a studs up challenge before proceeding to nearly get into an altercation with the Sangju keeper. With ten men, Gwangju struggled to mount an attack, with the away team deploying Ju Min-kyu in the second half to score the eventual winner to ensure the military left with all three points.

Highlights for Gwangju FC  1-2 Sangju Sangmu FC can be viewed here.

Previous Meetings

When these two sides met back in April at the Jeonju Civil stadium, Jeonbuk delivered their first thrashing to a side this season, running out 4-1 victors. The history of this tie does not make pleasant reading for Sangju fans either, with Jeonbuk having not lost to a military side since 2006. They can take comfort however in the fact that they held Jeonbuk twice last season in Sangju and, given that Jeonbuk have lost their prior two away matches, could be poised to get something again this weekend.

Team News

Jeonbuk will have almost a full squad to select from now that Kim Min-jae has returned from his one match suspension. For a talent so young, his absence was sorely felt against Jeju United. Right back Lee Yong continues on the long term injury list but there is little concern with the continued selection of Choi Chul-soon in his place.

The only issue will be whether or not Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee feels some of his players need adequate rest ahead of matches against Gwangju and FC Seoul the following Wednesday and Sunday. It could very well be possible that the likes of Lopes, Lee Jae-sung and Kim Shin-wook are found on the bench either for this weekend or for the game midweek.

The Adversary

Tending to line-up in a 4-3-3, Sangju Sangmu FC have still managed to retain some of their attacking qualities which made them such a joy to watch last season, even though most of the recruits and the manager have since moved on. Despite this however, they have been unable to match this intent with goals, scoring twenty for the campaign so far making them the third lowest scorers in the league.

They have had further problems at the back. With just five clean sheets to their name, they are faring well amongst the teams that surround them at the bottom of the table, but are lacking when compared to the top half, a position they sat so comfortably in last season

Sangju have also not won at home since April when they also defeated Gwangju. They have won three of their last thirteen league games, away to FC Seoul, Pohang and the previously mentioned midweek victory over Gwangju.

Worryingly, with another batch of players due to end their service before the league split, and the nature of the club meaning they cannot bring in any players during this transfer window like their rivals can, Sangju really need to start finding some form now so they can survive the last third of the season when other teams around them begin to claw themselves out from the basement. If they do not, they could very well find themselves entangled in a relegation brawl come October.

Who To Watch

Surprisingly, goalkeeper Oh Seung-hoon has been one of the highest performing players in his position this season if you are to go by the K League's best eleven for each round. This is perhaps even more impressive when you consider the defensive frailty in front of him and thus the number of chances he must face.

Sangju's two top scorers Kim Ho-nam (5) and Ju Min-kyu (4) are also two players to watch out for, although surprisingly both started from the bench on Wednesday. Having both featured regularly throughout the season, it would be wise to think they were being rested ahead of Sunday's clash, especially given the relentless league schedule and sweltering heat we are currently enduring.

Prediction

Sangju Sangmu are struggling and come into this game facing a Jeonbuk side that will be intent on yet again proving a poor result was just a blip. With their home form also not looking healthy, signs would suggest it will not bode well for the army team. That said, they may face a Jeonbuk side that has been slightly rotated given the compact fixture list, potentially making it far from the one-sided affair expected by most.

Predicted Score: Sangju Sangmu 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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