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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai

Match Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai

Sunday evening sees Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors take on fellow title challengers Ulsan Hyundai. With the gap currently at seven points, victory here for the home side would certainly put a dent in Ulsan's league aspirations.
(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Last Time Out

Wednesday evening saw Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors head north to take on eleventh placed Incheon United needing three points to at least maintain their lead at the K League summit. The game finished comfortably with a 3-1 scoreline in the visitors favour, but was marred somewhat in controversy by inconsistent refereeing mostly at the expense of the home side.

It would only take four minutes before the first moment of note would take place. Incheon striker Wesley took the outstretched arm of Cho Sung-hwan to neck, with the Jeonbuk centre back lucky to see yellow, especially when viewed back again on the replay. Cho's reputation for somewhat of a being a nasty fouler seems to be only growing with age, particularly when taking into account his reckless behaviour against Suwon Bluewings last season saw him banned for five matches during Jeonbuk's crucial title run-in. Given his previous misdemeanours, and the benefit of replays, its hard not to view the foul with cynicism and perhaps Jeonbuk were fortunate to still have eleven men on the field.

Jeonbuk would take the lead through fortuitous circumstances when Edu kicked nothing but air when provided the ball in the six yard box, with the ball falling onto the foot of the onrushing Connor Chapman who inadvertently toe poked into the back of his own net. There were protests regarding whether or not Edu had handled the ball when controlling it, but replays, or the only one shown, would suggest it did strike the Brazilian's chest.

Edu would get his name on the scoresheet however, with Cho Sung-hwan being granted a free header by ill positioned Incheon defender Kwak Hae-sung to head down to his teammate. The striker only had to stick his foot out to send it into the back of the net.

Edu would then double his tally from the penalty spot. The referee called upon VAR and correctly awarded the penalty for a hand ball by Ha Chang-rae, although why the technology was not called upon for Jeonbuk's opening goal remains a continuing frustration of when exactly can the referee call upon their new equipment.

Incheon would pick up a consolation in the final five minutes after lack of commitment from the back tracking Eder would allow Kim Yong-hwan to slide in a shot from a tight angle. On the balance of play, Incheon cannot feel too aggrieved at losing to Jeonbuk, but supporters will understandably feel the consistency of match officials has yet again gone against them.

Highlights from Jeonbuk’s victory over Incheon can be viewed here.

Ulsan Hyundai played host to Suwon Bluewings in a game both sides needed to win to keep up in the title race, with a draw likely to not help either side. Ulsan however, started the weaker side, very much showing why it their opponents are in the ascendancy in this title race.

It took just seven minutes for Suwon to muster the opener, partly thanks to some poor defending by the home side. Ulsan's Han Seung-gyu failure to win the ball allowed Suwon's Lee Jong-sung to scamper forward and fire a speculative effort. Ulsan keeper Kim Yong-dae looked to have the inbound strike covered but weak hands saw the ball deflect under him and into the net.

Suwon kept pushing, with some questionable distribution for Kim Yong-dae nearly allowing them to double their lead. Ulsan however do possess class on the wings, and when a loose ball dropped on the edge of the area, Croatian Mislav Oršić was on hand to drive in the equaliser.

The dynamic of the second half quickly changed when Ulsan captain, Kim Chang-soo saw a straight red card for elbowing his opponent off the ball whilst defending a corner. After that, Suwon applied the relentless waves of pressure, but somehow Ulsan stood strong and managed to hold on to a share of the spoils. Both sides now sit seven points from Jeonbuk in first place.

Highlights from the draw between Ulsan and Suwon can be seen here.

Previous Meetings

This fixture has tended to be somewhat of a cagey, lifeless affair down the years. That is until Jeonbuk won this fixture to the tune of four goals to nil when they met last month, looking assured throughout. Not a lot has changed between the two sides since that meeting, and with Jeonbuk making a habit of dispensing with the majority of their closest title rivals this season, could look to try and repeat such an emphatic scoreline.

Team News

Perhaps the biggest boost for Jeonbuk will be the return of Ricardo Lopes and Kim Jin-su to the matchday squad with both having now served their suspensions. Kim Shin-wook should also be fit to start after having been rested after the K League All Star game in Vietnam, in addition to defender Lee Jae-sung who has been recovering and making the bench. Expect the centre back to relieve Cho Sung-hwan of his duties for Sunday’s match.

Ulsan will be without Kim Chang-soo after the former Jeonbuk man saw red in their home game against Suwon. Other than that, Ulsan may look to offer more minutes to their new signing Danijel Subotic, who was unable to be called upon from the bench on Wednesday due to his team's one man disadvantage.

The Adversary

Ulsan continue to stay in the title fight despite their concerning lack of goals, having lost just two games of their last seventeen and dropping just four points in the last five matches since being humbled by Jeonbuk in early July.

With twenty-five goals scored for the campaign, only relegation candidates Gwangju, Incheon and Sangju have fared worse. Their minus one goal difference has mostly come about tending to lose their heads once they go behind, with a number of eye-catching scorelines going against them throughout the season.

Ulsan's biggest threats are in both their wingers and lone striker, namely the talented Mislav Oršić, Kim in-sung and former Jeonbuk striker Lee Jong-ho. Combined, they have score eleven of the team's twenty five, with Oršić and Lee claiming six and four respectively. It is certainly not an impressive tally for a team in such a lofty position and is why their is so much expectation being placed on their new Swiss striker Subotic, in the hope that he can share the burden.

With goals evidently not being their strongest point, their resolve at the back has had to be reliable. Richard Windbichler has continued to impress this season, easily making a claim for one of the league's best centre backs this year. Goalkeeper Kim Yong-dae has also often stood out, regardless of his disappointing performance on Wednesday evening. The keeper has been a regular feature in the league's team of the round this season.

Prediction

Despite how the last match between these two panned out, the history of this fixture still suggests it is often a tight affair. There is certainly more for Ulsan to lose, with defeat seeing them fall ten points behind first place and dashing their hopes for a title challenge. That said, Jeonbuk are beginning to show their experience in the run-in, claiming wins with both glamorous and gritty displays. They are a team full of players that know what are required of them and should be at full strength on Sunday. I can see the Asian Champions doing just enough to edge this one.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 Ulsan Hyundai

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