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Writers' Chat: Daejeon Citizen Vs Busan IPark

On Sunday Daejeon Citizen welcome Busan IPark to Purple Arena, a side who find themselves firmly in second place, nine points behind Gyeongnam in first and eight points above Bucheon 1995 in third. Busan have lofty aspirations of automatic promotion, despite the points deficit, and so will be looking to put second-from-bottom Daejeon to task. Citizen, meanwhile, have improved of late and so will be looking to upset the odds by getting one over their former gaffer Cho Jinho. For this second vs second bottom fixture, I sat down with Busan IPark columnist Jaehyuk Lee to discuss Sunday's match-up.

Paul Neat asks Jae-hyeok Lee

Paul Neat: Busan are sat pretty comfortably in second place with no real danger of dropping into third, given the eight-point difference, but don't look like toppling Gyeongnam at the moment either. Is there any danger of complacency creeping in, do you think? 

Jae-hyeok: I think there will be as the season draws closer to its finish, which would be a massive problem for the playoffs. In the K League's short history of relegation-promotion playoffs it is usually the most in-form team that ends up making the final (and getting promoted). My hope is that Cho Jinho's constant shuffling of his starting XI is keeping players fresh and on their toes, so that complacency isn't that big of an issue. However time will tell if that pans out.

P: Automatic promotion looks unlikely given Gyeongnam's nine point lead, what is it about Busan that has prevented them from really challenging their south coast neighbours?

J: I think there are two main culprits for this. One is Busan's lack of good central midfielders. Busan have never (in recent times at least) been a side that can dominate a match and really control the tempo, but this year seems noticeably worse than past seasons when the likes of Joo Sejong and Park Jongwoo have been in the center. Against the more average Challenge sides, this is not a huge issue as Busan have enough up top to score and enough at the back to keep teams out. But against Gyeongnam, that inability to hold the ball, create chances, and give the backline a break really hurt the side. The other issue is the aforementioned rotation. Other than Lee Jeonghyeop (when healthy), Lim Sanghyub, and Kim Moonhwan (who has played everywhere) it's hard to predict who will start. Team chemistry always seems a bit lacking on the pitch in terms of predicting player movement and passes.

P: Last time out Busan drew 0-0 with Anyang at home, do you expect there to be a change in approach from Cho Jinho? How do you think Busan will set themselves up?

J: Probably not too much. Cho, as he generally does, rotated heavily for the KFA Cup match versus Jeonnam midweek. Only Lim Sanghyub and Lee Jaekwon held their spots from the Anyang match, and if Cho holds to form he will rotate heavily again for this one with many of those who played against Anyang coming in again. Lee Jeonghyeop should certainly return as should Kim Moonhwan and Jung Seokhwa. Cho does seem have settled on the 4-2-3-1 formation after switching things around quite often early on.

P: Finally, what's your prediction?

J: Given Daejeon's struggles this season, Busan should pull this one out. Thus far, we're 2-0-0 against Daejeon this season with a 2-1 win at the Gudeok and a 3-2 win at Daejeon WC Stadium. I think we'll probably see something similar this Sunday as well with Busan pulling a 2-1 win.

Busan IPark columnists Jaeheok Lee asks Paul Neat

Jaehyeok Lee: A bit over halfway through the season, and Daejeon remain joint bottom. Any hopes of making the playoffs seem slim at best, given the point gap with Seongnam. Have the club given up already or is there still belief that the season can be rescued?

Paul Neat: The fans certainly have given up hope, there isn't exactly very much of a feel-good factor around the club at present. I think the consensus is that this season is a complete write-off and that any place Daejeon finish above the bottom would purely be a bonus. It's a shame that Seongnam FC couldn't beat Seoul E-Land last week because, if they had, Daejeon would have been been 9th by a point and not joint bottom. It's not much but when you have been bottom for so long, a little victory like that could have gone a long way in building the team's confidence again. But, any talk of playoffs disappeared around May, all Daejeon can hope for now is to try and put some wins together and finish top of the mini league with Seoul E-Land and Ansan Greeners.

In terms of the players and the management, they'll be playing and fighting for their futures. I can't help but think that this season has hindered Hwang Inbeom's move away as any talk of moving to Europe seems to have gone very quiet - not that the Daejeon fans will mind, of course! Likewise, Manager Lee Youngik will be worried that he may not be in a job come the end of the season. You can see that on the field that the players have not given up, there's still some fight there. It's a lack of leadership that has worried me and continues to be an issue, not in so much of the senior players not setting a good example, it's more to do with strength of character. Daejeon are akin to a rudderless ship.

J: Daejeon have been on a better run of form since we last met (3-3-2 over those eight matches), is there a reason for this improvement?

P: Daejeon have seen improved performances from the likes of Hwang Inbeom and have finally settled on a decent back four, including the goalkeeper. Daejeon's problems have mainly been at the back, shipping too many goals and not having the nous nor strength in character to see games out. The manager brought in Jeon Sanghoon and Park Jusung from Gyeongnam, both slotted straight into a back three alongside Jang Junyoung and have looked much more assured. Lee seems to have realised that Jeon Suhyun is is best goalkeeper and, as the result of having the same personnel play week in week out, Citizen's midfield and forward line have been able to go on and play with a bit more confidence and freedom.

In addition to defensive reinforcements, Lee brought in Bruno Cantanhede and Kim Chanhee to compete for places on the wings either side of Cristian Danalache. Despite some skepticism from myself, Bruno has acquitted himself well and has lightening pace. Such pace has stretched teams at times and has also added an unpredictability to Daejeon's attack.

J: Important team news for Busan fans to take note of?

P: Lee has a relatively full squad to choose from with no suspensions to speak of and very few injuries. Club captain Kim Jinkyu is out injured but with Jeon Sanghoon and Park Jusung playing very well alongside the ever improving Jang Junyoung, Kim Jinkyu won't really be missed all that much.

J: As always, predictions for the match?

P: Well, I predicted Citizen to lose to Suwon FC last week and then they went and made me look rather silly by beating them 2-0. Suwon were in decent form heading into the game but had lost the previous game before that. Busan have two defeats from their last five so don't head to Purple Arena in blistering form but I think they will have enough to beat Daejeon. Citizen are very inconsistent and so it would be a real surprise to see Lee Youngik's men pick up two wins on the spin. There seems to always be goals in meetings between these two teams though and so I think it will be a relatively high scoring game.

Daejeon Citizen 1-3 Busan IPark

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