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ACL Preview: Buriram United v Jeju United

Matchday 2 in the Asian Champions League in Group G will take place on Wednesday February 21st, as Jeju United travel away to Thai side Buriram United hoping to get their Asian football season back on track following a 1-0 defeat at home to Cerezo Osaka in their opening match courtesy of an injury time winner for the Japanese side.  Buriram on the other hand managed to snatch a point from Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande.  Jeju will need three points from the match if they have any aspirations of getting through to the knockout phase of the competition.
(Photo via the-afc.com)

Last Time Out

With last Wednesday's encounter being their first competitive match of the season, Jeju didn't perform all that badly,  However, it is also evident that they still have a lot to work on, not having been able to realize their chances in front of goal.  Jeju actually outshot the Japanese side, but had a lot of difficulty finding the target, with only two shots on goal the entire match.  Another concern is that even though the men in orange had most of the better chances throughout the match, they lost the possession battle by a considerable margin, something which they will have to address as the season goes along, and the next match would be a good place to start.

The first twenty minutes of the match did not see a lot of action in front of goal, only a few missed opportunities for Osaka, while Jeju concentrated most of its possession in the middle of the pitch.  Jeju did not get its first significant sight of goal until the 36th minute, when Lee Chang-min came close with an effort from outside the box, which was saved by the Japanese 'keeper, following a pass from Park Jin-po.  Only minutes later, both teams would trade cards, as Hiroshi Kiyotake and Park would go into the referee's book.  Jeju would have the last attempt in front of goal before the half, with Park skying his effort well over the bar, sending the teams to the dressing room scoreless.

Jeju came out the more aggressive side in the second half, with Lee Chang-min firing at goal twice within the first ten minutes, but the target was not to be had, and the home side continued to push on in search of the goal which would put them in front.

Cerezo would not have a chance to score until six minutes after the hour mark, with Kiyotake forcing a good save from Lee Chang-geun in the Jeju goal.  Two minutes later, Jeju was on the prowl again, but Park was again off target.  The remainder of the second half didn't see a lot of threat to either goal, but the referee was busy enough with his whistle, taking the flow out of the match for both sides for a considerable spell.  Jin Seong-uk had a couple of opportunities inside the final ten minutes to give Jeju all three points, but once again, the target could just not be found.  With the match three minutes into injury time and seemingly headed for a draw, that which Jeju did not want to happen, did, as Kota Mizunuma left footed a shot in from close range, and Jeju were left recalling last season's home opener against Jiangsu Suning, where the Chinese took all three points in a similar fashion, scoring with only three minutes left on the clock to seal the win.

Buriram United were down a goal entering the second half of play in their match against Guangzhou Evergrande thanks to Ricardo Goulart, who put the hosts ahead after only sixteen minutes.  They aimed to change their fortunes by bringing on Edgar Silva as a sub to begin the second half, and the move would pay off as it was Silva who would score the equalizer on 57 minutes, scoring from close range following a set piece.  While the Chinese giants controlled the entire match with more than 60 per cent of the overall possession, the Thai champions managed to hold on for a draw, despite Guangzhou's best effort to take all three points, with Goulart looking dangerous on several occasions to get a brace.

Edgar came close to scoring his second of the match, missing over the bar with a header in the 74th minute.  Buriram would continue to press for the lead, almost getting it in the 81st minute, but it wasn't to be as Sasalak Haiprakhon's effort crashed against the woodwork.  The same player would fire just wide minutes later, as the visitors looked for the shock upset.  Yang Liyu came closest to settling affairs only a minute from time, but his shot was saved before it could find the low corner.

Both teams will have to be content with a share of the spoils, with Buriram now set to face Jeju in their home opener to this year's campaign.  Jeju meanwhile must turn things around quickly if things are to start heading in the right direction, with the league season set to kick off on March 1st.

Team News

Coach Jo Sung-hwan has vowed to be better prepared for the match against Buriram than he was for the opening fixture against Osaka, saying that even though he prepared well in the off-season, the result left both him and the club with a lot of disappointment.

He expressed some disappointment with the players following the loss, but said all will be returned when they play the reverse fixture in Japan.

For now, there is the issue of playing away to the Thai side in front of them, both as a way to get themselves back into the competition, and to prepare for the new season ahead.

The Adversary

Buriram United are the cream of the crop in Thai football, They have been champions four of the past five seasons.  They have also won the quadruple in Thai football - the Kor Royal Cup, Thai League 1, the Thai FA Cup, and the League Cup - on two occasions, the first time coming in 2011, and more recently in 2015, with Venezuelan international Andres Tunez still among those with the club since then.

The club is coached by Montenegrin Bozidar Bandovic, who has a wealth of previous experience in the Greek league, with a stint at Olympiakos to his credit.  The former defender also spent four seasons at Serbian club Red Star Belgrade, and also played for PAOK and Olympiakos during his senior career.

There is a Korean connection with the club this season, as Yoo Jun-soo was brought over from Incheon United in the off-season to replace fellow Korean Go Seul-ki, who is out on loan with the same club this season.  It is not yet known what Yoo's role with the club will be, but it is likely that he could see considerable playing time, as he did feature in the first group match against Guangzhou.


For the home side, a win would put them in good position for a sight at the knockout stages, but for Jeju, only victory would be acceptable if they are to match their feat from last season.  Jeju did show some of their attacking abillity against Cerezo, as did Buriram against Guangzhou, but considering the strength of the two leagues, it would be fair to say that the Korean side should have a slight edge in this one, despite being on the road.

Jeju's record away from home in the Champions League last year was admirable, as they secured victories against Gamba Osaka and Jiangsu Suning, with a draw against Adelaide United in the mix as well.

Buriram missed out on the Champions League last season, but have been a regular participant in recent years, their best result being a spot in the quarterfinals back in 2013.  

Having said that, it will not be an easy match for the men in orange, but they are well aware of what is at stake, and should be quality enough to record their first victory in the competition this season.

Predicted Score: Buriram United 1, Jeju United 2

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