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ACL Writers' Chat: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Kashiwa Reysol

K League Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors make their return to the AFC Champions League, facing off against J.League's Kashiwa Reysol in their first match in Group EAfter a year away, the 2016 Asian Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors mark their awaited return to continental competition with a visit from J.League side Kashiwa Reysol, hoping to make up for lost time. Our Jeonbuk columnist Matthew Binns spoke with JSoccer Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Alan Gibson about what to expect when these two sides meet in Jeonju on Tuesday evening.

Matthew asks, Alan answers

Matthew Binns: Kashiwa Reysol entered Group E via the playoffs, comfortably defeating Thailand’s Muang Thong United 3-0 in the process. Do you think they will set up in a similar shape or will there be any adjustments made to counter specific threats?

Alan Gibson: No changes needed, I think. They were a little dirty - unnecessarily so against weak opposition - but this malice is what has been missing from Japanese teams in ACL play, especially when up against Korean opposition, who seem to do whatever it takes to try and win. They'll just play the same system, same players (injury-depending) and give 100%!

MB: Which player is likely to cause the biggest headache for the Jeonbuk players on Tuesday evening?

AG: Cristiano is a handful for any defence with his shoot from anywhere and doesn't care if he misses attitude (very unlike Japanese players) but he can be closed down with a tight man to man marking frustrating him, and when he gets frustrated he gets depressed and then becomes ineffective. The best bet for Reysol is the tricky skills of Junya Ito on the right wing. He could be their key player.

MB: Former Jeonbuk player Kim Bo-kyung has been plying his trade for Kashiwa Reysol since his move there last summer and could make his first return to Jeonju since departing. How has he been performing since his move and has he adapted well to the Kashiwa setup?

AG: I thought he was a very good player years back at Cerezo, and, of course someone else did too, as he got a move to UK, and this helped round out his game. He's a very good, combative midfielder who also has a little malice when needed. A good player for ACL matches, for sure.

MB: How do you see the match playing out?

AG: I think Reysol will not change their game just because they are away. They go for goals so a clean sheet might not be in the offing, not that it matters, and if they get an early goal it could go anywhere. I'm going for the Reysol win, 1-2!

Alan's Score Prediction: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-2 Kashiwa Reysol

Alan asks, Matthew answers

Alan Gibson: Korean teams seem to be very physical and go as far as they can go bending (and breaking) the Laws of the Game, depending on the referee... do you think there'll be any change in this attitude and do you think it's what gives Korean teams the edge over Japanese, often, in ACL matches?

Matthew Binns: I am not sure I would agree entirely with that sentiment in terms of rule breaking, but could certainly see your point if you were to refer to the last time a K League and J.League side met in this competition and the shameful melee that ensued. There is also the on field rivalry between the two nations across all sporting disciplines and, given that ACL teams are required to be mostly domestic talent, that extra motivation and little bit of needle is always going to carry over into these matches.

However, the surprising physicality of the league is something noted, and in cases lauded, when we've sat down to speak with various foreign players plying their trade here. Perhaps it has partially offered Korea an advantage in this competition, especially when you consider the significant number of times more that Korean clubs have won this competition compared to their Japanese counterparts. Ultimately though, there is certainly an art to a firm but fair tackle, but I think pinning K League clubs' successes over J.League clubs mostly on that overlooks their high level of technical ability, something that Jeonbuk’s players boast in droves, and should hopefully be on full display come Tuesday evening.

AG: Jeonbuk are the home side, will they go all out for the win or play it cagey and look to snatch a lone goal?

MB: I doubt that Jeonbuk will approach this game with anything less than three points being acceptable. Whilst respectful of their opponents' abilities, they certainly will not fear them and will want to mark their return to the Champions League in a convincing fashion. The K League club won the 2017 domestic title season in a manner of a side thoroughly brassed off at their continental disqualification, and there is an overwhelming desire to claim back the crown they were not allowed to defend. The North Jeolla side are entering the competition to win the trophy and, if their last ACL campaign is anything to go by, their ruthless home form will be the foundations they intend to build victory on again.

AG: Who is the key man who should be giving the Reysol team a hard time? The one to watch?

MB: New signings Adriano and Tiago Alves are the most anticipated, especially given their antics in the Korean league in 2016, but as supporters are yet to see them in action in a Jeonbuk shirt, I will opt for a safer choice. K League MVP Lee Jae-sung is still with the club, despite more European transfer speculation in the winter, with the intention of ensuring his World Cup place, not that he has had any difficulty featuring for the national team in recent years. The attacking midfielder is a hugely talented individual, leading the clubs' assists last year whilst also posing as a credible goal threat. His close control, and ability to quickly read his surroundings to pick out a cutting pass should be of concern to the visitors.

AG: Prediction?

MB: If Kashiwa Reysol come at Jeonbuk, a side that boasts a lethal counter attack, then I fear it could be a long and potentially messy night for the J.League side. That said, Jeonbuk's pre-season preparations were interrupted by an unnecessary training camp for the Korean national side, with seven players called up for three needless friendlies. Because of this, only two or three regular first team players have actually featured in all of Jeonbuk's pre-season matches, so there is always the concern they could lack cohesion in their first outing together. Therefore, I predict a cautious, yet comfortable victory for the home side.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Kashiwa Reysol

We'd like to extend our thanks once again to Alan Gibson for taking part in this match preview. Alan is the editor-in-chief for JSoccer and JSoccer Magazine, a website and magazine dedicated to providing stories, highlights, images and more from across Japan's footballing divisions in English. Make sure to visit their website here or follow JSoccer Magazine on Twitter.

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