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Preview: Jeju United vs Suwon Bluewings



In round four of the K League, Suwon Bluewings make a trip down to the island to face Jeju United.  United are coming off their first victory of the season over Ulsan Hyundai away last time out, while Suwon was held by Pohang to a 1-1 draw on home turf.  Both teams enter the match with identical records, but Suwon are a few spots above in the table on goal difference.  It will be a tight encounter which will more than likely be decided by the finer details.  Branko Belan takes a look at what to expect for the home side, while Scott Whitelock provides analysis for the visitors.

(Photo courtesy of Jeju United FC's Facebook page)


Last Time Out

Jeju finally managed its first win of the new K League season in a tight contest at Munsu Stadium against Ulsan Hyundai.  A last gasp winner from Ryu Seung-woo meant the islanders were able to take all three points, and the hope is that with the return of last season's captain Oh Ban-suk to anchor the back line, Jeju will be able to shore up its defense and prove that finishing second in the league last year in goals conceded was not just a one-off.

The win does not mean however that Jeju had an outstanding game.  While there were flashes of old at times last time out, it could still take some time yet before the Orange machine gets fully into gear.  Jeju's strikers have not looked dangerous in front of goal this season, and that was evident against Ulsan as well.  Once the situation up front starts to clear up, a better picture can be envisioned as to what this team is capable of achieving this season.

Suwon came from behind against Pohang to salvage a draw, with second half substitute Waguininho leveling the score two minutes from the end of regular time.  The draw extended Suwon's unbeaten run against the Steelers to ten matches, dating back to 2015.  

Previous Meetings

This will be the first of three meetings between the clubs in the league this season.  '

Suwon had the edge last season in four league encounters, winning twice home and away in the first half of the season, while Jeju won in September away from home in the midst of last season's push for the league title.  The two also squared off in the championship round on the island in November in a match that finished goalless.

Both teams have been very inconsistent to open the season, and both have undergone considerable changes in the offseason, with Suwon strengthening their attack, while Jeju is still trying to make things work.

Team News

Jeju enter the clash against Suwon with a bit more confidence under the belt having finally broken the seal on the new campaign with their first victory in Round 3.  There were much more positive things to take from the match, as Jeju showed much more of its attacking spirit in comparison to previous matches.

It is a bit of a surprise that the winner came right at the death, as the island side could have won by a few goals, but were denied by some great goalkeeping.  The aim for the match would be to get their first win on home ground, where they have been particularly good over the past few seasons, and it would give the home crowd something to get behind with the continental campaign hanging in the balance.

The team is in need of momentum to build for the rest of the season, and, if they are able to get on a run that saw them take the league by storm in the middle portion of the campaign last year, this would be a good time to start.  The strikers have yet to start bagging goals as was expected of them coming into the season.  They are due for a breakout performance.  It all depends on what tactics will be employed, but a win is almost necessary to restore faith in matching last season's accomplishments.

Scott Whitelock offered some bits of interest for the Bluewings.

"For Suwon, right wing-back Christovam made his return to action after a 3 week absence last week when Suwon took on Seoul in the Reserve League. The Brazilian played the full 90 minutes and should be in line for a return to the match day squad and add some much needed attacking flair to the team." 

"Matt Jurman has also recovered from the muscle injury that has kept him out of action since January and is in contention for this game. However, the Australian is unlikely to start and may need a few more weeks before he is fully match-fit again."

The Adversary

Their draw at home to Pohang, just before the international break, was yet another disappointment for Suwon and extended their poor home form even further. They have won only 9 league games at home over the last 365 days and will be thankful that this game is away from home where they have been imperious for the same amount of time. 

The Pohang game was particularly disappointing for the lack of attacking intent that Suwon had, a problem that has been ever present at the beginning of this season. Yoon Yong-ho, despite being an impressive talent and the future of Suwon, had another poor game and was unable to create anything going forward and the burden to create was too much for Dejan and Yeom Ki-hun. Suwon did not create any meaningful pressure until the dying minutes after a change in formation saw Waguininho shift into a central attacking position, and unsurprisingly it was the Brazilian who scored the last minute equaliser and that is an attacking detail that Seo Jung-won should study very carefully. 

At the start of the season I commented that other players surrounding Dejan, the club’s marquee signing, would need to step up if Suwon are to have any success, and thus far they haven’t done that. Add to that the failure of the manager to get the best out of one of the best squads in the league and it is not looking good for Suwon in 2018.

(Scott Whitelock)

Who to Watch

The player to watch for Jeju United is Lee Chang-min.  He has been the most consistent performer for the club thus far this season.  His performances in the first few games in the K League as well as in the Champions League were enough to earn him a call up to the Korean national team for this month's friendly matches against Northern Ireland and Poland.

He entered the match against Northern Ireland in the 68th minute and was a constant factor in Korea moving forward looking to re-take the lead.  He demonstrated his ability to distribute the ball to his teammates and also showed his vision and knowledge of the pitch to be very high caliber.  He combined well in attack on a few occasions and also had a few attempts at goal, although he was unfortunate not to hit the mark.

He followed up his strong performance on Saturday afternoon by scoring against Poland in South Korea's second friendly warmup for the World Cup, striking a low, hard drive from outside the box to bring the match back to within touching distance at 2-1.  With an ability to both score goals and distribute the ball around the pitch, providing he maintains both health and form, he will be one to watch both in the K League and perhaps also this summer in Russia.

Both teams come into the match on four points, with Suwon ahead of Jeju only on goal difference.  Both teams have suffered through inconsistency in the early portion of the season, both in the league and in the Champions League.

Suwon was billed as a potential title contender coming into 2018, while Jeju are coming off a year in which they finished runners-up.

If one is to compare the two teams at the moment, it can be said that, on paper, Suwon did much more to strengthen its squad, while Jeju has seemingly had an open door policy, allowing some of its best players to leave the club at a time when the team was just starting to become competitive again.

Jeju have a lot to play for in this match.  They failed to win at home against Suwon last season, and have yet to win at home in all competitions this season.  A home win is the tonic of choice, and, as such, as a final score prediction, it will be:

Jeju United 2, Suwon Bluewings 1

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