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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Sangju Sangmu

Kim Shin-wook and his Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors teammates celebrate Kim min-jae's goal against FC Seoul

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors host military side Sangju Sangmu as K League 1 returns to North Jeolla after a two week international break. The hosts will be looking to build upon their positive result over rivals FC Seoul last time out, but Joo Min-kyu and co will be hoping to cause an upset by exploiting Jeonbuk's potentially fatigued defence of Korean National Team players.
(image via Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors put an end to their back-to-back defeats across the league and Champions League with a 2-1 victory over rivals FC Seoul. Goals from centre back Kim Min-jae and former Seoul striker Adriano put Jeonbuk ahead before an injury time free kick from Kim Seong-jun salvaged the smallest of credibility for the capital club. The match on the whole was somewhat of a lacklustre affair, failing to live up to it's billing, but once the reigning champions took the lead, FC Seoul never looked like clawing it back.

You can read our in-depth match recap of Jeonbuk 2-1 FC Seoul here.

You can also watch match highlights here.

Having stunned Ulsan with a 2-0 victory, Sangju Sangmu headed to Chuncheon to face a high flying Gangwon FC. The military outfit fought admirably, with the likes of Shin Se-gye looking strong in midfield. However, once Diego Mauricio scored a penalty for the hosts just after the half hour mark, before then doubling his and his side's tally eight minutes later, there was never any real doubt over which side would finish as victors. Sangju later lost Kim Tae-hwan to a second yellow card, before then claiming a goal back from the spot moments later through Joo Min-kyu. Despite efforts to find a late equaliser, the whistle eventually blew and the visitors recorded their second loss for the season.

Highlights from the match can be viewed here.


Previous Meetings

Unsurprisingly, Jeonbuk have tended to dominate this fixture over the 36 times they have met, with Sangju only claiming three points on four occasions. One of those however was the last time these two sides face one another. A title-chasing Jeonbuk struggled to break down a solid defensive display by the visiting military team, with their task made harder by being reduced to ten men after Kim Min-jae's double booking. Sangju rallied and pulled a goal back through Joo Min-kyu, before catching Jeonbuk on the counter in the dying seconds to steal all the spoils and hand them a lifeline going into the league split. Jeonbuk will be hoping not to fall for the same tactics again come Saturday afternoon.

Team News

Perhaps the biggest team news for Jeonbuk is the injury sustained by left wing back Kim Jin-su, who has picked up medial ligament injury in his right knee during Korea's international friendly against Northern Ireland and is set to be sidelined for six weeks. Choi Kang-hee will likely look to replace him with Park Won-jae.

There is also the concern of tiredness with seven players, including five defenders, all returning from South Korea's friendlies in Europe. With the Champions League and a trip to Pohang also on the horizon for the North Jeolla side, the manager may opt to use a weakened defensive line on Saturday, likely opting for centre-back Lee Jae-sung and Choi Bo-kyung as viable alternatives.

For Sangju Sangmu, defender Kim Tae-hwan will be unavailable for selection after being sent off in their match against Gangwon. His absence would be of concern for the visitors as central defence looks to be the one area on the pitch where they lack sufficient cover, yet he was fielded at right back for Gangwon meaning the central partnership of Lim Chae-min and Yun Young-sun will likely remain, with Shin Se-gye likely returning to the wing back role from central midfield.

Left back Kim Min-woo and centre-back Yun Young-sun may also be suffering from tiredness, having also traveled with the Korean national squad over the international break, but it is unlikely they would be removed for such a clash given the full week they will have to recover after Saturday.

The Adversary

For a team who annually have the odds stacked against them, Sangju Sangmu seem to be facing an even greater struggle this season than usual. Not only will they lose key players (including Joo Min-kyu) in September as close to half the squad come to the end of their military duties, this year they also have a World Cup break to contend with. Sangju have routinely sought to get close to survival by the Autumn, but this season there will be slightly fewer games played by then yet military terms are not adjusted for this. Furthermore, they are playing their fourth game in a row (out of an eventual ten) away from home due to their stadium being used for a regional sports festival.

The side has done well in terms of their recruits though, bringing in the likes of Kim Min-woo and Yoon Bit-garam to add to the strong fullbacks and midfielders in their ranks. Their weakness however still seems to be their central defence, and it could take a heroic team performance similar to the last time they faced Jeonbuk if they are to keep out the likes of Tiago and Adriano, and snatch three points once more.

Who To Watch

Whilst the Republic of Korea fell to two defeats in friendlies to Northern Ireland and Poland, there was one Korean striker sat back at home wondering what he has to do to be considered for a call up and whether or not his chance at the international stage has now unfairly fled him. Joo Min-kyu has already bagged a goal in each of his team's three games this season, in addition to the 17 league goals chalked up last year.

Having looked to have answered those who doubted his ability to cut it in the top flight, he still has somehow found himself behind the likes of perennial Plan B Kim Shin-wook, and even ageing stalwarts Lee Keun-ho, Yeom Ki-hun and Lee Dong-gook on seperate occasions within the last seven months. It really does seem unjust, especially with the recent EAFF E-1 Championship and Winter training camp team selection focusing predominantly on K League players, yet still he found himself overlooked

If his opportunity has somehow not already passed him by, then with less than 80 days to the World Cup, Joo Min-kyu needs to prove himself once more to be afforded the slimmest of chances. Doing this against what is looking increasingly like the Korean National Team's defence at Jeonbuk could be an ideal opportunity to make himself heard.

Prediction

Both teams come into this match with scoring strikers in Adriano and Joo Min-kyu, yet both have exploitable backlines due to injuries, suspensions, and six defenders between the two sides coming back from international duty. It could potentially be quite an entertaining affair if both teams play to their attacking strengths, but no one would blame Sangju if they sat back and tried to catch the hosts on the counter given the threat posed. Given how easily the visitors were seen to by the likes of Gangwon and Gyeongnam though, I expect Jeonbuk to have just a little too much for the military side.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 Sangju Sangmu

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