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Writers' Chat: Gyeongnam FC v Jeju United

The orange of Jeju United make their first trip to the Korean mainland to take on newly promoted outfit Gyeongnam FC . Will the new kids on the block in red reap further misery upon Jeju after there 6-3 mauling on Tuesday in the Asian Champions League against Chinese powerhouses Guangzhou Evergrande? The Reds will be buoyed by how they started their K League 1 campaign. This Saturday's encounter will be surely an intriguing one. Gyeongnam columnist James Edrupt sat down with Jeju writer Branko Belan to ask questions and get answers and opinions from both camps.

James asks, Branko answers

James Edrupt:  I watched your league opener against FC Seoul last week. You look very solid at the back but I didn't see much of a creativeness from the middle of the park.  Could this lack of creativity prove to be a problem this Saturday?

Branko Belan: The lack of chance creation has been a concern ever since the pre-season with new faces joining the attacking ranks, so it will be some time yet before options are figured out up front. Magno Cruz seems to be finding his form of late however, and as of now, he will be the main man to rely on to put the ball in the back of the net, as he led the team in goals last season. Other options up front are Jin Seong-wook, who has potential, but has yet to show it in the league this season, while the new Brazilian pair of Marques and Roberson really haven't shown much thus far. Someone will have to step up if Jeju are to put together good results in the early portion of the season. Where they are after ten games could dictate how they finish up.

James Edrupt: Our main striker Marcao is suspended for the game this weekend after his red card last Sunday. You all must be happy and somewhat relieved about him being suspended for the clash?

Branko Belan: Marcao's suspension will come as a big relief to Jeju, who were hammered midweek in Guangzhou. Marcao made quite the debut for Gyeongnam with his hat trick on opening weekend, and will certainly be one to watch in the league this season. Jeju have a lot of questions to sort out at the moment, and it is a bit difficult to see in which direction this team is headed having produced sub par to inconsistent results thus far this season. Tactics and personnel are both up in the air right now, but one would hope it's just a matter of the squad needing time to gel.

James Edrupt: How do you see the game unfolding this weekend? Where will the game be won or lost in your opinion?

Branko Belan:  I feel the match will be won or lost in the middle of the pitch. Jeju have been badly out-possessed so far this season, and that is a trend that simply cannot continue. Gyeongnam will be at home and certainly willing to duplicate their performance from last time out. Jeju have yet to find the flow which has made them one of the most exciting teams to watch in the K League the past few seasons. They also have a tendency to play poorly away from home, especially early in the season, so home pitch could turn out to be a huge advantage for the newly promoted side.

James Edrupt: Lastly, do you think your defeat midweek in China will have an energy sapping effect on the team going into the game? Gyeongnam are a very energetic and youthful side and have had a weeks rest under their belts.

Branko Belan:  Jeju have a lot of work to do to erase the sting of defeat away to Guangzhou. The first half hour of the match went quite smoothly for the most part, but Jeju's back line committed a cardinal sin, allowing Alan to snatch an injury time goal from a corner to slash the deficit in half going to the break. It was all Guangzhou needed to tear the momentum away from the island side as they hit the ground running after the re-start. Rarely if ever is it possible to play in a hostile environment such as that one, and against arguably one of the best sides in Asia in recent years and come away with a result. Gyeongnam on the other hand have a victory in the league already under their belt, and will be looking to build on their success in Round 1. It could definitely be inferred that Gyeongnam have something to prove, as they are back in the top flight for the first time since 2014. If Jeju is unable to get organized and dictate the tempo early on, it could be another long ninety in store for them.

Branko asks, James answers

Branko Belan: Gyeongnam are back in the top flight following a three year absence. What are realistic expectations for the club this season?

James Edrupt: To just stay in the K1 and build from there to establish us as a mainstay in the top tier for years to come. The previous 2 years before their fantastic year last season were truly woeful. Gyeongnam were attracting crowds of just over 1500 most games and even in midweek would get in under 1000.  The atmosphere was non existent and they couldn't attract the right players to the club.  I would like to see Gyeongnam beat a powerhouse in the league.  A Jeonbuk, Suwon, FC Seoul for example.  I honestly think The Reds can beat anyone at home especially on their day.

Branko Belan: Gyeongnam opened their season with a 3-1 victory over Sangju. How do you think they will follow up that performance against Jeju?

James Edrupt: As far as a perfect start back in the top flight goes, last Sunday was a near perfect day bar the late red card to Marcao. It kind of put a dampener on the celebrations after knowing that he would be suspended for this weekends clash. I am under no illusions that on paper Jeju have a far superior squad than Gyeongnam do.  The Islanders are now an established top 6 side in the K League 1 and a regular competitor in the ACL. However, there is a buzz around the Gyeongnam squad at the moment and the new signings looked to have slipped into the side very smoothly.  From what I've seen of Jeju this season (just the opener against FC Seoul) as I queried in my question, the lack of creativity in their side was very alarming.  Jeju seemed to get to the final 3rd then just ran out of ideas.  Saying that, I still think Jeju possesses quality all over the pitch.  This Saturday's game will be a sterner test than what Sangju had to offer last Sunday.

Brank Belan: Marcao netted a hat-trick in the opener, but was sent off on a double yellow with just over ten minutes to go. How will the team compensate for his loss?

James Edrupt: A question only the manager Kim Jung-boo can answer. Strikers are not a position in the squad Gyeongnam are lacking in, in all honesty. They have recently signed Kim Shin from Bucheon who was an unused sub on Sunday and can operate as a striker. He is just one of many that can fill in the void to an extent left by Marcao. But it's Marcao quality, reputation and his lethal finishing in front of goal that will be badly missed I feel.  He is such a focal point of all Gyeongnam's attacking play in the final third.  He is also great in defence when defending corners and free kicks due to his sheer height and heading ability. He will 100% be missed this weekend. Gyeongnam's manager will be hoping he has a trick up his sleeve for his side, to prove the loss of the big man, won't be so bad after all.

Brank Belan: How would you characterize the team's style of play? Are there any things in particular that Jeju should look out for?

James Edrupt: The Reds have quite a young team and have bags of energy all throughout the side. Gyeongnam have two very attacking full backs in Jae Myeong and Woo Sung who love to bomb forward and overlap the wingers Negueba and Kunimoto.  But like you said in one of your answers, I feel the game will be won or lost in the middle of the park.  The home side have two outstanding center midfielders in our ranks in captain Choi Young-joon and new signing Ha Sung-min.  Both were brilliant on Sunday and bossed the midfield.  If they have a fault however they do have a tendency to not "go with their runners" when helping with their defensive duties. If Jeju have energy and legs in the midfield and they can get in behind those two then they could get some joy that way.

Brank Belan: What are your predictions for the match?

James Edrupt: I can actually see this being quite an open match. Gyeongnam are a very good outfit at home and their manager always sets out his teams to win. Like on Sunday though, they do give the opposition chances.  If Jeju are clinical then they could win the game easily. The Reds are missing our main lynch pin in Marcao up front. The main focus of their play goes through him. However, it is time for other players to be given an opportunity to step up.

I am going for an entertaining 2-2 draw.

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