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Preview: Jeju United vs Sangju Sangmu


Fresh off of elimination from the Champions League, Jeju United will look to win its first home match of the season when they welcome Sangju Sangmu to the World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo on Sunday afternoon.  The visitors come into the match having lost three of their four league matches thus far this season.  Both teams are struggling badly, so either is due for a breakout performance.  With that in mind, it could be a very open contest full of goals.

(Photo courtesy of Jeju United FC Facebook page)

Last Time Out

Things have not gone according to script for Jeju this season, with only two wins across all competitions.  They have officially been knocked out of the Champions League following their 2-1 defeat to Cerezo Osaka on Tuesday night, and also lost to Suwon their last time out in the K League.

The match against Sangju is the first of three home dates this month, with Incheon and Jeonbuk also on the docket later on this month.  The teams that Jeju have faced up to this point have all been strong defensive outfits, but Sangju conceded a heap of goals last season, and so a run out against the military side could be the tonic that Jeju's strikers need to get the wheels turning.

Magno, Roberson, Tiago, Jin Seong-uk and Lee Eun-beom have all seen time up front this season, but none have really had any significant impact.  Jeju has looked tactically unsound for the majority of their time on the pitch this season, and the same question continues to play over and over again in the minds of many: What is the problem with this team and when are they going to turn things around?

Saturday's encounter with Sangju could help to provide some answers.  This team is seriously lacking confidence right now and need to find out how to swing things in the right direction or the season could be on the brink already by the end of the month.

Previous Meetings

The teams met on three occasions last season, with Jeju having a distinct advantage in the head-to-head department, winning twice and drawing once, outscoring Sangju by a clip of 9-3 in the process.

The first meeting in May ended 4-1 to Jeju, with Kwon Young-hyun leading the way with a brace in the first half, while Jeju dominated possession throughout the match.

The second meeting saw Jeju get a clean sheet with a 3-0 victory courtesy of strikes from Yoon Bit-garam just six minutes into the match; Magno from the penalty spot just before the half hour, and Moon Sang-yun only two minutes after the break.

The final time the teams met was in September.  The match ended in a 2-2 draw, and was a more closely knit affair in comparison to the first two matches.  By this point, both teams were headed in different directions, as Jeju was in the thick of the title race, and Sangju were in a dogfight to stave off relegation, which they managed to do by winning in the playoff at season's end.

Matches between the clubs never seem to disappoint in the goals department.  Jeju could get on the scoresheet early and hopefully often as they look to find a cure for their early season scoring woes.

Team News

Jeju are at the wrong end of the spectrum right now.  Going into the match against Cerezo in midweek, Magno was quoted as saying that Jeju would "surprise people in the remaining matches in the Champions League," but that of course did not happen, and the focus for the rest of the season will be on domestic competition.

Magno himself was injured in the match against Cerezo.  It is not known how long he will be out at the moment.  He suffered a blow to his knee when he collided with a defender in the box after a corner kick, but managed to stay on the pitch for another ten minutes before making way for Kim Do-yeop with just under ten minutes to play in the first half.

There is a good chance he will be left out of the lineup as a precaution, even if the injury doesn't turn out to be serious.  He was able to go off under his own power, so the hope is that he won't miss any significant amount of time.  

Manager Cho Sung-hwan has been mixing up his team selection all season in an attempt to find a combination that works, but has been largely unsuccessful to this point.  Could it be that players are losing faith in his concept of football, or are they no longer motivated to play for him?  While nothing has come out in the local media as yet, time will tell how much longer he will be patrolling the sideline for the Orange.

The Adversary

Sangju will have a rough go of it this month, as the majority of their fixtures match them against teams in the upper half of the table.  Sangju have scored more goals (four) than Jeju (one), so they could also see the match as a good opportunity to add to their goal tally, especially with Jeju's defence looking porous at times, which was especially evident against Cerezo.

After avoiding relegation by the narrowest of margins, this season hasn't gotten off to the best start, either, but they did record a surprise 2-0 victory over Ulsan Hyundai away in Round 3.  

Their last match saw them fall behind early to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors after only nine minutes, after Adriano put the home team ahead, but they managed to hold the fort the rest of the way and did not concede again.

Who to Watch

Oh Ban-suk is finally back for Jeju after missing the first chunk of the season.  While he was arguably one of Jeju's best players last season, he still has to round into form if Jeju are going to keep the ball out of their net on a consistent basis.

His presence alone will be a confidence boost to his teammates on the back line, but for them to function well as a unit, he needs to get back to the top of his game sooner rather than later.  There is no arguing his importance in the side, and the quicker he reverts back to the form he showed last season when Jeju were making a major push for the league title, the better chance Jeju have of turning around what has been a shaky start to the season at best.

With both teams struggling at the moment, goals and a win should be the first two things on the minds of both sets of players as they take the pitch on Sunday.  For Jeju, it could be a turning point as they enter a difficult stretch of schedule, concluding with a trip to the Steelyard to face Pohang at the end of the month.  For Sangju, it is an opportunity for another "shock" win, even if Jeju are not on top form at the moment.  A win for Sangju could be the difference between going down or staying up at the end of the season.

Prediction: Jeju United 3, Sangju Sangmu 1



 

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