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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Lee Dong-gook celebrates with Ricardo Lopes after he puts Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 up against Kashiwa Reysol in Japan

The fifth round of K League 1 actions sees second first third as an in-form Pohang Steelers welcomes a strong Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors side to The Steel Yard this Sunday afternoon. With the visitors fresh back from their trip to Japan, can the home side take advantage and claim their first victory over the North Jeolla side for over two years?
(image via Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Last Time Out

Visitors Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors return from an away trip to Japan after running out 2-0 victors against J.League outfit Kashiwa Reysol in the AFC Champions League, ensuring their progression to the knockout stages of Asia's premier club competition. A tight, counter attacking performance first saw the North Jeolla side take the lead through Brazilian winger Ricardo Lopes, before second half substitute Lee Dong-gook secured the three points with his fourth goal of the tournament. Overall, the performance was pleasing from a Jeonbuk perspective, with the defence looking well drilled and organised, picking up a clean sheet to boot. It made for an ideal away performance against strong opposition, which is what they will need to draw from as they travel to face both Pohang and Gyeongnam in the next few days.

Highlights can be viewed here.

Pohang Steelers have had a full week to rest since their last match. This weekend's hosts claimed victory in the first East Coast Derby of the season with a 2-1 victory over arch rivals Ulsan Hyundai, taking their points tally into double digits and moving them into second, one position above Jeonbuk. Midfielder Jung Won-jin opened the scoring on the half hour mark, half-volleying a headed down ball from the edge of the area that drove low into the near corner. The home side doubled their lead in the second half after good assist from Connor Chapman. The Australian played the ball from deep into the path of Kim Seung-dae who made no mistake when faced with the goalkeeper and scrambling defender. Ulsan did pull a goal back with ten minutes to go through their new signing Junior Negao, but it proved to mere consolation and Pohang deservedly claimed all three points at the final whistle.

Highlights can be viewed here.

Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk boast a relatively strong record over The Steelers in their last few meetings. last suffering defeat at the end of the 2015 season. The North Jeolla side claimed victory in all three of their meet ups with one another last season, with an increasing goal margin on each occasion. Furthermore, Pohang born and former Steeler Lee Dong-gook has a habit of causing issues for his old club, finding the net on four occasions in their last six meetings. Given his start to the 2018 campaign, Pohang could be wary of suffering further misery at the hands of the man Jeonbuk supporters refer to as 'The Lion King'.  The 38 year old Lee has rarely started this term, yet has embraced the role of super sub and currently has five goals across all competitions, with three of them proving to be crucial.

Team News

Last weekend saw Jeonbuk right winger Han Kyo-won join left back Kim Jin-su on the long term injury list. Han landed awkwardly on his collarbone at the weekend, ruling him out of action for three months. Kim on the other hand looks set to be sidelined for another five weeks after picking up a medial ligament injury in his right knee during Korea's recent international friendlies. Pohang Steelers have no players currently suspended and sure have close to a full roster of players to select from for this match.

The Adversary

Similar to last season, Pohang have started their 2018 campaign very strongly, dropping just two points away to Suwon Bluewings in round three. The football they have been playing has been a far contrast from some of their showings in the latter half of last season, with their large number of new signings looking to having settled in well.

Pohang replaced all of their foreign players in the winter, bringing in defensive midfielder Connor Chapman, attackers Léo Gamalho and Getterson, in addition to midfileder Chico, who out of the four has featured the least. Connor Chapman has proved to be an excellent signing, playing all minutes available so far, picking up a well executed assist last weekend and also covering the Pohang defence over the last four rounds. Gamalho has also done well in these early matches, picking up two goals so far and starting all four.

Pohang Steelers manager Choi Soon-ho tends to line his men up in a 4-3-3 formation and has been playing some very attractive football, with Gamalho spearheading the attack and Son Seung-min off to his right on the wing. Until last week Lee Gwang-hyuk had been starting on the left but was absent from the squad altogether for the match against Ulsan last week, being replaced by Getterson.

Who To Watch

Having celebrated his 100th match for the club with both a goal and a victory over bitter rivals Ulsan Hyundai, attacking midfielder Kim Seung-dae looks to be returning to his best after coming back to club mid-summer last season from an 18 month spell at Chinese Super League side Yanbian Funde. The 27 year-old, born and raised in Pohang, was a crowd favourite before his departure to China and his return to Korean shores was well received by the local fanbase. While he may have only scored two in his eleven appearances last season, this was partially due to receiving a lengthy additional suspension early into his return for a bad tackle in a game against Jeonnam Dragons. Having had time in the off-season to resettle at his home club, hopes are that Kim can help return Pohang to the top Champions League side that they were when he left. A strong showing against the reigning league champions would certainly go someway to helping that objective off to a good start.

Prediction

Pohang are undoubtedly in strong form this season, but the visit of Jeonbuk will likely prove their biggest test in these early fixtures. Whilst Jeonbuk seemed to suffer a five day blip mid-March that made many question their ability, they have since looked solid and should be on a high after returning from a professional performance in Japan. With both teams looking strong at present, hopefully this encounter will please the neutral with a high scoring draw.

Predicted Score: Pohang Steelers 2-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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