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playoffs

FA Cup Preview: Asan Mugunghwa vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Korea FA Cup Preview: Asan Mugunghwa vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

The FA Cup returns this week and the fifth round is set to see the title chasers from both K League divisions face off as Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors travel north to face police side Asan Mugunghwa. Can the visitors bounce back from a frustrating defeat at the weekend or will the hosts cause an upset?
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

Sunday evening saw league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors record a rare loss as they hosted second placed Gyeongnam FC down in Jeonju. With key absentees through Asian Games call ups and injuries, the reigning champions looked somewhat disjointed as they went up against what was a well drilled Gyeongnam outfit. Still, things did improve for the home side after the introduction of increased fire power in the guise of Adriano, Lee Dong-gook and Tiago. Gyeongnam weathered the storm thanks to some sublime heroics from their goalkeeper Lee Bum-soo.

With Jeonbuk pressed so far forward, Gyeongnam countered in the 81st minute. As the home side's defence looked to have scrambled back into shape, a well threaded pass from Negueba picked out a smart run from Kunimoto who fired past Jeonbuk's stand-in 'keeper Hwang Byeong-keun. Jeonbuk threw everything at Gyeongnam for the final minutes, but the visitors' resolve could not be broken down, meaning that the gaping void between the two sides in the table retracted to eleven points.

Highlights can be found here.

Asan Mugunghwa were also in action on Sunday evening, where they welcomed fellow play off contenders Busan IPark to Yi Sun-shin stadium.  Despite having less possession, Busan certainly created more chances, yet the majority of their efforts were often aimed high or wide of the goal frame. Still, it was much more promising than the hosts, whose seldom earned opportunities were all spurned off target. For a team in title contention, it was a surprisingly disappointing performance from the police, one which they will be happy to have come out of unscathed with a goalless draw.

Highlights can be found here.

Previous Meetings

Wednesday evening will mark the first time these two sides have ever came face to face. Having never been promoted to the top flight, despite having won the second division in 2016 under their old guise Ansan Mugunghwa, there have been no opportunities for the two clubs to meet up until now. The last two seasons however have seen Jeonbuk exit the competition early to promotion chasing opposition, and therefore Choi Kang-hee's men will have to be wary of the threat the police team could possibly pose.

Team News

As alluded to, Jeonbuk are currently without a number of key players due to the Asian Games. First choice goalkeeper Song Beom-keun and star centre-back Kim Min-jae have both had their services called upon in addition to promising defensive midfielder Jang Yun-ho. To further compound matters for Jeonbuk, second choice goalkeeper Hong Jeong-nam is out injured after undergoing knee surgery whilst Lee Seung-gi could still be out after damaging his toe in training last week. Left back Kim Jin-su remains the only long-term injury after getting hurt in an international friendly back in March. He is supposedly close to returning to action though.

Asan Mugunghwa, meanwhile, have no suspensions coming into this game, but will be without the services of midfielder Hwang In-beom for the next month, or possibly ever, as he heads to the Asian Games. If Hwang receives gold with the South Korean team, then his military service will come to an end and, at just 21 years of age, could open up pathways to Europe for the creative midfielder.

The Adversary

Ko Moo-yeol (pictured) looks set to face his parent club on Wednesday evening (Image: K League).

Asan Mugunghwa have been performing well this season, finding themselves just behind K League 2 leaders Seongnam FC on goals scored and tipped widely for at least playoff contention this season, providing they persevere through their annual loss of players in September when some recruits finish their national service.

Asan have been playing some attractive football, mostly thanks to boasting a K League 1 level midfield. Within their ranks FC Seoul and Korean international midfielders Ju Se-jong and Lee Myeong-ju help dictate proceedings, whilst Jeonbuk's own attacking winger Ko Moo-yeol has been often present in the side, something he was unable to achieve whilst at his parent club, and leads the club's scoring charts with four goals.

The police side enter this match on the back of eleven games without defeat across all competitions, though recent weeks have seen them slow their scoring rate, drawing the last two games 0-0 and needing extra time to beat a struggling Ansan Greeners in the previous round of this competition.

Prediction

Unfortunately for Asan, they face a Jeonbuk side that will be needing to react after a frustrating defeat at the weekend. Add to that the North Jeolla's quest for an unprecedented treble and it could prove to be a tough evening for the home side. In the previous round, Jeonbuk played close to a first choice attack and midfield against struggling National League (third tier) opposition, and they will certainly be aware of Asan's fine form in the K League 2.

The police's best hope might be challenge Jeonbuk's back line and getaway some speculative shots to test the visitors' 'keeper Hwang Byeong-keun in a bid to force an error. Hwang did finish last season in net for the champions, playing well in the process, but on the few occasions he has been fielded this campaign, he has looked nervous in his decision making and handling. Perhaps it is a lack of match sharpness, sharpness which he will gain in this next month, but he is sadly likely to be the team's weakest link going into this match.

Overall, it is expected Jeonbuk will have the fire power to outmatch their hosts, keeping their cup dreams alive with what will likely be a solid, if unspectacular, victory.

Predicted Score: Asan Mugunghwa 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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