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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Jeonnam Dragons

K League 1 Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Jeonnam Dragons

Gyeongnam FC go into Sunday evenings clash against a lowly Jeonnam Dragons outfit in fine form after recent performances and results.  The 2nd placed team are still unbeaten in the league after the World Cup break and last weekend they stunned the league by defeating the champions Jeonbuk with a solitary Kunimoto goal.  The Reds return for a home fixture against a side on paper they should beat.  The Dragons now prop up the K League 1 after a recent run of four consecutive defeats in the league.  They will be coming to Changwon this weekend determined to not extend their current bad run of form and to arrest their alarming slide down the table.

Match: Gyeongnam FC v Jeonnam Dragons.
Venue: Changwon Football Center.  Changwon.
Kick off: Sunday 12th August.  19:00  (KST)

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk 0-1 Gyeongnam

Gyeongnam FC played the powerhouses in the league last Sunday in Jeonbuk.  They came away from the match taking home the spoils with a 1-0 win courtesy of a lovely slide rule finish from super sub Kunimoto on 81 minutes.  His introduction off the bench has become a theme of The Reds' manager Kim Jung-boo's tactics in recent weeks and it's been working.  It was a backs to the wall effort in all honesty from the away side and they have their goalkeeper Lee Bum-soo to thank after his heroic performance.  He made at least ten excellent saves to keep the league leaders at bay.  Everything Jeonbuk threw at him, he kept out. He was a man mountain and threw his body and arms at everything.  He rightly took home the man of the match award.

Jeonnam 2-1 Chuncheon FC

The Dragons on the other hand played on Wednesday night against K League 3 Advanced opposition Chuncheon FC in the Korean FA Cup.  The clash was a close run affair with Jeonnam finally coming out on top 2-1 with a winner through Yoon Dong-min with just seven minutes left on the clock.  It was a much changed starting eleven than to the team that will surely start against Gyeongnam this Sunday evening.

Previous Meetings

They have played each other 26 times with Jeonnam having the upper hand slightly with 13 wins against the Reds' eight victories.  Five games have ended up draws. They played against each other earlier this season with Gyeongnam coming away from Gwangyang Stadium with three points.  The Reds won the game 3-1.  It was the game in which Brazilian winger Negueba opened his account for the away side, scoring the first goal.  Kim Hyo-gi then doubled the lead just before half time.  The home side reduced the deficit on the 57th mark through a scrambled effort from Lee Kyung-ryul yet  Gyeongnam secured the win with a spot kick through striker Marcão just four minutes later.

Team News

Gyeongnam are still without long-term absentee Lee Jae-myeong whose ACL snapped earlier in the season.  He is on the road to recovery and the club hope to see him at some point again this season after he was initially ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.   Club captain and experienced winger Bae Ki-jong wil remain on the sidelines as well with an ongoing hamstring issue.  He is out indefinitely.  Kim Geun-hwan, an experienced center-back, is in line for a place in the squad after returning from injury that has kept him out to date.  The Reds go into the game otherwise with a full bill of health.  It will be interesting to see if Japanese wonder kid Kunimoto with be deployed from the bench again or, after his recent superb displays, will he be thrown into the starting eleven.

The Adversary

Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 FA Cup victory over Chuncheon City on Wednesday evening was just their fifth victory of the season. And since the Dragons have only registered three wins in the league so far, they are fighting desperately to preserve their K League 1 status. Of course, the cup run could be considered a welcome distraction from their terrible league form, but unless Jeonnam win the cup for the fourth time they may be better off exiting the tournament in the quarterfinal as a few more games could stretch their squad to breaking point and ultimately harm their chances of staying in South Korea’s top flight.

Dragons’ head coach Yoo Sang-chul made eleven changes to his starting lineup against Chuncheon in midweek and will no doubt rotate his side heavily once again against Gyeongnam on Sunday, despite the positive result on Wednesday. Australian center back James Donachie, Brazilian striker Macedo and club legend Choi Hyeo-jin all started on Wednesday but will most likely have to settle for substitute roles at the weekend as Gyeongnam will have had a week’s rest at that stage and freshness could be a key factor in the scorching summer heat.

Although the odds are certainly against Jeonnam on Sunday, K League 1’s bottom club have proved more resilient on the road this season. In fact, the Dragons have picked up 50% of their points away from home and have only lost four times on their travels. In contrast, they’ve tasted defeat seven times at home so perhaps they’ll welcome the short trip to Changwon on Sunday.

Yoo will ask his team to sit tight and try to punish Gyeongnam on the counter – a tactic that Gyeongnam were particularly effective at in the reverse fixture on March 17th in Gwangyang and against league-leaders Jeonbuk last weekend. However, unless Croatian midfielder Vedran Jugovic is capable of making his first start in seven games, the Dragons may be overrun in midfield and Gyeongnam’s midfielder Negueba could have a field day. The Brazilian, who provided the all-important assist against Jeonbuk last Sunday, was unplayable at times when he visited Gwangyang on St Patrick’s Day and has all the necessary tools to hurt Jeonnam once more.

Aodan Halligan 

One To Watch

Jo Jae-cheol

Jo Jae-cheol is an experienced midfielder who has returned to the club in the off season.  He played for The Reds for two seasons from 2012-2013 before doing his military service playing for Asan Mungunghwa.  He returned to the side then, after Gyeongnam's relegation to K League 2, he left for pastures new and played for two seasons up north with Seongnam FC.  He was offered a chance to return by manager Kim Jong-boo who is an admirer of the player.  He is an intelligent player who has popped up with two goals in nine games from midfield this season.  He is a great passer and a talker in the middle of the park.  He isn't the fastest and strongest, but what he lacks in these areas he makes up for it with his footballing brain.  Often one step ahead of the rest.  He tends to always be available for a pass and he very rarely gives the ball away.  The Reds' manager likes his calming influence around the camp and his passing ability.  He was rested last week against Jeonbuk, so I fully expect him to start this Sunday.


James: Jeonnam will come to the Changwon Football Center and try to contain Gyeongnam for the first half an hour or so.  In Wanderson, The Dragons have a special talent who can hurt the home side if they don't give him the respect he deserves.  With confidence at an all time high for the home side though I can't see Jeonnam keeping out The Reds.  I suspect the talent Gyeongnam have going forward will be just too much for Jeonnam to contain with.

James' Prediction: Gyeongnam 2-0 Jeonnam Dragons

Aodan: Gyeongam may find it harder to break down the Dragons at home, but their confidence will be sky high after last week’s win over Jeonbuk so they will find a way to win again.

Aodan's Prediction: Gyeongnam 2 Jeonnam Dragons 1

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