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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will host a struggling Jeju United side this coming weekend as they return from the international break and look to right last month's irregularities. As for The Islanders, with having not tasted victory in their last six, and concerns growing amongst an increasingly disgruntled support, a victory over the runaway league leaders may go some way to quelling any murmurings of dissent.
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

Having fell to arch rivals Suwon Bluewing to the shocking tune of three goals to nil in the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors quickly made amends, venting their frustration by defeating second-placed Gyeongnam to the same scoreline. It was a ruthless display that not only highlighted the gulf in class between the league's top two, but also exemplified what the North Jeolla club was expected to do against a newly-managerless and seemingly-rudderless Suwon.

Adriano, recalled to the starting lineup after an ineffective performance from Kim Shin-wook a few days prior, led the line and demonstrated to his manager within just five minutes why he should have been entrusted midweek. Choi Kang-hee, currently undertaking a touchline ban for his antics in the league match before, watched on from the VIP box as his deadly yet under-utilised Brazilian striker glanced home a Son Jun-ho corner to the keeper's far post.

Twenty minutes later, and it was Adriano's compatriot Lopes who lost his marker at another Son Jun-ho corner kick to volley his shot beyond the 'keeper's reach. Jeonbuk sustained pressure for the rest of the match, but it was not until the 83rd minute when they sealed all three of the points. Lee Yong, one of Jeonbuk's star players this season, fired in a perfectly waited low cross for Lopes to convert from all of six yards. Lee Yong currently leads the league assist charts with eight for the season so far.

Highlights can be viewed here.

Jeju United were in action over the international break as they faced Suwon Samsung Bluewings in a match that had be rescheduled after typhoon Soulik hit the island in late August. With both teams in fluctuating form at best, it was no surprise that the match played out into a goalless draw. While both sides created several opportunities to take the spoils, both sets of attacks ofter lacked the ruthlessness to claim the three points.

The Islanders started the brightest of the two teams, with first-half opportunities from Magno Cruz and Lee Dong-soo perhaps offering the best chances to take the lead. Magno would find the side-netting from close range however whilst Lee's shot would be denied by the Suwon 'keeper. The visitors came out better in the second half though, and the final ten minutes saw fine efforts from both Dejan and Yeom Ki-hun denied by the Jeju goalkeeper Lee Chang-keun.

Highlights can be viewed here.

Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk have held the upper hand over Jeju this season, recording two victories in two meetings both home and away with a 1-0 scoreline. Going further back shows that Jeonbuk have claimed victory in the last four meetings and have not conceded in each of those matches, with one of those games being the 3-0 victory that saw them lift the 2017 title.

Jeonbuk also hold the record in this fixtures history, winning 25 of the 42 meetings between the sides, losing just nine. Jeonbuk last lost at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium to Jeju towards the end of the 2016 season, bringing to an end a record-breaking 33-match unbeaten run for Choi Kang-hee's men. Jeju also won in Jeonju last year a whopping four goals to nil, though the match was played in Jeonbuk's temporary residence of Jeonju Civil Stadium on that occasion.

Team News

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors can finally welcome home their Asian Games heroes goalkeeper Song Beom-keun, defender Kim Min-jae and midfielder Jang Yun-ho. Song and Kim's absence have been heavily felt, with the club conceding over half of their goals for the season within the last month whilst they were on international duty. The North Jeolla side may soon also be welcoming back left back Kim Jin-su who seems to have finally recovered from the lengthy injury that ruled him out since March. The Korean international will be a very welcome addition as Jeonbuk look to increase their attacking opportunities, especially if he is deemed fit enough for the upcoming second leg tie with Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday.

Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook will be returning from suspension for this match and should be available, especially given that Adriano will be made to sit on the bench after accumulating his third yellow card in the win over Gyeongnam. He will be sat alongside centre-back Lee Jae-sung who will be serving his final game suspension. Manager Choi Kang-hee will also be forced to watch from the stands as he sits out for his second of four matches. In terms of injuries, centre-back Hong Jeong-ho could still be sidelined after being stretchered off injured three weeks ago against Sangju Sangmu with a back injury.

Our Jeju united columnist Branko Belan had the following to say about Jeju United's team news:

"Kim Ho-nam returned to the Jeju lineup against Suwon following his return from the military. He understandably played only a handful of minutes as he looks to re-integrate himself into the Jeju squad. Just his presence, though, is something that could bring something positive back to the team, as he was a vital player in his original spell with the club. The hope is that he will have a positive impact in the middle of the park, providing he gets minutes as the season winds down to a close."

"Despite picking up yellow cards against Suwon, both Kim Sung-ju and Oh Ban-suk should be available for selection, and there are no major injuries at the moment."

The Adversary

Jeju looked poor in their last run out against Suwon, and their winless streak is still intact as a result. To be fair, they were lucky to escape with a point. The overall performance did not look good, despite what the final match stats had to say.

This is looking very much like a team with no direction at the moment, yet, by some miracle, the islanders still have a chance of at least finishing in the top six, but, based on form over the past two months, that is far from reality. It is quite unthinkable that a team, which was an offensive powerhouse the past several seasons, could go cold so easily as Jeju have done this season. Things are not looking in the right direction as they prepare to go on the road to face the league leaders against whom they have had no success at all this season. In fact, Jeju have not even been able to find the net in the two previous meetings between the teams, and there is no indication that things will be any different this time around.

- Branko Belan

Prediction

After a summer of injuries and international call ups, Jeonbuk have still managed to navigate themselves into a fourteen point lead at the league's summit and are playing as if they want to wrap this season up before the league split in mid-October. This weekend sees them finally return to near-full strength and with a point to prove. The out-of-sorts Jeju United could very well be making their visit at the wrong time of the season.

The only hope for the islanders is that Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee rests some of his players for the upcoming Champions League tie, yet  it is difficult to envisage that the squad sent out will not be able to get the job done. I predict a solid victory for the home side.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Jeju United

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