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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gangwon FC

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gangwon FC

Runaway leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors welcome a Gangwon FC side to Jeonju who are fresh off the back of a much-needed victory midweek. With the league split only three rounds away, Gangwon need to ensure that they are on the right side of the line when it comes down, but their task will not be easy as their hosts look to wrap up this title with minimal fuss.
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

An all Korean squad was selected by Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors manager Choi Kang-hee for the derby match against local rivals Jeonnam Dragons, with the coach opting to offer a professional debut to Yoo Seung-min on the right wing in a 4-2-3-1 set up. Given the events of recent fixtures, it was perhaps wise for Choi to make such a shake-up to keep his side fresh for top six opposition this weekend.

The coach seemed to have also second-guessed his Jeonnam counterpart, Kim In-wan, who also chose to rotate significantly, perhaps writing off the match with eyes on more winnable fixtures in this congested league schedule.

The match therefore played out as expected, with neither side having little to show for their first half efforts. Some changes at the interval did see the North Jeolla outfit increase the pressure considerably, but it took a smart run from Han Kyo-won in the 82nd minute to break Jeonnam's impressive resolve, with the right winger latching onto a through ball and steering his effort beyond the Dragons' 'keeper in a one-on-one situation. Given Jeonbuk's attacking intent, there could be little issue with the score, though the visitors should take heart in their performance and know that they will not be facing the champions-in-waiting every week.

Highlights here.

Gangwon FC also strolled to a comfortable result, but were facing opposition they were admittedly not expected to beat. Suwon Samsung Bluewings, perhaps also coming to terms with their heavy fixture schedule, struggled to contain Gangwon for most of the match and ultimately had their hearts broken in the final minute by a powerful Jung Jo-gook effort. The win represented a much needed victory for Gangwon, who had not tasted success in their five league games prior and looked in danger of slipping into the league's lower half with the split looming on the horizon.

Highlights here.

Previous Meetings

Both previous meetings between the two clubs this season have fallen in Jeonbuk's favour. The North Jeolla side claimed a 4-0 victory in Chuncheon back in April, before more recently beating Gangwon 3-1 at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium in early August.

In fact, of the 17 times these two sides have faced one another, Jeonbuk have won 14 of them, drawing just once. Gangwon last tasted victory over Jeonbuk back in September 2010, claiming a 3-1 victory in Jeonju on that occasion over the then one-time league champions.

Team News

Jeonbuk manager Choi Kang-hee will finally return to the dugout this weekend having now served his four game touchline ban. While he will be very much welcomed back, Jeonbuk have done fine in his absence, winning three and drawing one, whilst not conceding in the process. The last three of these matches, plus the AFC Champions League quarter final, have also coincided with the long-awaited returns of 'keeper Song Beom-keun and centre-back Kim Min-jae from Asian Games duty, further emphasising their value to Jeonbuk's resolve despite their young age.

However, there are still three players suspended for this encounter for the home side; defenders Hong Jeong-ho and Choi Bo-kyung, as well as defensive midfielder Son Jun-ho. It is therefore likely that Kim Min-jae will partner either Lee Jae-sung or Choi Chul-soon at centre-back, with captain Shin Hyung-min returning to the setup in midfield. Having given all three of them a rest, it is likely Jeonbuk's international stars Adriano, Lopes and Tiago will also make an appearance in some form for this fixture.

Unlike Jeonbuk, Gangwon FC have no suspensions to deal with, allowing manager Kim Byung-soo to have most options available to him when selecting his team for Saturday.

The Adversary


"Gangwon got a big win against Suwon Bluewings at the weekend to end a five-game winless run. The result pulled Gangwon back into the top half of the table, but with their next three opponents all currently in the top four, securing a place in the top six ahead of the split will be no easy task."

"Jung Jo-gook got the only goal of the game against the Bluewings, smashing a powerful shot into the top corner in the final minute of the match. The 2016 K League top scorer had only been on the pitch for ten minutes as Kim Byung-soo rolled the dice in search of a victory and brought on the striker for defender Jung Seung-yong. It’s one of the few times this season that Jung Jo-gook and Uroš Ðeric have been on the pitch together, and the move clearly worked better than previous manager Song Kyung-seop’s attempt to use Valentinos in the same role the previous time Gangwon played Suwon. Song’s last match in charge was against Jeonbuk, and Kim Byung-soo will be hoping that his defense doesn’t look as porous as Gangwon’s did during that 3-1 defeat."

"Kim Byung-soo favors a back-three on the road so expect Gangwon to deploy a 3-4-3 formation against Jeonbuk with either Jung Jo-gook or Ðeric as the target man."

By Steve Price

Prediction

A victory for Jeonbuk here could mean the title could be wrapped up the following week when they visit Ulsan Hyundai (results elsewhere depending). Given that there are no competitions left for the home side to fight for, they now must look to breaking domestic records to demonstrate their improvement. They are currently just six points away from breaking their points tally from last season, and need 14 more goals in the eight remaining games to beat their record goals tally too. Arguably seven more points would also mean it would have been a better season than 2016, if the nine points had not been deducted.

Add to this that key players were rested midweek to be fresh for this match and it seems the task facing Gangwon might be too great of an ask. Upsets do happen, but Jeonbuk should be focused enough here to get the job done with little fuss.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Gangwon FC

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