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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

K League 1 Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Suwon Bluewings and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will meet for the second time in five days on Sunday afternoon, when they face each other in round 29 of the 2018 K League 1 season. As Jeonbuk continue their procession towards the league title, Suwon will most likely still be reveling in their midweek victory, when they knocked their Jeonju based rivals out of the Asian Champions League. This game may not have much riding on it for either team, but as the rivalry between these two intensifies this is surely a game not to be missed. 
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

Both teams battled out one of the most entertaining games in recent Korean football history on Wednesday night, with Suwon overcoming the odds to progress to the semi finals of the Asian Champions League. Despite trailing 3-0 from the first leg, Jeonbuk put in a herculean performance to get back on level terms and force a penalty shoot out, but the Bluewings eventually ran out winners on a wet night in Suwon.

Jeonbuk got off to the best possible start when a hopeful lob into the box was completely misjudged by the Suwon defence and the ball fell to the feet of striker, Adriano. The Brazilian expertly sent goalkeeper, Shin Hwa-yong, to the turf with a clever dummy, rounded the stranded Suwon man and comfortably finished into an empty net to give Jeonbuk a 1-0 lead on the night.

Suwon did well to the fight off wave after wave of immense Jeonbuk pressure and escaped into the dressing room at only 1-0 down, after a very one sided first half. But Jeonbuk took a further step towards completing an unlikely comeback when Choi Bo-kyung was criminally left unmarked from a corner and he gratefully nodded home in the 51st minute.

The comeback was completed in the 71st minute when Lee Yong was afforded too much time and space on the right wing. The right-back bent in an inch perfect cross, directly on to the head of Kim Shin-wook and the target man's precision header had Jeonbuk needing just one more goal to seal their place in the semi-finals.

That unthinkable dream almost became a reality in the 2nd minute of stoppage time after Jo Sung-jin body checked Adriano in the penalty area and the referee duly awarded Jeonbuk a penalty. Adriano was given the responsibility of converting the penalty, but it was Shin Hwa-yong, the Suwon goalkeeper, who played the hero, diving to his right to keep out the penalty and send the tie to extra time.

With both teams tiring badly, extra time came and went, and it was down to a penalty shoot out to decide the tie. Kim Shin-wook and Lee Dong-gook both missed their penalties for Jeonbuk, whilst Suwon converted all theirs, with Elvis Sarić scoring the decisive kick to make history and send Suwon to their first Champions League semi final since 2011.

Team News

With the exertions of Wednesday night still being fresh, huge changes to both sides should be expected.

For Suwon, the likes of Park Hyun-jin, Kim Jong-woo and Yoo Ju-an could all be in the frame to start. Meanwhile, Shin Se-gye, who is ineligible to play in the ACL, should also return. Fringe players, Jo Ji-hoon and Kim Jong-min, performed admirably when being used from the substitutes bench on Wednesday night and they could also be in line to start, if fit.

Jeonbuk could possibly name the same starting back line that played in that epic quarter final on Wednesday, but Choi Kang-hee will probably freshen up the team in the forward positions. Exiled winger, Tiago, will likely start, whilst Lim Sun-young could also return to the starting eleven.

Jang Yun-ho, who was part of Korea's Asian Games squad, was a mainstay of the team in 2016 and has found minutes limited this season, but Choi Kang-hee could start the midfielder here. Likewise, Lee Dong-gook has also found playing time hard to come by this season and he is in line to lead the attack on Sunday.

The Adversary

Jeonbuk currently have the strongest league form in the division, dropping just two points in their last five games. With their lead currently at sixteen points, the club look set to break new records and claim the title before the league splits for the final five rounds. Their anointment as champions looks effectively certain. However, their league form means little in the aftermath of Champions League heartbreak midweek.

After the fluctuating emotions on Wednesday night, Choi Kang-hee will have the difficult task of rousing his players to go once more in a stadium where the wounds are still raw. Any motivational speeches he will give will have to be prior to arriving at the ground however, as the manager looks set to serve the third game of his four match touchline ban. This has not affected the players so far though, who have recorded 3-0 and 4-0 victories against Gyeongnam and Jeju United respectively in his absence.

The players have not normally needed too much encouragement either, with Jeonbuk often being at their most ruthless after defeat. Wednesday night was different though, with the players looking both physically and emotionally drained come the end of the 120 minutes. Every shred of effort and determination from each player was poured into the game, leaving their supporters grappling internally with a mix of unwavering pride and crippling heartbreak.

With this in mind, the coach would be wise to freshen things up for this game in a bid to inject some life into his beleaguered squad, with a mix of young and underused talent given the opportunity to prove themselves. With Tiago struggling to find consistency and starting berths, not to mention rumours swirling about the club's interest in Incheon United midfielder Aguilar, a strong showing from him in this game and until the end of the season could at least give his coach food for thought.

Regardless, this feels like a match few fans from either sides will want to replay so soon, with both sets of supporters likely needing time to recover. Jeonbuk are still the favourites though and will certainly look to quickly right the ship with a solid victory this weekend. However, it may take far longer for the lingering pain of quarter final despair to disappear.

By Matthew Binns

Who To Watch

Given his performance on Wednesday night, and assuming he hasn't picked up any rogue injury, the key man in this game should be goalkeeper Shin Hwa-young. The Suwon man had his problems earlier in the season, dropping out of the squad entirely. But since his return to the team, following Seo Jung-won's resignation, the veteran goalkeeper has been in outstanding form. His penalty heroics aside, he is a brave goalkeeper who commands his area well, is a natural shot stopper and also doubles as a sweeper at times.

Suwon will undoubtedly field a weakened team in this game and could come under immense amounts of pressure from Jeonbuk. They will need Shin to be at the top of his game if they are to take any points here.

Prediction

Jeonbuk are Champions in waiting for a reason and they will most likely show it in this game. Suwon are now in the unique position of being able to effectively write off their league position and focus on the cup competitions they remain in. The Gyeonggi based team are now only three wins away from FA Cup glory and four wins away from claiming the ACL. That will probably show in their team selection and performance in this game, and Jeonbuk could score a hatful of goals if they take their chances.

Predicted Score: Suwon Bluewings 0-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

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