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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Ulsan Hyundai

Sunday afternoon sees the K League 1's top two go face-to-face, despite only one of them having something still to play for. Ulsan Hyundai continue in their quest to firm up their automatic qualification place for the Asian Champions League as they line up against Korea's already-crowned champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Can they overcome the North Jeolla juggernaut at the fourth time of asking and shore up second spot?

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors hosted a weakened Suwon Samsung Bluewings side in the previous round, with the visitors having one eye on their upcoming FA Cup semifinal. The match itself was played out in the pouring rain, with tempers flaring in a manner that has come to be expected when these two sides face off. It took a while, but the hosts eventually broke Suwon's resolve ten minutes from time when substitute Kim Shin-wook slotted home from close range. Four minutes later, winger Ricardo Lopes would consolidate the scoreline with what would be a brilliant individual effort as his mazy run toyed with the visitors' backline before firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the goalmouth. Jeonbuk would run out eventual 2-0 winners, boasting four clean sheets in the league against their bitter rivals for this campaign.

Highlights here.

A full strength Suwon did not fair much better when they traveled to the Munsu to face Ulsan Hyundai midweek in the FA Cup. Ulsan managed to take an early lead through an unlikely source as centre-back Richard Windbichler headed home to give the hosts the advantage. Junior looked to have doubled the lead after a goalmouth scramble saw him convert in the 23rd minute, only for play to be brought back and the goal disallowed for an infraction. He would not be denied seven minutes later however, when Windbichler headed down a corner in the Brazlian's direction for him to convert.

Suwon attempted to mount a comeback in the second half, clawing one back after some poor Ulsan defending allowed an unmarked Lee Jong-sung to sweep home from just within the penalty area. The rest of the match was hard-fought from both sides but, in the end, Ulsan had enough to get themselves over the line, and into the final where they will look to defend their trophy against Daegu FC.

Highlights here.

Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk have had the upper hand over Ulsan Hyundai this season, as they have had over nearly all teams in fairness, winning two and drawing their most recent meeting. They have however, seemed to have faced an Ulsan side that has improved as the season has progressed, with that draw coming after the North Jeolla squad had squandered a lead and relied on an a careless Ulsan foul to award them an equalising penalty in the dying minutes. With the visitors the only side still playing for something other than records, there is a possibility that Sunday's fixture may well see them finally turn the results from this fixture in their favour.

Team News

With the emotional return of Kim Jin-su last week from a lengthy layoff, outbound manager Choi Kang-hee finally has his full squad at his disposal for this match and will likely play his strongest lineup as he looks to confirm this season as Jeonbuk's best ever. One player who looks certain to feature however is veteran Lee Dong-gook, who is set to make his 500th K League appearance on Sunday. Given the marketing that has gone into pushing this information, expect Lee to head up Choi's usual 4-1-4-1 formation.

Ulsan Hyundai also have no suspensions or new injury concerns but have had to contend with a major fixture midweek that may well have tired some legs and could lead to some minor rotations from manager Kim Do-hoon.

The Adversary

What a week it has been for the Horangi.  Two excellent, gritty wins have seen them make their second FA Cup Final in a row and move up to second place in the K League table.  Neither last Sunday's 1-0 victory over Gyeongnam, nor the 2-1 win over Suwon were vintage attacking displays, but Ulsan were able to show another side to their game - the ability to dig deep in the second half and hold on to a lead under consistent pressure.  In a way manager Kim Do-hoon will be more pleased by the determination his players showed, as so often this season they have dropped points due to silly late goals.

After the herculean efforts of the last seven days, Kim Do-hoon will likely choose to rotate his team for Sunday's trip to Jeonju.  There are no new suspensions or injuries to speak of, but the regular midfield and defensive lineup seemed to tire significantly in the second half against Suwon. So the like of Park Joo-ho and Kang Min-soo may well start in defence, while young playmaker Lee Young-jae could get the nod in midfield. Upfront, Junior could drop to the bench, but Kim will certainly make sure he plays some part in proceedings.

No doubt this is a tough match for the Horangi, but after their last two results, the team's confidence levels will be sky high, meaning a surprise result is not out of the question.

Who To Watch


Leading Jeonbuk's scoring charts and marking his K League milestone this weekend, it seems only right to pinpoint Lee Dong-gook as the player to watch for the hosts. The 39 year-old has been in some of his most lethal form this season, despite mainly featuring as a substitute for most of the campaign. In terms of domestic scorers, he is level with Incheon's Moon Seon-min this season with 13 goals in fewer matches. It serves both as a testament to the player's fitness and a damning indictment of the state of Korean attackers in the K League at present. Not that Lee will care though, as he will look to mark his achievement with a goal to match.

Read more about Lee Dong-gook's impressive season here.

Prediction

Despite not having anything really to play for, Jeonbuk looked assured last week against Suwon Bluewings, in addition to showing fight to come back to win from a losing position against Incheon United. With manager Choi Kang-hee leaving at the end of the season, it seems as if the players are doing their utmost to ensure he finishes his lengthy tenure on a high. That said, Ulsan offer a different proposition, with the Horangi playing some of the best football in the division at times in recent weeks. Their fatigue could benefit the hosts though, but it is still expected that the visitors will put up a fight. A score draw, like a month ago, seems the most likely outcome.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-2 Ulsan Hyundai

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