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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Jeju United

Jeju United head north knowing that while a potential route to the 2019 Asian Champions League is still technically within their grasp, they will need a miracle as they travel to face Suwon Bluewings in the final round of matches in the 2018 K League 1. With both team's seasons effectively over, only pride will really be at stake as both teams look to put an underwhelming season behind them.

Last Time Out

Suwon's late season slump continued last weekend when they recorded their 4th loss in their last five games, losing away to Gyeongnam.

Despite dominating the first half, the away team found themselves one goal down, midway through the first half, when a skillful run from Gyeongnam's Paulinho was ended, only for the ball to fortuitously fall into the path of Ki Hyo-gi, who duly slotted home into a half guarded net.

Suwon had the ball in the net in the 55th minute when a Cho Won-hee shot struck Dejan and bounced into the Gyeongnam goal. But the goal was controversially disallowed, despite video replays showing that the Montengrin was onside.

A tug on Yeom Ki-hun, inside the Gyeongnam penalty area, offered Suwon a route back into the game on the 83rd minute and Dejan dispatched the resulting penalty kick in style, leaving the goalkeeper motionless.

But despite fighting their way back, and controlling most of the game, Suwon managed to lose what was a must win game for them. A simple lobbed ball into the box was misjudged by defender, Jo Sung-jin, and Gyeongnam's Kunimoto was on hand to round the keeper and slip the ball into the net, breaking Suwon hearts and ensuring that the Gyeonggi-do team won't contest continental competition for the first time since 2014.

Full highlights can be found here. 

Meanwhile, Jeju continued their miraculous end to the season, surprisingly, beating Ulsan by a goal to nil. Jeju came under huge amounts of pressure, and the victory was owed to the performance of their goalkeeper, Lee Chang-keun, but a goal from Magno Cruz was enough to hand all three points to the Islanders and keep their end of season winning run going.

Full highlights can be found here. 

Previous Meetings

Suwon and Jeju have shared the spoils in league play this season, with both teams winning one game, and the other game ending in a draw, in their previous meetings this year. Historically, Suwon have the edge in this fixture, winning 23 games, compared to Jeju's 14. And that trend has continued in recent years with Jeju winning only 3 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams.

Team News

Suwon's Jo Sung-jin and Jeju's Park Jin-po will be suspended for this game, whilst Park Jong-woo and Waguininho both remain sidelined for Suwon, due to injury.

With Jeju still having something remaining to play for, manager, Jo Sung-hwan, will likely stick with much of the starting eleven that earned that surprise win away to Ulsan. However, with Suwon's season effectively over, and with their budget about to take a huge slash, now should be the time for Suwon to give their highly rated youth team players a chance to shine. The likes of Jeon Se-jin, Yoon Yong-ho, Yoo Ju-an and Kim Jun-hyung have all seen limited game time, despite, at times, performing better than the some of the senior players in the squad. Jeon Se-jin, in particular, has only played 636 minutes for Suwon this year, but is one of three contenders for the AFC Young Player of the Year, due to his blistering form when away with the Korean U-19s team.

With an ageing squad coming to the end of its cycle, and with the expectant departure of some first team players over the winter, Suwon will rely heavily on these four players next year and this game is the perfect opportunity to see how they could work together in the same starting eleven.

The Adversary


With their 1-0 win over Ulsan last weekend, Jeju are still technically in the hunt for fourth spot as they head into the final season encounter with Suwon Bluewings on Sunday. The Islanders are three points behind Pohang, but are seven behind on goals scored, the K League's first differentiator after points. They would also need to swing a three-goal difference if they did manage to pull back the seven.

It was a first half to forget for Jeju last weekend, as their hosts almost completely controlled the first half in terms of possession and chances, but Lee Chang-keun made a few key saves while Junior missed a pair of chances in close and the islanders were fortunate to escape to the break unscathed.

The Jeju ‘keeper would have to come to the rescue again after the break, as he foiled Junior on two occasions, and then the visitors would go into the lead just after the hour mark. Lee Eun-beom crossed in from the left and the ball eventually fell into the path of Magno Cruz, who swept the ball into the top of the net from point blank range, converting Tiago’s one touch header.

It was a standout performance from Lee Chang-keun though, that made the difference in the end, as he refused to surrender to the constant onslaught of the Ulsan front line, earning his sixteenth clean sheet of the campaign in the process. He will certainly be a key figure this coming weekend if Jeju are to get a result.

The inconsistency displayed by last year’s runners’ up this season has been remarkable, following up a fifteen match winless streak with five wins in their last seven. The last time they played Suwon away in the league, they won 3-2, and will need all three points and help from elsewhere, namely the Horang-i, to sneak in the back door for the ACL the new year.

Park Jin-po, who has been an instrumental player for Jeju this season, is suspended for Sunday’s match due to an accumulation of yellow cards. His spot in the starting eleven will likely be taken by Jung Da-hwon. All other players will be available for selection.

By Branko Belan

Who To Watch

This game is set to be Dejan Damjanovic's last in a blue shirt, and could possibly be his last ever in the K League, with his future still yet to be decided. The forward has not had the greatest season of his career, but Suwon's inconsistent form and consistent lack of attacking intent has hindered the Montnenigrin's pursuit for goals. However, the veteran has still been one of the standout performers in the team and his 27 goals in all competitions has, at times, kept Suwon afloat throughout the season.

The important goals he scored throughout Suwon's fairytale run to the ACL Semi-finals will live long in the memory of every Suwon fan and a goal on his farewell performance would be a fitting tribute for the K League legend.

Prediction

Suwon's end of season form has been horrendous and the lack of publicity surrounding Seo Jung-won's final game with the club speaks volumes about how quickly Suwon want this season to end. Jeju might need to do the unbelievable for an ACL spot, but they should be ready for this challenge whilst Suwon might already have one foot in their flip-flops and waiting to put the memories of these last few months behind them.

Suwon Bluewings 0-2 Jeju United

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