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Preview: Buriram United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

AFC Champions League 2019 Match Preview: Buriram United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are back in AFC Champions League action this week as they travel to Thailand to face domestic champions Buriram United in what will be a repeat of their Round of 16 from fixture last season. With Buriram causing plenty of headaches for the Korean champions on that occasion, winning the leg 3-2, José Morais' team will be looking ensure this trip goes far more smoothly. Our Jeonbuk columnist Matthew Binns spoke with Thai football expert Paul Murphy to preview the match.

Paul asks, Matthew answers


Paul Murphy: Do Jeonbuk have high hopes of going all the way in ACL this season and do they have squad depth to do it?

Matthew Binns: Recently appointed manager José Morais announced in his first official press conference for the club that he intended to win both domestic trophies (the K League and FA Cup), as well as find glory in Asia. The players have also bought into his treble line with many of them repeating the notion in various interviews, which has filtered down to some sections of support. While I personally still hold some scepticism towards the possibility, especially given the glittering career of the man before him who never achieved such a feat, there seems ta o be belief that it can be achieved and the board have invested heavily to do so. Jeonbuk's transfer business was mostly inbound, with only really Kim Min-jae going the other way. These new players have rarely seen much of the field while the manager continues to use mostly the same side that won the league last year, but knowing the players he has in reserve is frightening for the rest of the K League. Many would claim starting spots at other clubs and previously did so.

PM: Lee Dong-gook was the game changer against Beijing last week. Is he likely to start and can he repeat the trick at 39? What other players should Buriram look out for?

MB: Both Kim Shin-wook and Lee Dong-gook have travelled to Thailand for this match and, given that Kim started at the weekend, it may very well be captain Lee's turn to lead the team out on Wednesday evening. Besides him though, Ricardo Lopes has been in good form during these opening three games of the 2019 campaign, notably bagging two well-taken goals in a 4-0 romp against rivals Suwon Bluewings last Saturday. Given his influence when these two sides met last year in this competition as well, scoring in each leg, I would certainly be expecting to see him continue his strong showings into this match. I would also highlight Moon Seon-min who looks set to get his first taste of Champions League action, although likely from the bench. Moon scored his first goal for the club at the weekend and last year's top Korean scorer in the K League will likely want to continue making his case for a starting berth with another good performance.

PM: Jeonbuk were outplayed in their last trip to Buriram. How do you expect them to approach this game and would they happily take a point?

MB: Jeonbuk infamously took just four substitutes for that match, even though the 15 players selected were all first-team regulars, with the manager opting to play and sacrifice points in the domestic fixtures either side of the encounter with weaker teams. It perhaps meant that the options were not there to change the game when it started going so badly wrong for them though. However, José Morais appears to have travelled with a full squad, with mostly those who played against Suwon heading straight to the airport after the match. In this competition, a point away from home is always welcome, although I feel that Jeonbuk may look to field a rotated squad in their weekend match instead against a struggling Gangwon FC in a bid to claim three points on Wednesday.

PM: Edgar Silva and Diogo Luis Santo, who both scored against Jeonbuk last year, have left Buriram. Do Jeonbuk see this as a significant advantage given that their replacements have yet to shine?

MB: Both Edgar Silva and Diogo looked frighteningly good the last time Jeonbuk travelled there and it is heartening to hear they will not be causing them problems in midweek, even if Edgar is still haunting Jeonbuk whilst wearing a Daegu FC shirt. Hopefully, it does not breed complacency. Jeonbuk still need to take this match seriously and be very respectful of their opponents. While Buriram may have had a slightly stuttering start to the season, they played well against Urawa Red Diamonds and will likely want to both make up for that first round defeat as well as show a strong performance in front of their own crowd.

PM: Prediction?

MB: Jeonbuk undoubtedly has a strong side that has been starting to find their feet again in their last two outings. Coming into this match after their eye-catching result at the weekend will also have been a boost and having a similar team available once more should help continue that momentum. They must not be overconfident, however, as both Daegu and Beijing posed serious questions of the side. I envisage the visitors claiming the three points they look to have travelled for, but I do not see it coming easily.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Buriram United 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Matthew asks, Paul answers

Matthew Binns: A valiant opening effort for Buriram United against the 2017 Champions Urawa Red Diamonds was perhaps not reflected in the eventual scoreline. How was the performance received back home and are there silver linings to reflect on?

Paul Murphy: The defeat was not unexpected given Buriram’s slow start to the domestic season. Away in Japan will always be tough and it didn’t appear that the Thai champions were in the best shape approaching the fixture. It was generally acknowledged that the 3-0 scoreline was a bit harsh and not a fair reflection on a game in which Buriram were competitive and had a couple of near misses. However, it was not seen as disastrous, with all the home games still to come.

MB: The defeat may not have helped matters considering Buriram drew their two opening league fixtures prior to the match. Is there a particular reason for their slow start?

PM: It is difficult to talk about Buriram’s slow start without mentioning the loss of Diogo Luis Santo and Osvaldo. Diogo was an outstanding player for the club for four years and they were always going to miss his energy, ability to create and goals. He is also a very awkward opponent physically. Osvaldo slotted in quickly in the second half of last season and looked like he could be a real asset in the ACL but left for “personal reasons” just before the Thai League kickoff. New strikers Modibo Maïga and Pedro Junior haven’t really hit the ground running so these are major factors. There have also been injuries to Jakkaphan Kaewprom and Hajime Hosogai in midfield, with the Japanese star another player who had been expected to make a big contribution in ACL. All of these departed or injured players are very experienced, so Buriram have definitely missed them.

MB: These two sides met last year in the round of sixteen, with Jeonbuk going on to claim eventual victory after coming back from a defeat in the first leg. Overall, is the current iteration of Buriram an improvement on that side that nearly made it to the quarterfinals?

PM: For the reasons mentioned above, I don’t think the current Buriram side can be seen as an improvement on the team that gave Jeonbuk a fright last year. Edgar Silva was also with Buriram at that time and he has gone on to flourish in the K League. It looks like some of the players need time to gel and, unfortunately, it might be too late to make an impact in this tournament. There are a number of good young players who will be better for the experience gained last year but they are not quite ready to carry the team.

MB: In our recent podcast, you mentioned one player to watch out for was 20 year-old Supachai Jaided. Do you still think he will be Buriram’s key player against Jeonbuk or are there any other players you are expecting to have an impact? 

PM: Supachai has yet to hit form this season and may not be selected. For me, his best position will eventually be as the main striker but there seems to be a reluctance to play him in that role. If he does play, he is more likely to be out wide or behind Pedro and/or Maiga. The Jeonbuk defence is tough and Buriram could do with Supachai’s physical presence to unsettle them. He has also shown that he can come up with some important goals. If he does start on the bench, you can expect Buriram to turn to him if they need a goal. Playmaker Supachok Sarachat, who has scored three league goals this season, should start and his direct running could stretch the Jeonbuk defence. His decision making still needs much improvement, however, and he too often loses possession after getting into good positions. Regarding other players, it would be a great time for Pedro or Maiga or both to prove they can perform at this level for the club. With Pedro now 32 and Maiga 31, they are still just boys compared to Lee Dong-gook but what we have seen so far suggests their best days are behind them.

MB: How do you see this match playing out? 

PM: Jeonbuk looked impressive in their victory over Beijing last week, particularly in defence. They seemed happy to sit off their opponents when they had the ball and then attack in numbers when the opportunities arrived.  I imagine they will adopt similar tactics for this match assuming they play a full-strength side. This will make it tough for Buriram to break them down, especially with a less effective attack than last year. Nonetheless, a point would be a decent result for the visitors and it might be the best that Buriram can hope for.

Paul's Predicted Score: Buriram United 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

As always, we'd like to thank Paul Murphy for his contribution in this preview and our recent AFC Champions League podcasts. For those wishing to know more about Thai football, Paul runs the site Thai Footie and has also contributed to the likes of ESPNFC, The AFC and others. You can follow him on Twitter here.

The K League United Podcast

Both Matthew and Paul previously sat down to preview both teams in depth on a recent K League United Podcast. You listen again to the episode below which, also features Brandon Chemers' take on Beijing Guoan as well as Ryan Steele's thoughts on Urawa Red Diamonds.




Where to Download

If you would like to download this episode, you can find The K League United Podcast on a number of platforms linked below. You can also catch the show every week on Football Nation Radio at 5pm Sydney Time (or 3pm for those of you here in Korea).

iTunes | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Libsyn | TuneIn Radio

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