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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Beijing Guoan

AFC Champions League Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Beijing Guoan

This Wednesday evening sees Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors commence their AFC Champions League campaign as they welcome Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Guoan. The match has added weight for the home side as they welcome back defender Kim Min-jae after his high profile move in January. Our Jeonbuk columnist Matthew Binns sat down with Wild East Football's editor-in-chief Brandon Chemers to preview the fixture.

Matthew asks, Brandon answers

Matthew Binns: This match likely sees the return of Jeonbuk central defender Kim Min-jae to Jeonju after his high profile move in the winter. While it is still very early days, how has Kim settled into life in Beijing?

Brandon Chemers: Kim started in the season opener and I think he was the player who most impressed the fans. He was an absolute beast, though there was one small mistake that almost cost the side dearly.

MB: Do you see Beijing Guoan making any changes from their opening fixtures to counter specific threats?

BC: The only potential changes would be to the back four if Lei Tenglong is healthy enough and also that they’ll be able to use Cedric Bakambu in this match, which should boost the attack even more.

MB: Are there any weaknesses in this Beijing side Jeonbuk may look to exploit?

BC: The side is dealing with a lot of injuries to the back four and while having Kim in the lineup definitely helps, the wings are weak. Also, due to injury issues in goal, new signing Zou Dehai is making a big step up from playing mostly in the second division to starting an ACL match. He played over the weekend and was great, but this will be a far tougher challenge for him.

MB: Which players do you see posing the biggest threat to Jeonbuk in this clash? 

BC: Bakambu got to rest over the weekend and will be ready and raring to go. He’s the sides biggest scoring threat by far. Also, as was shown against Wuhan on Friday night, Guoan is excellent at taking advantage of set pieces, with both Renato Augusto and Jonathan Viera always being dangerous.

MB: How do you see this fixture playing out?

BC: Guoan tends not to be a high scoring team, but also doesn’t give up a lot of goals. I expect it to be a tight affair. This is Roger Schmidt’s first time managing in the ACL and it will also be a debut in the competition for a number of Guoan players, so the key is getting comfortable and getting through the start of the match. I’m optimistic about this one, but going to Jeonbuk is always tough and I think the best Beijing can hope for is a draw, and that would be great. An aside, Guoan is unique in the CSL for their green color, so this will likely be a very rare chance to see their white change kit (they didn’t wear it at all last season).

Brandon's Predicted score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Beijing Guoan

Brandon asks, Matthew answers

Brandon Chemers: Off the top, Chinese fans come out in droves for the excitement & drama of “Asian nights”, but they are always shocked by the seeming lack of interest in Korea. Do the fans not rate the competition? Are they too used to winning? Do midweek matches make the difference? What gives?

Matthew Binns: I feel the competition is taken very seriously by most clubs and fans alike in Korea as both the national pride and prize money is sizable. However, there is no hiding from the fact that the contrast in attendance is notable for some teams. I would argue Jeonbuk usually have reasonable gates for these fixtures, and Suwon's attendances last season were not too far off their weekend numbers, but teams like Ulsan often struggle. There are two main reasons for this. K League midweek games around the same time of year as their group matches also saw a similar level of drop-off. For many, the kick-off is too early to get to the match after work, especially when the stadium is on the edge of the city. More alarmingly though, the standard ticket price for an Ulsan ACL game is advertised as ‎₩40,000 (although with a 70% discount if you are an Ulsan citizen and know about said discount), compared to their standard ₩12,000 for all domestic competitions. At other K League sides in the ACL, it is at most ₩15,000 for a standard home ticket, regardless of where you are from.

BC: Kim Min-jae is a beast and I’m very happy Guoan won’t be going up against him. How big of a hole does his departure leave in Jeonbuk’s defense? What will his reception be like?

MB: He certainly left a sizable hole to plug but the signing of Kim Min-hyeok is more than a serviceable replacement. Perhaps time will be needed to form a centre-back partnership, but he featured frequently during his five-year stint in Sagan Tosu and will be hoping some positive showings for Jeonbuk could bring him into consideration for a national team selection.

In regards to Kim Min-jae's reception, it would be unlikely he would feel any ill will from the Jeonbuk supporters and should be welcomed warmly as he was one of the club's standout players. There is some resentment from Korean fans in general about his move to the CSL, but that is unlikely to be on show in Jeonju.

BC: In the season opener, Jeonbuk only played with one foreigner. Was this a situation of resting players or is it more just confidence in the quality of domestic players? Do you support the team’s efforts to focus on Korean players or should the foreigners get more of a chance?

MB: Of Jeonbuk's four foreigners, Lopes was also the one mostly entrusted last season and it is surprising when he is not in the lineup. In regards to Adriano and Tiago, they both disappeared from contention towards the end of last season and were also nowhere to be seen on Friday. Tiago has been playing in pre-season so could be set to make a return, but Adriano did not make the bench in any friendlies. It was thought that, with a new manager at the helm, these two would be given a second chance but it remains to be seen at present. As for Jeonbuk's fourth foreigner, Australian Bernie Ibini-Isei, it is believed he is out with a minor injury and should be set to make his debut in a couple of weeks.

BC: What weakness in your side are you most fearful that Guoan can take advantage of?

MB: Right back Lee Yong is out for a month with a foot injury and, while Choi Chul-soon is certainly a capable replacement defensively, replacing a player with some of the highest defensive and chance-creation statistics of last year's K League 1 will be no easy feat. Choi is not as strong in pushing forward and delivering crosses into the box so there may be less pressure exerted on Beijing's left-back.

BC: Prediction?

MB: While they did not play poorly, Jeonbuk looked underwhelming on Friday against Daegu FC. The team saw little change from the end of last season, however, and it is likely the new signings may see more game time here. I expect the teething period to continue, however, and Beijing hold them to a draw.

Matthew's Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Beijing Guoan

Once again, we'd like to thank Brandon Chemers for contributing to this piece. Brandon is the Editor-in-Chief at Wild East Football, the premier source for Chinese football coverage in English. You can find out more about Wild East Football by going to their site or following them on Twitter.

The K League United Podcast

Both Matthew and Brandon spoke more about Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Beijing Guoan on The K League United Podcast. You can hear their team previews, along with Paul Murphy's take on Buriram United and Ryan Steele's thoughts on Urawa Reds

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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