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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul

It may only be eight rounds into the K League 1 season but this Sunday's match between bitter rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and FC Seoul is once again a top of the table clash. Seoul travel down to Jeonju to face the reigning champions and will see if their encouraging early season form can match their opponents' plethora of talent in a game that has all the ingredients to be the highlight of the weekend.

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were in AFC Champions League action midweek as they welcomed the 2017 winners Urawa Red Diamonds to Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Manager José Morais opted to play the strongest team available to him based on recent form with the result almost being instantaneous. Ricardo Lopes opened the scoring against the J.League side after just eleven minutes to give the home side a handle on the match.

After the break, Jeonbuk quickly doubled their lead when an excellent Lopes cross was met by the head of striker Kim Shin-wook, who in turn directed it beyond the goalkeeper. The visitors were able to make some sort of reply when Hong Jeong-ho found himself unable to cut out a curling cross, leaving Shinzo Koroki unopposed to fire past 'keeper Song Beom-keun. However, the goal proved only to be a mere consolation. The final result marked the sixth match in succession where Jeonbuk have defeated a J.League side.

Highlights can be found here.

FC Seoul hosted Incheon United in the first Gyeongin Derby of the season with both teams seeing out a goalless draw lacking somewhat in entertainment. Incheon headed into the match at the foot of the table and set up accordingly to stifle an FC Seoul side who have been strongest on the counter-attack this season. Seoul fans will have been buoyed however by both the inclusion of fan favourite Yang Han-been in net and also the home return of Osmar after the defensive midfielder had been sidelined with an injury since his move back to the club in the winter and had only made a brief cameo away to Gangwon FC the week prior.

With Incheon holding most players back, the lines pushed together and the width narrowed making it difficult for FC Seoul to find a way through, with the hosts relying mostly on ultimately ineffective set pieces to try and create something. The first half passed almost without incident, with Park Chu-young blazing a prime opportunity over the bar moments before the break. Little changed in the second half as Seoul continued to fire long-range opportunities high over the bar. As Seoul pushed forward in search of a winner, they did offer their opponents a handful of chances in the final ten minutes but, fortunately for the home side, Incheon looked just as unaccustomed to scoring. The draw meant that this is the sixth Gyeongin Derby in a row where FC Seoul have failed to register a win.

Highlights can be found here.

Previous Meetings

Meetings between these two teams have often tended to be heated and closely fought affairs, yet last season's clean sweep of victories in Jeonbuk's favour will not have sat well with the FC Seoul supporters, the most eye-catching of which was Jeonbuk's 4-0 demolition of their opponents at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

FC Seoul have tended not to fare well too well in recent visits to Jeonju, with last season's sole clash on North Jeolla soil ending in a 2-1 victory to the home side. Seoul last tasted success here during the memorable end to the 2016 season, defeating Jeonbuk on the final day of the season 1-0 thanks to a Park Chu-young effort that snatch the title away from the home side.

Team News

Jeonbuk have a number of players they are unable to call upon for this encounter. Defensive midfielder Son Jun-ho saw red last weekend against Sangju Sangmu for two bookable offences meaning he will be forced to sit out this encounter and will likely be replaced with either Han Seung-gyu or Lee Seung-gi. Jeonbuk are also without former Seoul man Adriano whose injury against FC Anyang in the FA Cup turned out to be more serious than first thought, potentially ruling him out for the season with an injury to his Achilles' tendon. Choi bo-kyung and Bernie Ibini are also on the road from recovery and are not expected to feature this weekend. One player who might though is right back Lee Yong. The player made his first appearance of the season, albeit from the bench, against Urawa Red Diamonds after a pre-season foot injury ruled him out for six weeks.

As for the visitors, FC Seoul continue to be without Ha Dae-sung who picked up a calf injury against Sangju Sangmu on the 30th May. They also remain without centre-back Kim Nam-chun with his return date unspecified. Seoul have no suspensions to concern themselves with, but Go Yo-han and Ko Kwang-min are both one booking away from missing a match.

The Adversary

FC Seoul’s rather drab performance at home to Incheon United last weekend perhaps took the shine off what has otherwise been a solid start to the new campaign. Manager Choi Yong-soo opted for Park Chu-young up top alongside Aleksandar Pešić following the former Monaco and Arsenal forward’s brace in the FA Cup a few days prior. However, from 14 shots, none found the target in what turned out to be a bore draw of a Gyeongin Derby.

Park’s return to the starting eleven was one of a few changes, most notably the return of Osmar at the heart of Seoul’s defence for what was the Spaniard’s first start having previously being limited to a couple of substitute appearances after returning from injury. Osmar put in a classy performance and was even used as a makeshift striker in the closing stages.

Despite such a lacklustre showing last weekend, Choi Yong-soo is not expected to make too many changes nor is the former striker likely to deviate from his preferred 3-5-2 formation. Yang Han-bin’s cleansheet and sterling performance between the sticks was enough to earn the 28-year-old a place in the K League 1 Best 11 for Round 8 and so is set to keep his place in the side.

Seoul have not won at Jeonju Castle in nearly three years and so will head to North Jeolla Province as the underdogs. The capital club’s 3-5-2 will almost certainly become a 5-3-2 when not in possession whilst looking to hit the current champions on the counter-attack, utilising Alekdander Pešić’s pace and ability to dribble into the channels.

-Paul Neat


Who To Watch


Having made his full return from injury last weekend, and given his history with the club, Osmar will undoubtedly be the man to watch for FC Seoul this weekend. Osmar spent last season on loan in the J.League with Cerezo Osaka after falling out of favour with the previous manager Hwang Sun-hong but, having returned in the winter to find the club back under the guidance of Choi Yong-soo, Osmar opted to extend his stay at the club and signed a three-year deal. The Spaniard brings a wealth of experience to the side and will be no stranger to the sizable clashes between the likes of Jeonbuk and Suwon Bluewings. He also offers his manager a degree of flexibility, with the player equally capable in both defence and midfield.

Against Incheon United last weekend, Osmar shone in what was a pretty poor performance for both sides. He was responsible in over a sixth of Seoul's passes with a passing accuracy of 91% in addition to a long passing accuracy of 93%. His five interceptions made was also one of the higher stats from the game though admittedly below his average. This may have had more to do with Incheon's willingness to sit back, however, and he will be expected to be tested far more against Jeonbuk's attacking line.

As for Jeonbuk, Lee Yong is also making a return from injury and could be deemed fit to start. The right-back was nominated for the league's MVP award last season after a tremendous campaign that saw him clock up the third highest number of assists, the third highest number of key passes, the most crosses, the most tackles and the most interceptions. This was in addition to being a key leading figure for the team, something which has been noted by the club who appointed Lee vice-captain in the off-season. With Kim Shin-wook also in fine scoring form of recent, and Kim Jin-su firing on all cylinders from the left, Lee Yong could be poised to further bolster Jeonbuk's goal-scoring opportunities.

Prediction

It has been a while since these two K League giants came into a match at a similar level. While FC Seoul have nowhere near the depth boasted by Jeonbuk, they have had a good season so far and may fancy their chances against a side no longer managed by Choi Kang-hee. That said, José Morais has been getting things right of late, even if there is a lingering feeling that the team is still quite a way off from fulfilling its potential. Results like those against Urawa Reds will go a long way in restoring the players' belief and resolve. Providing Jeonbuk are wary of Seoul's counter-attacks, they should see off the visitors on Sunday.

K League 1 Round 9 Preview: here

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