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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Incheon United

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Incheon United

After suffering a three-goal collapse in the final ten minutes of their midweek fixture, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will be looking to return to winning ways when they welcome Incheon United on Saturday afternoon. It has been somewhat of an inconsistent start for the champions but, with their guests enduring some disappointing form of their own, José Morais' side will hope they can pick up the three points here. Upsets have been known to happen in this fixture, however, and overconfidence could once again wind up causing the home side a headache.

Last Time Out

On Tuesday evening, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors travelled south to face Gyeongnam FC as they looked to build momentum off the back of their solid weekend victory over Pohang Steelers. It appeared as if they would be on course to do so as well. An early own goal from Gyeongnam centre-back Kwak Tae-hwi followed shortly after by a Lee Dong-gook penalty put the visitors 2-0 up at the break, further consolidating this not long after the restart when Son Jun-ho made it three. Yet, with then minutes to spare, Gyeongnam began to make their comeback. Kim Seung-jun capitalised on Choi Bo-kyung's clearance to pull one back, with Choi picking up an injury in the process and reducing the side to ten men. Two minutes late and Jordan Mutch converted from a low cross at the far post, before Bae Ki-jong performed his match-saving heroics for the second game in a row to make it 3-3 in injury time. Bae would attempt to scissor kick the ball, driving it down into the ground before it rose to loop over the goalkeeper. The touch of good fortune was a just reward for the home side though for their dogged determination.

Highlights here.

Incheon United suffered at the hands of a high-flying Daegu FC side who paid their visit on Wednesday evening. Early signs suggesting that it would be a long evening for the home support appeared quickly when Daegu's Cesinha struck the post within ten minutes. It took another twenty until Daegu broke Incheon's resolve though, and it was Kim Jin-hyeok who drove a low ball beyond the 'keeper for the visitors to take the lead. Mugoša had claims for a penalty moments later to bring the scores back level, but replays showed that he handled the ball in controlling it and the decision for a penalty was correctly overturned. Kim Jin-hyeok looked as if he had made it two before being flagged for offside but was awarded his brace on the stroke of half time when he acrobatically turned the ball to double the visitor's tally. Incheon did their best to rally and respond in the second half, but the efforts were in vain and Daegu completed the rout in the dying minutes on the counter attack, with Cesinha eventually rounding the 'keeper and slotting in from a tight angle.

Highlights here.

Previous Meetings

Incheon United have been somewhat of a 'bogey team' for Jeonbuk over the last few seasons. In each of the last three campaigns, Incheon have always held off defeat until their final meeting of the year with the club. Jeonbuk's previous manager Choi Kang-hee regularly rotated for this fixture in order to focus on Champions League football and was often punished for it. This year, however, while there is continental football coming up next week, José Morais does not have the luxury of dropping more points as potential title contenders Ulsan Hyundai edge further away. It is expected that the manager will once again opt for his strongest team to try and claim a result.

Surprisingly, given the vast gulf in resources, the head-to-head comparisons for this fixture is relatively even. In the 41 occasions they have met, Jeonbuk have claimed victory 14 teams and have lost 12, drawing the other fifteen. You do have to go back to April 2013 however to find the last time Incheon took three points away from Jeonju World Cup Stadium and pre-match team news would suggest this looks liekly to continue.

Team News

Choi Bo-kyung's late injury against Gyeongnam is set to rule him out for the next six weeks whilst there seems to still be little sign of Lee Yong returning from the foot injury that has ruled him out for a month thus far. Choi Bo-kyung is likely to be replaced by Kim Min-hyeok while Choi Chul-soon is expected to continue deputising for the absent Lee. Adriano and Bernie Ibini are also yet to make an appearance this season due to injury but there is a hope that the latter may soon be available to make his debut.

Fortunately for the Jeonbuk defence, they face a blunted Incheon United team who are likely to be without both Stefan Mugoša and Nam Jun-jae. Defender Kim Dong-min is also set to miss out through suspension.

Fans of the footballing narrative will also be hoping to see Moon Seon-min make an appearance against his former club, after moving to Jeonbuk from Incheon United in the winter in the hope of a bigger challenge, much to the ire of the Incheon faithful. However, José Morais has been reluctant to start Moon this season, offering him just four league appearances all from the bench, and it seems unlikely he will be afforded an opportunity in the first eleven for this weekend.

The Adversary

Following a promising start to the season for Incheon United, three defeats on the bounce sees them down at the foot of the table. Also conceding eight goals in three games highlights the defensive issues have returned from last season. A trip to champions Jeonbuk isn’t going to be a welcome sight on the fixture list of Incheon fans at the moment. During the week Incheon suffered their first home defeat of the season in depressing style, going down 3-0 to Daegu FC. There were few (if any) positives that came out of the game apart from an obvious need for change.

Norwegian manager Jørn Andersen could be forced into making sweeping changes for a number of reasons. Defender Kim Dong-min is suspended plus Nam Jun-jae & Stefan Mugoša are doubtful due to injury. The only positive is that winger Kim Jin-ya should be available after missing the midweek defeat to Daegu. The formation will be a defensive 4-5-1, partly due to the lack of striking options.

Incheon will be looking to bounce back after losing three games in a row. However beating the reigning champions could be a tough ask, especially if key players are absent as expected. Overall Jeonbuk will have the edge here and it may be a case of damage limitation for the visitors.

By Tim Barnes

One to Watch

With Stefan Mugosa and Nam Jun-Jae both possibly absent this Saturday, it will provide a chance for some other players to shine. Vietnamese superstar Nguyễn Công Phượng played a full ninety minutes against Daegu during the week. Although it wasn’t a standout performance there were glimpses of Messi like play. If he starts on Saturday eyes will be on him. Also, look out for Jiloan Hamad & vice-captain Gordon Bunoza.

By Tim Barnes

Prediction

Jeonbuk facing Incheon this early in the season would usually result in a draw or a more favourable result for Incheon but, given the situation both teams find themselves in, Jeonbuk should have the upper hand and be motivated enough to take advantage of it. With the title race set to be more closely fought this season, results are desperately required for the home side and it seems unlikely huge risks regarding the lineup will be taken here in trying to achieve it.

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