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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Jeju United

Saturday evening sees a struggling Jeju United side face the unenvious task of travelling to Jeonju to face reigning K League 1 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors who will be looking to find a victory to make up for last weekend's defeat and keep the pressure on the top spot.

Last Time Out

Recent performances had been hinting at it, but Jeonbuk's defensive fragility was finally put under enough pressure by Ulsan Hyundai to the delight of the home fans at the Munsu Stadium. In what was a clash between the top two sides in the division, Ulsan Hyundai showed their title credentials by taking the reigning league champions to task and dismantling them by two goals to one, a generous scoreline for the North Jeolla side given their performance.

The Jeonbuk eleven fielded was fairly strong, though the inclusion Moon Seon-min and Lee Ju-yong were perhaps the most notable as they replaced the injured Han Kyo-won and suspended Kim Min-hyeok respectively. Lee's inclusion was perhaps the most puzzling given the availability of Choi Chul-soon, and so it proved as a backline also including regulars Kim Jin-su, Hong Jeong-ho and Lee Yong found themselves regularly exposed by the Horangi's attack.

Somewhat fortuitously, Jeonbuk made it to the interval with the scoreline goalless. The second half, however, saw Ulsan continue to press and it was an incisive passing move, featuring former Jeonbuk player Kim Bo-kyung, that wound up with Kim In-sung cooly converting unchallenged beyond the Jeonbuk 'keeper. Ulsan's Junior had several chances to further compound Jeonbuk's misery, yet it seemed the Brazilian was having an off-night and subsequently keeping the visitors in the game.

The 90th minute saw a penalty rightly awarded via VAR consultation to Ulsan however after an undeterred Ricardo Lopes, despite having already been booked moments prior, decided to foul Kim Tae-hwan in the area. Kim Bo-kyung stepped up and coolly slotted the spot-kick away. Jeonbuk's Lee Seung-gi did pull a goal back in injury time but anything more would have been unjust. It was a deserved win for Ulsan and leaves Jeonbuk in second place, fully aware that they have title challengers this season.

You can view highlights of the match here.

While Jeju's last outing was what turned out to be an ultimately disappointing cup match against Sangju Sangmu, the Islanders faired no better in the league last weekend as they threw away a goal lead to Suwon Samsung Bluewings, ultimately losing comprehensively. Jeju captain Kwon Soon-hyung opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, letting fire into the bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the area. Replays suggested that perhaps the Suwon 'keeper should've done better, but his initial view of the shot was partially blocked by the defender. The lead only lasted for a quarter of an hour however, with seasoned striker Dejan Damjanović powering home a Shin Se-gye cross not long before the interval. Koo Ja-ryong compounded Jeju's misery just two minutes into the second half with the midfielder converting Yeom Ki-hoon's free-kick to the far post. The game was put to bed four minutes later as striker Adam Taggart finished to give the away side an unassailable lead.

You can view highlights of the match here.

Previous Meetings

The previous meeting between these two sides saw Jeonbuk travel to the island and return with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a 44th minute Kim Shin-wook goal in what was ultimately a drab affair. Jeonbuk have also had the upper hand in recent encounters too, winning five and drawing one of their six encounters prior to that match. In terms of the historical statistics between the two sides, Jeonbuk have won 27 times to Jeju's nine, with both teams also sharing the spoils on nine occasions.

Team News

Jeonbuk will be able to welcome back central defender Kim Min-hyeok to the fold after he sat out of their most recent defeat due to suspension. His presence was perhaps the most notable and his return should hopefully return some solidity to the back line. Han Kyo-won remains doubtful but, with his unremarkable display last time out, manager José Morais may have reservations about starting Moon Seon-min once more in his place. Other options do exist, however, and this could prove an apt time to hand Bernie Ibini his first start of the season after making cameo appearances in each of Jeonbuk's last three matches.

Jeju have no suspended players to concern themselves with and should have close to a full strength squad for the most part. The Islanders played a strong team midweek in the FA Cup though and were forced to play 120 minutes so some changes may well be expected.

The Adversary

Jeju were knocked out of the FA Cup on penalties by a final count of 13-12 by Sangju Sangmu after the match had finished 1-1 after 120 minutes.  Jeju looked very tentative moving forward and could not find enough space in the final third to be enough of a threat in front of goal. The first half did not present much in the way of chances for either side, and the teams went into the break scoreless.

The second half did manage to spring to life when Elias Aguilar swept home a shot from just inside the area after Yun Il-lok’s deft touch put him into space.  After that, however, Jeju were just trying to hold on to their advantage and it cost them near the end of regular time as they conceded with only two minutes left in regular time after an inexcusable defensive error.

It seems to be a running theme with Jeju this season – they just haven’t been able to hold on to a lead the few times they have had one.  The same thing happened in their last league match against Suwon Bluewings and it cost them dearly.

Another concern is how Jeju lined up tactically against Sangju with only three at the back.  It has proven true in the past that Jeju is not capable enough defensively to have only three in the back.  They have been stretched thin too often, leading to goals conceded and the same was true in the cup match against Sangju.  To concede as late as they did shows not only that the team is lacking mentally at key stages in a match, but also that, despite the considerable talent in the squad, there is a lack of chemistry between the players.

Now with a new man in charge, it will still take some time to figure out a system and formula where all players will be able to be best utilized, but the time for trial and error is thin at best.  If there is a positive to come out of the loss, it is that the team can now wholly focus on the rest of the league season with the hope that it will bring better results in the near future. A trip away to Jeonbuk, though, will not help matters much.

Another consideration of note is the importance of Aguilar and Yun to the continuity of the team on the pitch.  While they were involved, Jeju looked more cohesive on the ball, but, once both of them were substituted out, the islanders lost that creative spark and struggled badly to create chances.  The new additions have proven that they are indeed very capable of playing well together.

With the summer portion of the schedule just around the corner, the hope is that the team’s overall fitness will also improve.  As the match wore on, the team began to look a little bit sluggish, with the exception of Magno, who fought hard to keep Jeju in the match, but he simply cannot do everything by himself.  Jeju are in need of results, and fast, but the chances of that happening this coming weekend against Jeonbuk are slim at best. Lee Chang-keun’s confidence will be rattled following a lengthy shootout in which he nearly made several saves, but it was all for not in the end.  At this point, the prognosis for a result does not look good, and it remains to be seen how the team will respond following another setback.

- Written by Jeju United columnist Branko Belan


Despite the brief optimism brought on by their victory against Gyeongnam FC two rounds ago, Jeju United are still in woeful form and are likely to struggle against title contenders who will be eager to get backtrack this weekend. Factor in the prolonged midweek cup fixture and it is difficult to see beyond a Jeonbuk victory.

Predicted Score: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Jeju United

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