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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gyeongnam FC

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gyeongnam FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors look to continue their chase for first place as they host last year's runners up Gyeongnam FC. The Reds have not had the best of seasons, coping with both the loss of key players in the window and through injury, whilst also balancing Champions League commitments, but will be hoping to rediscover their form on Sunday to at least pose a threat to the champions. 

Last Time Out

A semi-rotated squad lined up against a youthful Buriram United side in what turned out to be an entertaining "dead rubber". Jeonbuk came into the match knowing that first place in the group was secure and progression guaranteed, whilst their opponents were rooted to fourth with no possibility of improving their position. Surprisingly, however, important first-team regulars Lopes, Lee Seung-gi, Kim Min-hyeok and Lee Dong-gook were all granted a starting berth. Perhaps the latter's selection was not that surprising though given that Lee leads the all-time scoring charts for the competition by a single goal and a second-string Buriram side theoretically offered him a prime opportunity to add to his tally.

However, neither side managed to find the net in what turned out to be a highly entertaining draw. With neither side shackled by the need for points, both attacked each other, creating numerous chances in the process. Lopes perhaps came closest for Jeonbuk in the first half with a speculative shot from range. Moon Seon-min also had a prime opportunity to put the home side ahead but decided to awkwardly backpass it to Lee Dong-gook. It seemed that perhaps the team had also been instructed to help their captain's goalscoring plight. It would be the away side with perhaps the clearest cut opportunity moments before half-time, with a shot bobbling beyond goalkeeper Song Beom-keun and hitting the upright for the recovering 'keeper to gather. There were plenty of chances in the second half as well but a draw was ultimately a fair result in an end-to-end affair.

Highlights can be found here.

Gyeongnam were also in Champions League action midweek and required a positive result against Johor Darul Tà'zim to stand any chance of progression. While their fate would ultimately come down to results elsewhere, Gyeongnam still kept up their end of the bargain with a 2-0 victory, despite ultimately being unable to progress to the knockout rounds. Second half goals from Luc Castaignos and Takahiro Kunimoto ensured the home side at least had something to cheer about as their team bowed out of the competition. Gyeongnam may not have progressed, but they have put in some fine showings in their first venture into continental waters and now they can return to recovering their league form and maintaining their FA Cup run.

Highlights can be found here.

Previous Meetings

The last time these two sides met in April, Jeonbuk sailed into a 3-0 lead before conceding it in the final ten minutes with the score ending three apiece. Jeonbuk admittedly went down to ten men for those final minutes yet it did not excuse such capitulation with their own support.

However, Jeonbuk have tended to dominate this fixture, with 18 wins in 31 meetings, losing just seven. One of those times, however, was last August in Jeonju, as a late Kunimoto goal against the run of play ensured Gyeongnam returned to Changwon with all three of the points.

Team News

Centre-back Choi Bo-kyung, a player who was injured in the previous encounter between these sides, remains a doubt with recent reports suggesting his recovery is taking longer than first predicted. With Hong Jeong-ho having sat out the last two matches with a minor ailment, it is likely Kim Min-hyeok and Choi Chul-soon will be the centre-back pairings of choice come Sunday evening. Han Kyo-won looks to still be sidelined and is likely to be replaced by Moon Seon-mon once more on the right wing.

Gyeongnam will be without defenders Lee Kwang-seon and Woo Ju-seong who are suspended for this match, as well as Jordon Mutch who is a doubt through injury. The club will at least be bolstered by the goalscoring return of Luc Castaignos midweek and will be hoping he is fit enough to play again once more on Sunday.

The Adversary

Gyeongnam FC won their ACL match and successfully rallied the mood once more. Although they failed to advance to the round of 16, it was their first attempt in the competition and it was memorable. Also, Luc Castaignos has finally returned from injury and has even scored. Now, the Reds need to focus on the league. Gyeongnam lost their most recent home game when they conceded two goals to Steelers’ Brazilian winger, Wanderson. If the Reds fail to earn a point in their away match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Sunday, they could fall into the relegation zone.

Gyeongnam FC had a 3-3 draw against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in early April. It is true that the Reds are weak at present but, if they can recall their memory and concentration of scoring three goals in the last ten minutes as they did in their last match in Changwon, Gyeongnam will have a chance to earn a point.

However, Jordon Mutch will not be able to play due to injury, while Woo Joosung and Lee Kwang-seon will not be able to accompany the side to Jeonju World Cup Stadium due to suspension. Yet, Luc Castaignos, who has recovered from injury, will play for the Reds. Manager Kim Jong-boo will use a 4-4-2 formation again while Kim Seungjun and Castaignos are expected to lead the offence on Sunday.

- Chris Jun-yong Park (Gyeongnam FC columnist)

Who to Watch


Luc Castaignos

As alluded to above, the return of Luc Castaignos to the team should offer Gyeongnam a timely boost as their commitments shift to a domestic focus. Whilst AFC Champions League may well have been part of the draw when the Dutch attacker chose Lisbon for Changwon, injury limited his opportunities but his talent was clearly on show midweek with a well-taken goal and he could prove to be vital as the side look to arrest their poor league form. Given that Jeonbuk have defensive issues of their own, with clear weakness in the centre-back position of recent, Castaignos could well be in for some headlines if he is able to expose the reigning champions this Sunday.

Prediction

Given injuries and suspensions to key players, in addition to their poor league form, Gyeongnam are expected to leave Jeonju with little to show for their efforts. With Jeonbuk also afforded the luxury of being able to rest key names midweek means that they should be in far better shape than their opponents come Sunday evening. The home side have been weaker at the back this season though, facing far more shots than they did last year, and may struggle to keep a clean sheet here.

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