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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Sunday evening sees Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings, despite having their minds on commitments elsewhere. The Bluewings arrive in Jeonju, however, looking for revenge over the K League champions after being humiliated 4-0 earlier in the season as well as hoping to bounce back from Super Match heartbreak last week. Can they cause an upset?

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors enter this match on the back of midweek AFC Champions League action after travelling to China to face Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG in the round of 16 first leg. The K League outfit got off to the best possible start, finding the net within a minute of kick-off. Central midfielder Lim Sun-young picked out the run of Moon Seon-min who knocked the ball beyond the 'keeper and just over the goalline, despite the Shanghai defender's best attempts to clear it. Moon also had a chance to double the lead moments later but fired directly at the 'keeper. However, Shanghai SIPG slowly began to find their footing on terrible turf and began to try and retake some control in the game. Their equaliser towards the end of the first half was somewhat helped by a poorly placed header by Bernie Ibini. The Australian winger knocked the ball back to where he thought there was a Jeonbuk defender, yet played it into the path of Elkeson who crossed in for Wen Zhao to level things. It was harsh on Ibini who performed well for the rest of the match and had started this game partly due to his positive showing against Incheon the weekend prior.

The second half proved less entertaining as Jeonbuk continued to take shots, but none to really threated their hosts. Elkeson did have a chance to clinch it for SIPG at the death, but a draw was ultimately a fair reflection on proceedings, teeing up an enticing second leg clash on Wednesday evening in Jeonju.

Highlights here

Suwon Samsung Bluewings played out a Super Match against FC Seoul that they will be hoping to quickly forget. A bumper crowd of over 30,000 paying attendees came out to witness the clash on Sunday evening and were treated to quite the spectacle. Seoul's Osmar opened the scoring with a drilled left-footed free-kick from the edge of the penalty area, which was still lifting as it struck the back of the net. A fine passing move from Suwon moments later though, finished off by Han Eui-kwon, saw the visitors pull level.

Suwon striker Adam Taggart was brought on during the interval to bolster the away side's attacking options and initial signs suggested it may pay off, with Dejan hitting the post not long after play had resumed. It would be Seoul who would retake the lead though, with Aleksandar Pešić capping an excellent team move from the home side on the hour mark. Things worsened for Suwon shortly after with Dejan being taken off due to an injury concern. Suwon's misery was then further compounded by Osmar and Pešić once more, with both scoring well taken goals in the 79th and 82nd minutes respectively. Suwon did pull a goal back through an Adam Taggart header in injury time but it was far too late for the away side to salvage anything, extending their miserable winless run in the Super Match.

Highlights here

[Listen: The K League United Podcast featuring post-match interviews with Jeonbuk's Bernie Ibini and Suwon's Adam Taggart]

Previous Meetings

These two sides last met towards the start of the season in Round Two, with Jeonbuk walking away with a comprehensive 4-0 win having scored the first three goals inside the first twenty minutes. Suwon have since found some stability under manager Lee Lim-saeng but they are still in the wrong half of the table and, as last weekend showed, still vulnerable to the occasional sizable defeat.

In the 55 matches played between the two sides, Jeonbuk have won 22 to Suwon's 15, with the Bluewings only ever having won five times in Jeonju. However, the last time that they did, Suwon dealt a hefty blow to Jeonbuk's Champions League progression, with the away side running out 3-0 winners in the first leg of the last year's quarterfinal. While Jeonbuk ultimately made the difference up in the second leg, the humiliation of that evening is still sore amongst the home supporters.

Interestingly, the last seven times these sides have faced (across all competitions), at least one team has not scored, yet there has only been one draw. When there has been a winner during this period, there has always been at least two goals scored in the match, with seventeen goals being scored overall. The victors in this fixture have usually won comprehensively of late.

Team News

Jeonbuk will be without left-back Kim Jin-su as he sits out his second match through suspension. He is likely to be replaced by either Choi Chul-soon or Lee Ju-young. Jeonbuk will also be without Lee Seung-gi who was injured in training over the break and was unable to take part in the Champions League match against Shanghai SIPG. Another player absent from that match, Ricardo Lopes, is close to recovery from illness but it remains to be seen if the manager will risk him for this game or keep him fresh for the visit of SIPG next week. Adriano, Han Kyo-won and Choi Bo-kyung remain long-term injuries.

There is also the possibility of some rotation as players look to recover ahead of the Champions League next week. Kim Shin-wook may be dropped having played most of the last two matches and replaced with Lee Dong-gook, plus Tiago may also see some game time if Moon Seon-min, Bernie Ibini or the recovering Lopes are chosen to be rested.

Suwon will be without central midfielder Choi Sung-keun through suspensions and may also be without striker Dejan who picked up a knock in the Super Match.

The Adversary

It has been an underwhelming season for Suwon Bluewings so far as they still look to transition to life under manager Lee Lim-Saeng. With just four wins in sixteen league matches, however, concern should be creeping if it has not already. Their last outing against FC Seoul, whilst it started well, showed how vulnerable the side can still be. The team have conceded the most goals outside of the bottom three and remain some way off of the Champions League places they were vying for last season.

Unsurprisingly, they also feature in the top five for shots against, conceding on average over 12 per match. The manager's tactics have often left their defence exposed on occasions though, which has perhaps contributed to their high figures for defensive duels and challenge intensity. Suwon have the most successful duel percentage in the league and they perform either a tackle, duel or interception five times per minute on average of the opponent regaining possession. It perhaps shows that they have more than capable defenders and are quick to get the ball back, but if they are being put under so much pressure so frequently, it is understandable that they will eventually concede.

Lee has tended to stick to either a 3-4-3/3-5-2 formation in recent weeks, relying on wing backs Shin Se-gye and Hong Chul to provide the threat down the flank while also tracking back to recover. This season has also seen him move Yeom Ki-hoon into a more central role rather than out on the wing as he is more famed for playing. Given their goal-scoring form, and the injury doubts surrounding Dejan, it is like Adam Taggart and Han Eui-Kwon will be entrusted in the attacking roles for this fixture.

What To Watch

While it is not necessarily a positive thing to keep an eye out for, tempers in this fixture have been known to flare resulting in bookings and dismissals. This, combined with Jeonbuk and Suwon committing the highest number of fouls in the K League this season, means there is the possibility for increased tension. Furthermore, both sides have received above the average number of bookings and Jeonbuk have also received the highest number of red cards this season (4). Fortunately for Jeonbuk, their biggest culprit this season, Kim Jin-su, is already suspended for this fixture.

The last dismissal in this fixture though was back in April last year, where Suwon were reduced to nine men in the first half when Waguininho and Jong Ho-ik saw straight reds for their fouls, before Jeonbuk's Choi Bo-kyung was removed in the second half for two bookable offences.


The last match between these two sides proved to be very one-sided though this was mostly down to the Suwon team selection and the entrustment of young centre-backs and out of position full backs to try and hold out the league champions. Lee Lim-saeng should have learned from his mistakes and has had fourteen rounds since for his players to better understand his methods. With Jeonbuk potentially focusing on continental commitments, I envisage both teams cancelling each other out in a tense and heated affair.

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