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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Bucheon 1995

Two teams with lofty preseason expectations meet up for the second time this season in the bottom half of the K League 2 table when Jeonnam Dragons host Bucheon 1995. While Jeonnam can't close the gap with their Northern counterparts, a win would go a long way to getting them into the playoff hunt. 

Overview

Last Time Out

The Dragons lost for the third time in four matches last weekend when they made the long trip North to Anyang. What looked like a clear night turned stormy right before kickoff soaking the field and all in attendance before clearing up shortly after. The slippery field conditions didn't play much of a factor in the later stages of the game, but created a bit of a slow start for both teams; something that fit into Jeonnam's game plan of hitting on the counter late. However, the original game plan was thrown off in the 28th minute when Anyang's Manuel Palacios took advantage of poor clearances from Jeonnam and slammed one past Park Junhyuk, who had been having a fantastic night before the goal.

The Dragons appeared to have equalized in the 65th minute with a strong turn and pinpoint cross from Lee Seulchan led to an open header. However,  the play went to VAR and was called off for a foul on Lee Seulchan when he turned the Anyang defender. Not long after having a goal chalked off, substitute Lee Youhyeon made a hard cut to the middle of the box and snuck one in near post to level things at one and seemingly secure a much needed point for Jeonnam. However, the slightest of margins in yet another VAR review showed Lee Jinam had the ball hit his hand while attempting to defend Anyang's rising star Cho Kyusung in the dying minutes of the match. Alex converted the ensuing PK and gave Anyang their first win in three.

Highlights available here

Bucheon took advantage of playing the second division's bottom side (Seoul E-Land) Monday night to secure their first win in three and remain within touching distance of the top half of the table. Lim Donghyuk got a bit of a lucky bounce to open the scoring in the first half on a set piece header that bounced off E-Land keeper Kim Youngkwang and into the net. The scoring resumed six minutes into the second half when Ecuadorian striker Marlon de Jesús bagged his second of the season with an authoritative spinning shot from the top of the box that found the top corner. Gam Hansol added insult to injury ten minutes later capping off a pacy counterattack that Kim Youngkwang really should've done better on. The goal didn't seem like it would matter much at the time, but a converted corner by Park Seongwoo for Seoul in the 86th and stoppage time strike by Wesley Alex made Gam's goal the match winner. Bucheon will be pleased with the three points, but Seoul's late push will be cause for concern heading into this weekend.

Highlights available here.

Previous Meetings

The first ever meeting between these sides came back in early April and ended in a 1-1 draw. Bucheon significantly outshot the Dragons 12-6 in the match, but only managed to keep four of them on target. However, the lone goal Bucheon managed was an absolute worldy from Song Hongmin and one that will unquestionably linger in Jeonnam defender's minds this weekend. The Dragons, meanwhile, only got one shot on frame in the match, but Kim Youngwook's 21st minute strike was enough to secure points away from home.

Outside of the shooting disparity, the match was quite evenly contested with Bucheon getting the edge in most statistics including possession (54%-46%), passing accuracy (78%-73%), and challenges won (40%-35%). Given that, Jeonnam were somewhat lucky not to lose that match and will need to improve things in the midfield this weekend if they're to push for a win.

The Adversary

While they are only one place above Jeonnam in the K2 table, Bucheon have a significant advantage over their opponents in that they are actually in the hunt for the coveted playoff spots. There is still a lot of football left to be played, but Bucheon have pulled themselves back into the conversation for the promotion playoffs losing just once in their previous four matches. That loss was a lopsided 4-1, but it was away to league leading and still undefeated Gwangju FC. When playing opposition nearer to them in the table, Bucheon have fared much better, and given their scoring form of late, could be in for another meaningful win this weekend.

Longtime Bucheon midfielder Kim Ryundo has carried 1995 for most of the season with a career best five goals, but help may have finally arrived in the form of Marlon de Jesús coming good in the summer months. The 27-year-old Ecuadorian striker has two goals in as many matches and seems to be finding his rhythm on Korean shores. With the league's second worst defense lining up opposite of him and Kim Ryundo this weekend,  look for the pair to pull the strings and get Bucheon on the board for the seventh straight match.

What To Watch: Kim Ryundo vs Choi Hyojin

With de Jesus rounding into form, Kim Ryundo has been moved out to the wing where he will likely go up against Jeonnam captain Choi Hyojin. Tasked with both defensive responsibilities and bombing down the wing on the counter, Choi has had an up and down season thus far. His pace is largely still with him at 35 years of age and he's chipped in his usual attacking contributions with a goal and an assist thus far. He's also winning the majority of his offensive duels (61%) and has been successful on 76% of his dribbles, but is starting to lag slightly in defense. Choi is averaging five interceptions per match and is recovering the ball relatively well, but he is winning less than 25% of his defensive duels and is averaging just two clearances per match. Playing on the opposite side from the vast majority of his career, Choi may be struggling to adjust to cutting the opposite direction and dealing with attackers running at his weaker foot most of the time. Something Kim Ryundo may well expose Sunday night.

With both Kim Ryundo and Choi Hyojin already logging over 1,200 minutes each this season, they are likely to go the full 90 on Sunday, and that's when this battle could be pivotal. Both Jeonnam and Bucheon have scored the bulk of their goals – 46% and 40% respectively – in the final 30 minutes, and when considering how closely contested this match up was last time around, it's likely to be close again late on. Whoever can get the better of this encounter may well set their team up for a late winner.

Prediction

Three of Jeonnam's four wins this season have come at the expense of teams beneath them in the table, and they've yet to have a statement win since the 1-0 over Busan that feels like ages ago. They were a bit unfortunate against Anyang last time out, but encouragingly showed some creativity moving the ball forward. Still lacking a true goal scorer up top, the Dragons would once again be better suited to allow Bucheon time on the ball and try to take advantage of the midfield's pace with a quick counter. However, theory and practice haven't exactly gone hand-in-hand for Fabiano Soares' side this season, and Bucheon looks on the up swing.

Jeonnam Dragons 1-2 Bucheon 1995

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