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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

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

After a midweek defeat, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will be hoping to bounce back and maintain their stay at the top of the league as they host a Suwon Samsung Bluewings team with potentially other things on their mind. With just two rounds before the split, however, time is quickly running out if this Saturday's visitors are to make the top half of the K League 1

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 0-2 Daegu FC
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' eighteen-match unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday evening when they were humbled by a Daegu FC side making a convincing late claim for the final AFC Champions League spots. While the home side may have started off strongly, overcomplicated build-up play from the likes of Moon Seon-min and Ricardo Lopes proved ineffective against an organised backline from the visitors. The champions were unable to heed an early warning when goalkeeper Song Beom-keun was forced into a fantastic early save to deny Park Gi-dong around the ten-minute mark, and not long after would see a Daegu goal ruled out for offside. Park Gi-dong would suffer a head injury later in the half after colliding with Kwon Kyung-won in the air, forcing him off in an ambulance and replaced by striker Edgar Silva. Park would thankfully regain consciousness and local media reports that he will be fine.

Two minutes after his introduction, Edgar would convert from the penalty spot to give Daegu the lead after Jeonbuk centre-back Hong Jeong-ho handled the ball within the area. The visitors' lead would force Jeonbuk manager José Morais into changes at half-time, introducing striker Lee Dong-gook for defender Choi Bo-kyung and reverting to a more conventional 4-4-2 shape. With the changes also came a change in approach, with the home side switching to ineffective aerial crosses from the wings for the most part. The newly introduced Lee did have a chance to level the scores from the penalty spot himself but struck the crossbar. While it cannot be said the home side did not have chances to get themselves back into the game, them doing so would have been harsh on Daegu who executed their counterattacking gameplan to perfection and could have found themselves much further ahead if it was not for the wastefulness of Kim Dae-won. After yet another cancelled goal for a supposed offside, Daegu did eventually find the second to kill of the tie in injury time, with Edgar Silva sending in a superb low curling cross to pick out Cesinha who converted with ease.

Suwon Samsung Bluewings 0-2 Ulsan Hyundai
The biggest news surrounding this game prior to the match was the fitness of Adam Taggart after coming off injured against Sangju Sangmu the weekend prior. Several media outlets had reported him injured for up to four weeks due to a thigh injury yet the player was fit and started from the bench. Suwon found themselves under initial pressure but managed to carve out a number of half-chances that rarely threatened the Ulsan 'keeper. Still, the home side was able to see out the opening forty-five minutes with the score goalless.

Ulsan continued to apply pressure in the second half and were eventually rewarded when Kim In-sung met Kim Tae-hwan's cross to convert a low finish from close range into the bottom corner. Suwon brought striker Adam Taggart into play in a bid to rectify things, and he almost had an instant impact with a claim for a penalty. The referee consulted with VAR and decided against awarding it, however. Ulsan would confirm the three points in the final minutes with a second goal as Lee Keun-ho managed to pull back a cross heading out of play, playing it into the area for Junior to convert with ease. It was a routine victory for Ulsan and it saw them level the points gap with Jeonbuk at the summit, with them now only trailing by goals scored. For Suwon, their showing was lacklustre and mounted additional pressure to under-fire manager Lee Lim-saeng ahead of this weekend.

Previous Meetings

Saturday will mark the third time these sides have met this season, following a 4-0 Jeonbuk victory away in Suwon in March and a 1-1 draw in Jeonju in June. The latter meeting saw Lee Dong-gook score a fortuitous goal within two minutes that he would have known little about as his face took the full brunt of a goalkeeper clearance which saw the ball loop back into the Suwon net. The Bluewings rallied though and were able to carve out a second-half equaliser through Adam Taggart to share the spoils.

Jeonbuk have dominated this fixture in the past, winning 22 of the 56 meetings and drawing 19. Suwon have won just twice in the last five seasons, both being end-of-year victories after Jeonbuk had already wrapped up the title. However, Suwon fans would be rightfully quick to point out that one of their most memorable victories was in the first leg of the Asian Champions League quarter-finals last season, in which the Bluewings stormed to 3-0 lead in the first leg in Jeonju before overcoming their opponents on penalties in the second leg and taking them out of the competition.

Team News

Jeonbuk manager José Morais played a full-strength squad on Wednesday evening and, with their Gyeongnam match rearranged to the following Wednesday due to the typhoon, may consider a few minor changes to keep his players fresh. That said, given what this match means to the fans and the threat the opposition could pose, keeping a similar squad and saving his changes for the Gyeongnam and Incheon matches may be more suitable. One thing he will have to consider is whether or not his team's performance against Daegu could be considered a bad day at the office for his players or something more worrying.

Having declared that if his side were not to win the FA Cup this season then he would tender his resignation, Suwon manager Lee Lim-saeng may not have his mind fully on this fixture. The Bluewings find themselves 1-0 down on aggregate to fourth-tier side Hwaseong FC in the semifinal of the competition and will play the return fixture next Wednesday evening. Therefore, there is the possibility that Lee could significantly rotate his squad for Saturday to ensure his players are fit. Expect key names such as striker Adam Taggart to still feature, but likely from the bench.

The Adversary

It feels that Suwon are entering the final days of manager Lee Lim-saeng's tenure as each negative result increases the pressure and the discontent of the fanbase becomes more audible with each full-time whistle. Lee's biggest flaw has been his inability to find a consistent formation or team selection that delivers results in addition to his sidelining or selling of key players such as Dejan Damnjanovic and Elvis Saric respectively. As mentioned, the manager has imposed his own ultimatum, promising to resign if Suwon fail to claim this season's FA Cup and the subsequent AFC Champions League football it would provide.

Making matters worse is the club's inconsistent form. After an impressive July, the Bluewings have recorded two wins in eight league games in addition to that first leg semi-final loss, with just two clean sheets across the same period. The side also sit in the second half of the table, two points off the top half, with the split coming after two rounds. Those two rounds see them face league leaders Jeonbuk this weekend, and then Super Match rivals FC Seoul, a fixture they have not won in their last fifteen meetups.

Lee Lim-saeng has set his team out in a 3-4-3 formation in recent weeks, keeping to a back three of Yang Sang-min, Min Sang-gi and Ko Myeong-seok, shielded by defensive midfielder Choi Sung-keun. Choi has been one of the team's more consistently selected players and is rated third-highest for defensive duels in the league (260), attempting an average of 9.91 a match. However, these initially impressive stats are betrayed by his success rate of 55.81%, a figure that sees him well outside of the top twenty in the league. Choi also does feature fourth for shots blocked though, showing an ability to cut out a goal attempt with a last-ditch tackle. This perhaps links to the fact that he has committed the most fouls in the league this season (74), alluding to the need to foul or make these last-ditch efforts to make up for mistakes elsewhere.

If Choi does feature and is not rotated out by his manager, one area Jeonbuk may look to exploit is his tendency to foul in order for the home side to try and win set-pieces. While Jeonbuk may have reverted back to endless crosses from the flanks in the second half of Wednesday's match, they had been utilising the likes of Moon Seon-min and Ricardo Lopes as inside forwards, cutting in to take shots. They would be expected to try the same on Saturday and if they can test Choi Sung-keun, a player who will be suspended for the Super Match if he collects another booking and thus may also be wary of overcommitting himself in challenges, Jeonbuk could be set to benefit.


A lot does depend on the uncertainty surrounding the extent to which both managers will change their starting elevens for this fixture. With more riding on their midweek clash, it seems likely that the away side will not want to risk key players with so much on the line in the cup and the following Super Match, making for a potentially weaker side this Saturday.

After letting Ulsan draw level, Jeonbuk cannot afford to drop points and will probably continue with strong starting elevens for the remaining matches here on in. This drive to keep ahead of Ulsan, plus a need to bounce back after Wednesday's humiliating defeat, should be all the motivation they need for this weekend. Anything less than three points for Jeonbuk would be considered a surprise.

[READ: K League 1 Round 32 Preview.]

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