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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs FC Seoul

Saturday afternoon sees rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and FC Seoul go head-to-head down in Jeonju as both continue to pursue their respective goals. The North Jeolla side can afford no slip-ups as they look to maintain the chase for the title while the capital club know that they need to stay focused if they are to claim the remaining AFC Champions League spot.

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 3-0 Pohang Steelers
After entering the international break on the back of some questionable results, the visit of one of the league's in-form sides in Pohang Steelers threatened to disrupt Jeonbuk's title pursuit. The home side had clearly rallied themselves over the two week period, however, putting a comprehensive performance that saw off their opponents with relative ease. Moon Seon-min powered the North Jeolla club, cutting inside and driving at the Pohang defence to devastating effect. Not only did he set up Ricardo Lopes' opener with an incisive through ball, but he would also put himself on the scoresheet in the second half after twisting the Pohang defence in the box before calmly slotting away. Kwon Kyung-won would round off the match for the home side, meeting a failed Pohang clearance at the far post and sliding the ball through the legs of the onrushing defender and into the net. Moon Seon-min's efforts meant that he not only awarded the man-of-the-match, but that his tally for the season reads ten goals and ten assists, the first time this has been achieved by a Jeonbuk player since Lee Dong-gook in 2011.

Gangwon FC 3-2 FC Seoul
A late lead and then instant capitulation from the capital side meant that FC Seoul were forced to rely on results going there way elsewhere to ensure they maintained their four-point cushion in third place. The visitors did take the lead twice, however, opening the scoring after twenty minutes through Lee In-kyu, who controlled and converted Osmar's cross from the wing. Early into the second half, however, Lee Hyun-sik headed Gangwon back level, converting Lee Young-jae's free-kick from near the corner flag.

Park Chu-young thought he had played the role of late hero as he put Seoul back into the lead in the 82nd minute with a powerful header, yet Gangwon fought back. Lee Young-jae brought things back level with a long-range free-kick two minutes from time and then Lee Hyun-sik popped up once more in stoppage time, converting at the far post to claim all three points for the home side.

Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk have the opportunity to make it four wins from four against FC Seoul this season on Saturday afternoon, having made easy work of the visitors twice in Sangam as well as a closely contested affair in Jeonju back in April. The latter fixture saw Jeonbuk play for the most of the match with a man advantage after Ikromjon Alibaev saw red early on for two bookable offences. Jeonbuk's Lee Sung-gi would take the lead for the home side at the stroke of half-time before Aleksandar Pešić looked to have rescued a point for the visitors with a late equaliser. The home side would have the final say, however, scoring in the seventh minute of stoppage time through Han Seung-gyu to claim a dramatic win.

Jeonbuk have also dominated this fixture in recent years, last losing to Seoul in the summer of 2017 in Sangam, eight meetings ago. That match was also the last time Jeonbuk have been behind to Seoul in a game, having always scored first since. Seoul last won at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on the final matchday of the 2016 season, snatching the K League title from Jeonbuk.

Team News

Jeonbuk will be without defensive midfielder Son Jun-ho for this fixture after he picked up a booking against Pohang which forced his suspension this weekend. The midfielder will likely be replaced by either Han Seung-gyu or Lim Sun-young. The rest of the team will likely remain unchanged, seeing as striker Samuel Rosa is out for the rest of the season through injury. Right-back Lee Yong also remains doubtful after picking up a knock in the international break. Lee did not feature against Pohang and was replaced by capable deputy Choi Chul-Soon. Expect the same to happen on Saturday.

José Morais is therefore likely to stick to his usual 4-1-4-1 formation, with Song Beom-keun in net and Kim Jin-su, Kwon Kyung-won, Hong Jeong-ho and Choi Chul-soon across the back. Shin Hyung-min will take the defensive midfield role with central midfielders Han Seung-gyu and Lee Seung-gi in front of him. Expect attacking wingers Ricardo Lopes and Moon Seon-min to start and Kim Seung-dae alone in attack.

The Adversary

A somewhat wavering FC Seoul come into this match holding onto third place despite what seems like their best efforts to cede their position. Seoul have just won one game in their last five, and have not been able to keep a clean sheet in their last ten. Things have been a far cry from how things were at the beginning of the season but their strong start has meant they have been able to keep hold of third place up until now. The challenging teams are yet to capitalise on Seoul's fluctuating form but, with Pohang hosting Daegu taking place two hours before, the capital side may find themselves under additional pressure and needing a result just prior to kick off.

Manager Choi Yong-soo will also have to make do without key midfielders Ju Se-jong and Ikromjon Alibaev who both sit out through suspension. Jung Hyeon-cheol is likely to replace Ju Se-jong whereas Alibaev may prove slightly trickier due to his available options. It could mean Go Yo-han shifts centrally with youngster Yoom Jung-gyu filling in at right-back. Given Yoom would then be up against Ricardo Lopes and Kim Jin-su, Choi could be wary of such a tactical decision. Another alternative would be to move Osmar into central midfield to help break down Jeonbuk's attacks, yet Choi last tried this tactic in a win against Daegu back in April and has not gone back to it since.

Choi may also not be able to call on Seoul's top scorer Aleksandar Pešić who has been suffering from a reported hip injury according to the manager's post-match comments after their recent game against Suwon Bluewings. It remains doubtful if he will be fit for this weekend. Given that he scored last week, Lee In-kyu may be offered a start once more in his place.


What To Watch

After his impressive display last weekend, it will be interesting to see if Moon Seon-min can continue his fine form as Jeonbuk look to maintain pressure on Ulsan at the top. Moon was perhaps given too much freedom by the Pohang defence at times but he certainly capitalised on the opportunities provided to him, something he is sometimes criticised for not doing. With ten goals and ten assists for the campaign so far, this is becoming one of the winger's most successful campaigns to date, making become somewhat of a favourite with the Jeonbuk supporters.

Moon moved to Jeonbuk last January after excelling at Incheon United where he scored fourteen goals to help keep them afloat. His move was not greeted well by fans of his former club and there were question marks among his new fanbase regarding the necessity of the purchase and whether he would actually see much game time. To his credit, Moon has forced his way into this Jeonbuk team though some stellar showings and is now not only a regular in the champions' starting eleven but also arguably one of the club's best players this season.

However, Moon's post-match comments against Pohang confirmed that the midfielder has filed an application for Sangju Sangmu next season as he undertakes his military service. This means that this season may well be his best opportunity to claim silverware and, with Jeonbuk faltering on the other two fronts this campaign, the former Incheon United man will be desperate for the league title not to slip him by as well.


FC Seoul's form would indicate they are set to struggle this weekend whereas Jeonbuk's most recent outing suggests that the champions are moving up a gear for this final straight. With key personnel missing for the visitors, it seems likely the North Jeolla side will capitalise and make it four wins out of four in this season's head-to-head between these sides.

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