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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Bucheon FC 1995

The return of domestic football after the international break sees the first of the final four games in the K League 2, and with only nine points separating the third to eighth placed teams the promotion play-offs are still undecided. On Saturday sixth placed Jeonnam Dragons are at home and will be aiming to extend their current run of three straight wins. The visitors, eighth placed Bucheon FC 1995, only sit two points behind the Dragons in the table and know that victory would be enough to overtake them.

Last Time Out

Daejeon Citizen 1-2 Jeonnam Dragons

After spending the majority of the season competing with Daejeon Citizen and Seoul E-Land in the fight to avoid the bottom of the table, Jeonnam Dragons have experienced a dramatic improvement in form that has turned them into outside contenders for the play-offs. Jeonnam have only lost once since mid-August, and travelled to Daejeon a fortnight ago on the back of two victories against promotion rivals Anyang and Suwon. The trip would not prove to be an easy task as Daejeon have also seen an improvement in form, tightening up their defence to only concede three times in their previous seven matches, resulting in two wins and five draws.

It was in fact the ninth placed hosts that took the lead in the 19th minute, with their Brazilian forward  Ramazotti calmly slotting the ball into the right-hand corner from close range after a swift Daejeon attack. The lead would not last too long and in the 34th minute as after Daejeon failed to clear their lines, a long shot was spilled into the path of Jeonnam's midfielder Jeong Jae-hee, who easily side-footed the ball passed the goalkeeper. After a scrappy and hard-fought second half, Jeonnam were awarded a penalty after VAR judged that there was a handball in the Daejeon penalty area. Jeonnam's veteran midfielder Kim Young-uk subsequently stepped and confidently put the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal in the 81st minute. 

The result means that Jeonnam have achieved three consecutive victories for the first time this season and are only six points behind fourth placed Ansan Greeners in the last play-off spot. This chance to resurrect their season and the good form that they are in means that the Dragons will not make it easy for Bucheon or any of their future opponents this season.

Watch highlights of the match here.

FC Anyang 1-2 Bucheon FC 1995

While Jeonnam's season has been marked by two halves of differing form and fortune, Bucheon have remained consistently inconsistent as their faint dreams of reaching the play-offs have slowly drifted away. It is still mathematically possible for Bucheon to qualify, but after demoralising defeats at home to Busan and Daejeon there was a sense that there was little more than rivalry bragging rights for Bucheon to play for.

Despite third placed Anyang having a lot more at stake and Bucheon missing their star striker Marlon de Jesus through suspension, it was Bucheon that would draw first blood in the 15th minute. After Bucheon retained possession from a corner, Brazilian defender Nilson Junior flicked the ball up and volleyed home from the edge of the penalty area. The 30 year-old is now Bucheon's joint top scorer this season alongside Marlon with eight goals each, and the goal against Anyang will be a contender for goal of the month. Unfortunately for him, both of the other goals in this match were of equal or perhaps greater quality.

In the last minute of first half added time, Bucheon doubled their lead through midfielder Ahn Tae-hyun's third goal of the season. The 26 year old controlled the ball and volleyed the ball home from 30 yards, sending it rocketing into the top corner of the Anyang goal. Just six minutes into the second half, Anyang would score an almost identical goal through their midfielder Kim Won-min, though his shot was from the ground rather than a volley. This would be last of the goals for the day and Anyang are now only one point above Ansan with Asan and Jeonnam not far behind. 

Bucheon deservedly had three players included in the team of the round - Nilson Junior, Ahn Tae-hyun and Kim Ryun-do - but their inability to produce performances like this on a consistent basis sees them sitting eight points out of the play-offs with only 12 points available this season. Not impossible to achieve, but highly unlikely considering how their season has gone so far.

Watch highlights of the match here.

Previous Meetings

There is one game to go in Bucheon and Jeonnam's first season together and the Dragons have been the more dominant side with two wins and one draw. The draw occurred in Bucheon in the first ever meeting between the two sides back in April. Bucheon took the lead in the 15th minute through Song Hong-min's now famous 30 yard first time half-volley that is surely the best goal scored in Korea this year. Jeonnam levelled six minutes later through Kim Young-uk, ensuring that both sides shared the spoils in their first encounter. Kim Young-uk would prove to be the hero the next time these two sides met in June, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 home win. 

The third match between the clubs in Bucheon in August would be even more emphatic, as after a goalless first half Jeonnam would emerge as 3-0 winners courtesy of goals from Jeong Jae-hee, Bruno Baio and Yoon Yong-ho. This result can be considered quite flattering as Bucheon played well and were simply caught on the counter-attack several times and were not clinical with their finishing. When past encounters and current form is considered Jeonnam looks to be the favourites, but Bucheon have played well in each of the three matches and well fancy themselves as being able to come away from the South coast with some points.

Eulji Lewis

Team News

Joint top scorer Marlon de Jesus returns to Bucheon after serving his three match suspension. His team's record during the ban was two losses and one victory, conceding six goals and scoring three so his return should improve their attacking options. One of his main replacements during that period was Kim Ryun-do, who has found himself suspended for the Jeonnam match after picking up three yellow cards. Kim still has not scored in months, so his absence may not effect Bucheon's attack too much.

Bucheon's defence may take a big hit however as their defender and captain Park Gun is also suspended for Saturday's match. Considering that Bucheon's 48 goals conceded this season is the joint second highest in the league, they may struggle to contain a Jeonnam side that has only failed to score once in their last eleven matches. The rest of the Bucheon defence will have to be careful as two other defenders are a yellow card away from suspension - Nilson Junior and Kim Jae-woo. They are joined by Gam Han-sol, Jang Hyun-soo, Song Hong-min, Cho Soo-chul and Lee Kwang-jae. However, as Bucheon have little to play for and only four games left then they may decide to not worry about dropping players with a risk of suspension.

The Adversary

Jeonnam Dragons have one player suspended for Saturday, as midfielder Han Chan-hee picked up his ninth yellow card of the season. The 22 year old has been a regular for Jeonnam for four seasons now, but in the last two seasons in particular he has let himself down by picking up multiple yellow cards and suspensions. Nine Jeonnam players are currently one yellow card away from a suspension: Lee Yoo-hyeon; Park Jun-hyuk; Choi Hyo-jin; Lee Seul-chan; Choi Ik-jin; Kwak Kwang-seon; Choi Jae-hyeon; Jeong Jae-hee; Jung Hee-woong.

This will give a selection dilemma to the coach, as Jeonnam realistically need to win all of their matches to secure a spot in the play-offs, they need a strong side available for those matches but also cannot risk getting lots of players suspended for these final games. Prolific summer signing Bruno Baio is returning from suspension, so they can at least take comfort in the fact that their attack will be full strength.

Who To Watch

The key man on Saturday will likely be Jeonnam's returning Brazilian forward Bruno Baio. The 24 year old has impressed since signing in July and his seven goals have already positioned him as Jeonnam's top scorer this season. He has achieved this total in only 12 matches, while Bucheon's top scorers Nilson Junior and Marlon de Jesus have reached eight goals in 32 games and 24 games respectively. Baio did not score for his first month in Korea, but since opening his account in mid-August all six matches in which he has scored in have ended in a win or a draw for Jeonnam. It is clear that he has been a vital part of Jeonnam's resurgence as his good form has coincided with Jeonnam's rise up the table. If Jeonnam are to reach the play-offs then Baio will surely play a big part in that.

Prediction

Jeonnam are the in form side and have been the more successful team in the previous meetings against Bucheon this season. Both teams are in the hunt for the play-offs but Jeonnam's two point advantage and three match win streak makes them far more likely candidates to reach the top four. Both teams have star strikers returning but have also lost other key players due to suspension. Bucheon remain inconsistent, but they can have hope with the fact that their last five wins have all been away from home, and four of those wins were against teams that are positioned from third to seventh in the table. This should be a closely fought game and it is possible that both sides promotion hopes will evaporate together.

Jeonnam Dragons 1-1 Bucheon FC 1995




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