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Preview: Jeju United vs Seoul E-Land



It's the dawn of a new era for Jeju United as they begin their first-ever campaign in K League 2 this Saturday with a home fixture against Seoul E-Land.  The islanders underwent quite an overhaul in the off-season with the appointment of a new manager in Nam Ki-il, while player personnel also now looks considerably different in comparison to a season ago.  Seoul E-Land, meanwhile, will be looking to improve on results from 2019, and to that end, hired Chung Jeong-yong, who led South Korea's U-20 World Cup side to a final appearance in Poland last year.  With the addition of several new players to the fold, the Leopards are certainly looking to the new season with renewed optimism.  KLU's Branko Belan previews the opening weekend clash.

Match: Jeju United vs Seoul E-Land
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday, May 9th, 2020; 13:30 KST

Pre-Season

Jeju United

Jeju United had a very busy off-season with major changes at the club following relegation in 2019.  Nam Ki-il is the new man in charge, while Eder Lima capped off a busy off-season in terms of player personnel, which also saw several new faces, including Valentinos Sielis, Yoon Bo-sang, Joo Min-kyu, and Kim Young-wook arrive at the club.  Gone are Magno Cruz who departed for Qatar, former captain Kwon Soon-hyung and midfield stalwart Yoon Bit-garam, just to name a few.  

Jeju did play a few pre-season friendlies before the season was to originally begin at the end of February and split a pair of matches with Pohang Steelers, but have focused their more recent preparations with intra-squad matches as Nam looks to find the right combination for his starting eleven to get things rolling right out of the gate.

Seoul E-Land

The Leopards had a very busy off-season, and some of the notable names they brought in include Brazilan winger Leandro Ribeiro, who is over from Georgian side FC Dila Gori on a season-long loan.  The 25-year-old spent last season with Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova where he made 20 league appearances, notching four goals and three assists over that span.  He will be counted on to carry a good portion of the load for the team offensively this season.  Richard Sukuta-Pasu, formerly of clubs such as MSV Duisburg, and VfL Bochum in the German Bundesliga 2, as well as Cercle Brugge and Sturm Graz in Belgium and Austria, respectively, should also be a factor up top.  He will be joined by Lazar Arsic who spent last year with Meizhou Hakka in the Chinese second tier.

The Leopards played three warmup matches in pre-season, with a pair of friendlies against Incheon United, both of which they won by identical 2-1 scores, with the latter highlighted by a brace from Won Ki-jong, and a 1-0 loss to Suwon Samsung Bluewings, with last season's Golden Boot winner Adam Taggart scoring the only goal of the match.


Previous Meetings

This will be the first-ever meeting between the two sides, as it is Jeju's first season in the second division.  They have not met in domestic cup competition, either.

Team News

With all the new additions to the club in the off-season, expectations are certainly high for the islanders, as the club will look to rebound from their unsuccessful 2019 campaign.  Touted as perennial favorites for promotion, they will now have to transfer what has been done in pre-season to the pitch on matchday.  The good news is that Nam Ki-il has a wealth of options at his disposal, and the squad has developed well in terms of depth in the lead up to this coming weekend.   

They do not have a particularly easy schedule in the month of May, with three matches away to Jeonnam Dragons, Bucheon 1995 FC (which is sure to become one of the most heated rivalries in the division this season) and Ansan Greeners, while also hosting Daejeon Hana Citizen in round three.  

Seoul E-Land is in full health to begin the season, and the expectation is that Chung Jung-yong will field an attacking eleven for Saturday afternoon as the side has three difficult matches to open their slate.  Along with the opener against Jeju, they will also have to face potential title contenders Gyeongnam FC and Jeonnam Dragons, so getting out of the gate on a high note will be important for them.

The Adversary

With a host of new faces in the fold, Seoul E-Land are hoping that 2020 will bring a change in their fortunes.  Photo courtesy of Seoul E-Land Facebook.

Kim Min-kyun is the team's new captain this season following the departure of Ahn Ji-ho, who wore the armband last season.  E-Land is a relatively young side, and they may need some time to gel, but that shouldn't be a problem for Chung Jung-yong, who has already had success with younger talent owing to the success of the U-20 World Cup side in Poland last year.

Of note, however, is the team's poor road form last year, as they only picked up six points (one win, three draws) and a lack of leadership within the group despite having a good crop of young talent.  They also struggled defensively while playing only thee at the back for much of the season, so the opening match could be a barometer of what is to come for them in the early rounds of the new campaign.

Who to Watch

The goal for Jeju United this year is promotion back to the top flight.  Things have been made noticeably easier as, due to the shortened season, there will not be a playoff to determine which club may be promoted as has been the case in years past.  The top two teams in the second division will go up, and that somewhat eases the burden of expectation on them, but results still have to come on the pitch.

Joo Min-kyu has looked particularly good in pre-season training for Jeju and will look to hit the ground running for his new club.  He is held in high regard by his new manager, who calls him a versatile striker capable of finding the back of the net.  He is likely to be the number one striker for the club this season, so there will be onus on him to produce.

Two names who could have an impact the Leopards this year are AFC U-23 champion Lee Sang-min and Kim Su-an, who made the move to the capital on a free transfer from last year's K League 1 runners-up Ulsan Hyundai.  Lee's international experience playing under Kim Hak-bum and Kim's ACL run with his former club should serve them well.

FNR

Prediction

Both teams will be looking to get off to a positive start.  There should be no concern for the islanders as they open at home and it seems they have adjusted accordingly after what has been a successful pre-season.  They have good depth at all positions, but they will need to establish chemistry early on if they are to start well.  They must be fully aware that from this point forward, everything counts and points will matter come the end of the season.  They cannot afford to take anything for granted with a stingy slate in front of them this month.

Seoul E-Land have a good foundation to build from, but how it translates on the pitch will be seen come the weekend.  They should not be taken lightly and will very likely prove to be sticky opposition for their island hosts.

Predicted Score: Jeju United 2-1 Seoul E-Land 


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