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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United

Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United FC

This Saturday sees Jeonnam Dragons take on newly relegated Jeju United FC in K League 2. Jeju will be making the trip to Gwangyang Football Stadium, and will be looking for three points after a disappointing draw from both sides in round one. K League United's Joshua Higgins previews the upcoming match.

Match: Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United
Venue: Gwangyang Football Stadium
Kick-off: Saturday, 16th May 2020; 4pm

Last Time Out

Gyeongnam FC 0 - 0 Jeonnam Dragons

The opening game of the season turned out to be a largely scrappy affair that lacked any real quality from both sides, with plenty of fouls, and where neither team managed to control the game, resulting in a fair draw. 

The Dragons defence nullified Gyeongnam for the most part, causing them to often abandon their plan of working to ball into dangerous areas with intricate passing, and instead sent in deep crosses from either fullback to no effect.

Jeonnam's new look, youthful team, favored a more direct approach, trying to utilize new, 199cm, front man Julian Kristoffersen. They found themselves in good positions on the counter attack a few times, and offered a threat on set pieces, but lacked the quality to find the back of the net. Despite that, they will have been happy with taking a point away from a team favored for promotion this season.

Jeju United 1 - 1 Seoul E-Land

The islanders welcomed Seoul E-Land to the Jeju World Cup Stadium for what was expected to be a straightforward victory for their introduction to K League 2. However, the game was anything but straightforward, and saw a penalty, red card, and a late winner for Seoul E-Land ruled out by VAR, concluding in a draw.

The game consisted of the home side trying to play positive football, and linking up well through a combination of short, one touch, passing. Despite seeing more of the ball, they lacked a killer blow, with their only goal of the match coming via a penalty.

Watching them play, you get the feeling that their results this year will largely depend on whether their attacking players are having a good day. They have flair and ability enough to create opportunities up front, but they concede far too many chances at the back. That being said, Seoul E-Land striker Leandro Ribeiro was outstanding for his team on Saturday, and caused chaos almost every time he received the ball, without him, this game could have had a different ending.

Previous Meetings

As a result of Jeonnam's relegation to the K League 2 during the 2018 season, the Dragons and Jeju haven't been opposition since September 2018, a game that Jeju United won 1-0 at home, with a solitary goal from Tiago Marques in the 24th minute.

The previous ten meetings between the clubs have yielded eight wins for Jeju, one draw, and one win for the Dragons. For that win, we have to go all the way back to July 2016, in which Jeonnam triumphed 2-1, thanks to two late goals from Jair (81) and Kim Young-uk (87), which makes for grim reading for Jeonnam fans.

Team News

Jeonnam are still likely to be without new signing Rodolfo after injuring his knee during pre-season, but look to have a full squad available otherwise. Manager Jeon Kyung-jun may look to freshen things up front, especially if Rodolfo is match fit, but owing to the defensive display last Sunday, it seems unlikely anything will be changed at the back.

Jeju central defender Kwon Han-jin picked up a knock against Seoul E-Land at the end of the first half and was replaced by Lim Dong-hyuk, so may miss out this weekend. Valentinos Sielis (defence) didn't make it on to the pitch last weekend with suspected lingering effects from a neck injury picked up in pre-season. If fit, it's likely Sielis will make his season debut against the Dragons. Eder Lima (attack) didn't make the bench against Seoul E-Land and it's unclear whether that was a tactical decision or an unknown injury.

The Adversary

Jeju had 55% of possession against Seoul E-Land and were able to put together several effective passages of play, which you feel will be a familiar statistic this season for Jeju, with the squad they have at their disposal, and how comfortable they look with the ball at their feet.

That game saw Ahn Hyun-beom unluckily strike the crossbar with virtually the last kick of the match, so the potential for the islanders to become a team which can consistently find the back of the net is certainly there, but they need to oil the gears a bit more before things really start moving in the right direction.  A lot of work has been done to prepare for the new season, so it may only be a matter of time before they start firing on all cylinders.

Kim Min-gyun and Lim Dok-gun fight for the ball last Saturday.

Despite their only goal of the game coming from a penalty, their goal scorer, Joo Min-kyu has already drawn considerable praise from Jeju manager Nam Ki-il, who calls him a versatile striker capable of doing the things necessary to help the team score goals, putting an emphasis on the effectiveness of his finishing during the pre-season, marking him out to be a key player for Jeju this season.

Who To Watch

Although many Jeju United fans feel he wasn't used effectively last season, it looks as though Costa Rica international Elias Aguilar will play a major part in the islanders plans for getting back to K League 1. The creative midfielder was at the center of everything for Jeju last weekend, and if it had been another day, may have opened up his scoring account for this season. Perhaps he should have done better with all three of his shots against Seoul E-Land, but he will take confidence from the fact he was able to effectively find space in the opposition third, even if his shooting was a bit rusty.

The Dragons defended resolutely in their opening game, but Aguilar will offer up a different challenge as he routinely drifts between opposition defense and midfield, making him difficult to mark, after clearly been given licence by Jeju manager Nam Ki-il to roam where he sees fit.

Aguilar takes on Seoul E-Land players in the season opener at Jeju World Cup Stadium.

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Both teams will feel they are capable of winning this one, Jeonnam will surely be encouraged by how easily Seoul E-Land managed to create chances against Jeju, and will be looking to do the same.

Jeju, on the other hand will be confident their match fitness is coming back, and that individually they have more quality than the Dragons.

Ultimately Jeju were most vulnerable against Seoul E-Land when they lost the ball in the opposition half, and judging by the previous game, Jeonnam are set up specifically to counter in those sorts of situations. Combining that with their obvious defensive work on the training ground, I have the Dragons scraping a win in a close game.

I still feel Jeju will be automatic promotion contenders, and certainly in the playoffs, but it may take some time for them to find their feet in K League 2 and gain some much needed confidence which they lost in their disappointing 2019 campaign.

Full-time Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 1 - 0 Jeju United

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