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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs. Gwangju FC

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Gwangju FC

Sunday afternoon sees K League 1 leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to an in-form Gwangju FC at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Can the visitors cause an upset and maintain their winning momentum?

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

After a hard-fought victory over Incheon United the weekend prior, Jeonbuk traveled to Pohang as they looked to keep apace with Ulsan Hyundai in contention for the summit. Jeonbuk started well and had several opportunities to open the scoring early on, including Cho kyu-sung heading onto the crossbar, but it was the home side who eventually broke the deadlock just before the interval. A driving run from Lee Seung-mo up the pitch was followed by a pass out wide to Aleksandar Paločević who in turned crossed it into the box for Lee to run onto and head in beyond goalkeeper Song Beom-keun.

Substitute Han Kyo-won brought things back level for Jeonbuk on the hour mark after he managed to get a touch on Pohang defender Ha Chang-rae's unintended reflection before it could register for an own goal. Kim Min-hyeok, the man whose header had cause Ha to almost concede, turned match-winner in injury time after converting Hong Jeong-ho's flicked on header from Son Jun-ho's corner. The three points ensured Jeonbuk stayed top of the table despite Ulsan's win in Gangwon.

Gwangju FC 2-1 Incheon United

Gwangju FC looked to continue their winning run and create much-needed distance between themselves and an Incheon side who currently looks set to be in a relegation scrap come the end of the season once more. It was Felipe who opened the scoring just on the half-hour mark, registering his third goal in as many games. Lee Eu-ddeum sent in the corner to be met by the head of the in-form striker and was a deserved reward for their efforts up to that point.

Gwangju doubled their lead through a well-worked counter-attack on the 79th minute with Kim Jeong-hwan finishing the move after a perfectly timed through ball from Kim Ju-gong. Incheon did not go down without a fight though, and looked to have brought one back late on when Rashid Mahazi bundled in the loose ball. However, play was brought back by the referee and offside was called on the initial ball in from Kim Sung-ju's free-kick. Incheon did not leave empty-handed, however, picking up a late penalty and converting it through Stefan Mugosa but it proved to be merely a consolation as their winless run continues.

Previous Meetings

These two sides have met fourteen times over the years with Jeonbuk winning on nine occasions. Gwangju have won this fixture just once, back on 30th April 2017 where a Yeo Beong-hun effort just before half time proved to be the decider. The last time they met in Jeonju, Jeonbuk ran out comfortable 3-1 winners with goals from Kim Min-jae, Lee Seung-gi and Kim Shin-wook.

Team News

Jeonbuk head into this match with no major injury concerns to the first team but they do continue to be without striker Lee Dong-gook who continues his coaching course into next week. It seems Lars Veldwijk could be entrusted to start up front in Lee's absence, likely either meaning Cho Kyu-sung wide instead of Murilo or Lee Soo-bin will be handed a chance in defensive midfield so the team can adhere to their U22 quota obligations.

Gwangju's main concern ahead of this match will be the fitness regarding Eom Won-sang who will be touch and go up until matchday. Otherwise, it may well be a similar team to that which faced Incheon. The manager will have to choose between Lim Min-hyeok and Choi Jun-hyeok in central midfield after the former came in and played well on Wednedsay but Choi could be preferred here as the player is considered more defensive-minded.

The Adversary

After promotion to the top-flight last season, Gwangju had initially found life in the top-flight tough going. However, they head to Jeonju this Sunday having gone unbeaten in their last four outings and winning their last three. Their upturn in form has coincided with the return of wingers Kim Jeong-hwan, Willyan and Eom Wan-sang who were absent from the early rounds, which in turn has helped increase the supply to striker Felipe and thus resulting in goals once more for the 2019 K League 2 Golden Boot winner.

Without these midfielders, Gwangju FC had significantly increased their long passes in the hope of using Felipe as a target man to no real avail, but now the team is looking more like the side that swaggered to the summit of the second tier once more and finding themselves looking comfortable in seventh.

Who To Watch

Kim Min-hyeok

While it is perhaps odd to select a defender in a match where Jeonbuk are expected to be on the front foot for most of the proceedings, it is worth pointing out how defensively reassured the side look since Kim Min-hyeok returned to fold. Having initially started the season struggling with fitness, Kim returned to action midway through Jeonbuk's loss to Gangwon after his fellow centre-back Hong Jeong-ho was dismissed and now looks set to hold onto his position after some solid displays.

His recent match against Pohang Steelers saw him lift the Player of the Round award, partly due to his last-minute heroics, but also for his performance as a whole. Kim was tasked with marking Pohang's top scorer Stanislav Iljutcenko for the ninety minutes and did so, with the striker barely getting a look in at goal. It seems likely he will be tasked with keeping Felipe quiet on Sunday on the occasions Gwangju can counter quickly.

Against Pohang and FC Seoul, Kim found him successful on over 90% of the duels he engaged in, winning 100% of aerial duels in both matches as well. He also boasts notable passing accuracy of 88.8% though this is likely due to shorter passes being played out from the back where he is less likely to play riskier balls.

It is worth noting though that he was far less successful in marking Incheon United's Stefan Mugoša last weekend in which was by far the least impressive showing in his four appearances this year, with the striker often dropping deep to pull Kim out of position and then attempt to flick on the ball to a teammate. This is partly in credit to the striker himself it should be said but is cause for concern. Fortunately for Jeonbuk, there were never any dangerous opportunities carved out but could be a template Gwangju could consider ahead of Sunday's clash.

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While Gwangju are in form, it remains difficult to look past Jeonbuk here. The visitors' greatest strength will be the ability to counter and, while evidence from the previous matches suggest they are capable, Jeonbuk's probable backline consisting of considerable Korean national team experience should have enough to quell that. As has been the case for the hosts this season, their biggest obstacle is in finding goalscorers but they have continued to find ways past teams without playing to their best and will likely repeat this feat once more come Sunday evening.

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