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FA Cup Preview: Busan IPark vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Busan IPark, Jeonbuk, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Two of the most recognisable names in Korean football go head to head this Wednesday evening in a FA Cup Quarter Final. Both Busan IPark and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are without an FA Cup title since the mid 2000s - but which team will progress and move two wins away from silverware? Todd Wilde previews this FA Cup clash.

Last Time Out

Busan IPark were outclassed by an impressive Daegu FC side at the DGB Daegu Bank Park, as they were convicningly beaten 3-0. Daegu went ahead early through Dejan's header, though the goal should have been chalked off after a farcical VAR decision allowed the goal to stand. Referee Kim Hee-gon was left to stand around like a lemon on the sidelines after the VAR monitor on the side of the pitch malfunctioned, before he decided to allow the goal to stand despite a clear foul by Ryu Jae-moon on Park Jun-gang in the build up.

After this incident, Busan were always the second best side as Daegu prevented their south coast rivals from crafting any decent chances, limiting the involvement and creativity of dangermen Romulo and Lee Dong-jun. Whilst Busan blew cold air in the final third, Daegu were ruthless on the counter attack, adding a second through Cesinha's curled shot after thirty minutes, and a third through Ryu Jae-moon's header, as the home side took advantage of anonymous marking in the 18 yard box.

Match Highlights:

In Busan's last FA Cup tie, a youthful second XI claimed an excellent 1-0 victory over the leaders of K League 2, Suwon FC. Park Jong-woo's late low drive from the edge of the box was enough to sneak the win, as the veteran led a side with seven U22 players into the Quarter Finals.

Jeonbuk got back to winning ways as they swept aside their traditional rivals FC Seoul 3-0 in Jeonju. Han Kyo-won put the side ahead in the 13th minute before Lee Seung-gi added a second just before half time. In the second half, coach Jose Morais rung the changes as new signings Modou Barrow and Gustavo made their debuts - the latter grabbing the side's third with an excellent headed effort from Lee Yong's floated cross. Jeonbuk remain just two points off Ulsan at the top of the K League 1 table.

Match Highlights:

Jeonbuk progressed in the Last 16 of the FA Cup after a 3-2 extra time win over local rivals Jeonnam Dragons. Lee Seung-gi, Son Jun-ho and Kunimoto all got on the scoreboard as a strong Jeonbuk side progressed to the Quarter Finals for the first time since 2016.

Previous Meetings

The last match between these two sides ended in dramatic circumstances, as Lars Veldwijk's last gasp winner gave Jeonbuk a stoppage time victory over a Busan side that had impressed in their first top flight home game for four and a half years.

Jeonbuk have dominated recent encounters between the two sides, with Busan IPark having to go back to June 2013 to find their last victory over the Jeonju based side. Jeonbuk have won 10 of their last 11 games over Busan (with the other game finishing in a draw), and have an overall record of 33 wins from 64 games over the south coast side.

Team News

The home side has used their FA Cup run as a proving ground for their promising array of youth team graduates, using no less than eight U23 players in the last two rounds. But with a comfortable mid table finish looking likely and the prospect of a home Semi Final against weaker opposition (either Suwon Samsung Bluewings or Seongnam FC), coach Cho Duk-jae may decide to throw caution to the wind and play a much stronger line up against the defending K League 1 champions.

Lee Jeong-hyeop, who was substituted at half time against Daegu FC, and Lee Gyu-seong, who was left out at the weekend, could be given a chance to shine on Wednesday evening. There could also be opportunities at centre back for Uzbek international Dostonbek Tursunov and academy graduate Kim Myung-jun, a regular in the side last season. Park Jun-gang had a torrid time against Daegu before his sending off, and with regular LBs Lee Ji-min and Yun Suk-young both injured, youngster Lee Sang-jun could step in at RB, with Kim Moon-hwan moving to LB.

Jeonbuk boss Jose Morais also has a selection dilemna, as he must decide whether to prioritise their K League 1 match against Pohang this Saturday, or a cup run and the chance of being Jeonbuk's first FA Cup winning boss for 15 years. In truth, Morais is likely to name a strong line up with several changes, rotating his team's more injury prone players such as RB Lee Yong, who will replaced by Choi Chul-soon. Koo Ja-ryong and Kim Min-hyeok could be given starts at centre back in place of Choi Bok-yung and Hong Jeong-ho, Jeonbuk's goalscorer against Busan earlier in the season.
Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook is an injury doubt and with U22 forward Cho Gue-sung woefully out of form, new signing Gustavo should be given an opportunity to start up front. Former Swansea and Reading winger Modou Barrow should also make his first start for the club opposite Murilo, as both players use the cup tie as a proving ground to be given more minutes in the league.

What To Watch

Busan IPark's chances will appear to rest on whether Cho Duk-jae chooses a strong side at the Gudeok Stadium, with a target of a top six finish looking realistic before their woeful performance away to Daegu. Given that that fifth place in the league could be enough to qualify for the AFC Champions League this year (if Sangju as expected finish in the top four, and one of the those teams wins the FA Cup), Cho must decide where his side's priorities should lie for the rest of the season.

It was a surprise for Busan supporters to see Lee Gyu-seong dropped at the weekend, as Park Jong-woo was preferred in a defensive midfield role. The midfielder was badly missed as Busan were unable to create significant chances from midfield, whilst they were desperately exposed on the counter attack. Lee should start after the rest at the weekend, and will be relied upon to break up Jeonbuk's passing rhythm in the middle of the pitch before they are able to release the ball to wingers Barrow and Murilo.

Jeonbuk meanwhile could start with a foreign front three for the first time this season, as Morais looks to utilise his full squad, increasing competition for places. With no Under 22 rule in place for the FA Cup, Morais will not be forced to start Cho Gue-song up front from the start. His half time replacement Gustavo was lively against FC Seoul and made excellent runs into good positions, with his headed goal a rich reward for his performance. This aerial presence could spell trouble for Busan centre back Dostonbek Tursunov, who has struggled to deal with crosses and attackers with strong physical assets such as Ijutcenko and Felipe this season.

Modou Barrow, Barrow, Gustavo, Jeonbuk, Jeonbuk Hyundai
Gustavo (centre) and Modou Barrow (right) made their K League debuts at the weekend
One signing which has generated excitement amongst neutral K League supporters is Jeonbuk's capture of Gambian international Modou Barrow. Barrow was a regular for English second division side Reading FC throughout the last two seasons, and was seen by Royals fans as a dependable if predictable option on the left wing. His best attribute is undoubtedly his pace, as he has left numerous fullbacks for dead even in the Premier League, but there are questions over his end product - he has been criticised by supporters of previous clubs for his failure to consistently deliver pinpoint crosses into the six yard box.

Lee Sang-jun, Busan IPark
Lee Sang-jun (centre) struggled against Gangwon but is tipped as a future star for IPark
Barrow will likely be given the chance to target Korean youth international Lee Sang-jun, which will represent an enormous challenge for the Korean U20 World Cup runner up. It is understood that the young right back is highly rated at the club, and seen as the natural successor to Kim Moon-hwan, with the Korean international destined to move on to a bigger club possibly even at the end of this season. Lee struggled to contain Gangwon FC's dynamic passing earlier in the season, but Barrow's direct pace will represent a different challenge for the youngster - a challenge he will need to rise up to if he is to show his employers that he is the future at right back.
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IPark will be looking to avenge their defeat earlier in the season, one in which Busan matched their more storied opponents for long periods. The Royals have improved dramatically since the second gameweek of the league season, and I believe they will frustrate Jeonbuk throughout - enough for the game to be decided by the lottery of a penalty shootout.

Busan IPark 1-1 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (Busan win on penalties)

With thanks to Matthew Binns for his insights.

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