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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs. Seongnam FC

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs Seongnam FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors saw their lead at the summit slip back to just a solitary point after a disappointing defeat last weekend and will be hoping that facing eleventh placed Seongnam FC could see them quickly get back on track. Seongnam have been out of form of recent, failing to find to net, and will know they face an uphill struggle on Saturday evening.

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 1-0 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

After overcoming the difficult task of Ulsan Hyundai to move themselves four points clear at the summit, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors conspired to undo their hard work as they proceeded to fall to military Sangju Sangmu last Sunday. Once again, Jeonbuk struggled to create clear cut chances and the opportunities they opted to take were often ambitious, off-target or unthreatening. Even club talisman Lee Dong-gook could not provide the champions the lead, striking the crossbar from the penalty spot on the hour mark. In the end, Sangju earned a penalty with just under a quarter of an hour to go and then duly converted through Kang Sang-woo. Jeonbuk's misery was further compounded in injury time when Kim Jin-su was shown a direct red for a late tackle on former teammate Moon Seon-min, ruling himself out of Jeonbuk's next two matches.

Seongnam FC 0-4 Pohang Steelers

Seongnam FC continued their miserable run of form with a heavy defeat to Pohang Steelers. It took 22 minutes for the visitors to open their account, with Song Min-kyu firing in from the edge of the area into the top corner. Seongnam thought they have pulled one back shortly after but it was ruled out by VAR. The visitors would double their lead minutes before the break through Stanislav Iljutcenko. The German striker linked up well with Song Min-kyu within the penalty area to set up a tap-in from six yards out.

Song Min-kyu was yet again in action for the third goal, receiving the ball from Iljutcenko, moving it to his left and firing in low at the goalkeeper's near post. Manuel Palacios would then wrap up the points for the Steelers, converting the rebound from Shim Dong-woon's initial low driven shot that was saved by the 'keeper. Tomislav Kiš thought he had pulled one back for the hosts with a well-stuck shot from the area that was pushed onto the crossbar by the goalkeeper, but overall it had been a well-deserved victory for the Steelers.

Previous Meetings

These two sides have met on 70 occasions, with Jeonbuk leading the victories by 31 to 24. Last season saw two draws between the teams and a Jeonbuk victory. Their last meeting in Jeonju came in August last season, with Jeonbuk striker Samuel Rosa equalising late on after Lim Chai-min had given Seongnam the lead from the penalty spot earlier on.

Team News

The biggest news for Jeonbuk heading into this match is the loss of left-back Kim Jin-su whose straight red card at the end of last weekend sees him miss this match and next week's encounter with Incheon United. Kim will likely be replaced by Choi Chul-soon. Jeonbuk also remain without central midfielder Kim Bo-kyung who is set to be sidelined for another 3-5 weeks with an ankle injury. Last time out, Kim was replaced by Lee Soo-bin in midfield and the manager could opt for the same tactic. Alternatively, Shin Hyung-min could make his first start since returning to the club and a central midfield partnership of Son Jun-ho and Lee Seung-gi could be preferred.

Seongnam manager Kim Nam-il will return to the club where he plied his trade as a player but will do so without defender Lee Chang-yong who remains suspended. However, they are at least able to welcome back another defender, Choi Ji-mook to the fold who has completed his suspension. Striker Hong Si-hoo may return, with his training with the South Korea U-19s coming to an end on Friday, but it could perhaps be too soon to start. Last week also saw midfielder Seo Bo-min return to the team from the bench, replacing Choi Oh-baek after just eighteen minutes, and could feature from the start on Saturday.

The Adversary

Widely tipped to struggle this season, Seongnam FC looked like they could subvert expectations with some promising early results yet recent weeks have seen them fall in line with how many predicted them to do. Seongnam have now not won in their last six, picking up one point in that period and scoring just two goals; one from the penalty spot and the other an own goal.

The club have tried to rectify this lack of potency in front of goal, signing midfielder and former K League 2 Golden Boot winner Na Sang-ho on loan from FC Tokyo after a quieter first season at the J.League outfit. Na scored 16 league goals in his final season for Gwangju FC in 2018 and could certainly inject some life into this Magpies team. Na has made two substitute appearances so far and could be pushing for a start come Saturday.

While a lack of goals is certainly worrying, Seongnam had been holding out their opposition to just one or two goals maximum, that is until they were swept away so easily by Pohang. Suspensions did not help but there will be concern amongst the coaching staff about how easily they fell against the Steelers and if Jeonbuk could inflict a similar scoreline.

What To Watch

Are Jeonbuk overdue a heavy win?

Jeonbuk can certainly not complain about finding wins this season, with all but two of their outings resulting in three-point hauls thus far, but there is certainly a case to be made about how they have looked in each of those victories. Their 4-1 win over FC Seoul looked to be a turning point but was quickly undermined by other sides also enjoying convincing scorelines against the capital club.

Jeonbuk have taken by far the most shots in the league this season yet have the second-worst accuracy in the division, trailing only to bottom of the table Incheon United. In terms of xG, Jeonbuk have the highest with 20.69 but have only found the net fifteen times, the biggest discrepancy in terms of underperformance.

Looking at the build-up, Jeonbuk have mostly preferred a construction method of crosses into the box, a stat they rank highest for (185). The delivery cannot be faulted too much either as Jeonbuk have the most accurate crosses in the league with 42.2% finding their target, something to be expected when the likes of Lee Yong, Son Jun-ho and Kim Jin-su are the architects.

Jeonbuk also lead in headed shots (26), perhaps to be expected given their preference of delivery. However, only three have found the net, all from set-pieces, not crosses, which puts them joint-second with Gwangju FC and three off Daegu FC in first for headed goals. If Jeonbuk are to continue with this preference of attack, they should at least try to become proficient at it.

So many times this season they have looked static forward and have often worn down their opposition's resolve over ninety minutes and thanks to depth from the bench. However, Jeonbuk remain top of the table despite not being at their best. The thought could be that when it does click, one unfortunate side could be on the wrong end of a high scoreline.

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Despite their lack of resolve against Pohang Steeler, Seongnam have been able to make things difficult for the likes of Ulsan in terms of keeping them at bay. It is likely the Magpies will turn up to defend and frustrate Jeonbuk and, if they can do so like they have before, it will likely make for a narrow scoreline, but probably one in favour of the hosts.

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