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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs. Gangwon FC

K League 1 Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs. Gangwon FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors enter their K League 1 clash with Gangwon FC on the back of five consecutive victories as they continue their chase of Ulsan Hyundai for first place. Meanwhile, Gangwon have not celebrated a win in six and are looking far from the exciting proposition suggested by their early season showings. Can the visitors pull off an upset in Jeonju or will the champions maintain pressure on first-place? Matthew Binns previews the match.

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 Sangju Sangmu

A Kim Jin-su masterclass inspired Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to a 2-1 victory over a high-flying Sangju Sangmu side in an entertaining affair. Kim, linking up with Modou Barrow down the left-flank, helped create the opener within three minutes, providing a delicately weighted cross to the head of 19-year-old Lee Sung-yoon for his first professional goal. However, it was another 19-year-old, Sangju striker Oh Hyun-gyu, who headed in an equaliser ten minutes later, also claiming his first league goal in the process. Both sides carved out chances throughout the match in a bid to try and claim the winner but it was once again Kim Jin-su who proved to be instrumental for the home side, delivering in a cross to the head of Brazilian forward Gustavo to claim all three points with minutes to spare.

Gangwon FC 0-0 Daegu FC

Gangwon FC came into this match on the back of five winless matches and rarely looked like posing a threat to the travelling Daegu. The visitors created several chances to claim the points, with a front three of Cesinha, Edgar Silva and Kim Dae-won posing a number of problems for the hosts. Gangwon meanwhile found themselves frustrated by Daegu's organisation and were left to resort to speculative shots that barely troubled goalkeeper Gu Sung-yun. Overall, the home side could consider themselves fortunate to finish with a clean sheet and a point but were denied one opportunity to steal all three at the death when Ko Moo-yeol saw his 88th-minute shot spilt to the feet of Kim Seung-dae. However, Kim was unable to bring the ball under control quick enough to get a shot away and the match finished goalless.

Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk and Gangwon have clashed 23 times over the years with the North Jeolla side coming out overwhelmingly on top with seventeen wins to Gangwons four. However, their last meeting fell in favour of Gangwon with former Jeonbuk attacker Ko Moo-yeol scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win, a game that also saw Jeonbuk reduced to ten men within 15 minutes after Hong Jeong-ho received a straight red card for a professional foul.

Team News

Heading into this weekend Jeonbuk remain without striker Lee Dong-gook but, with Gustavo in scoring-form, Lee's long-term has yet to be felt. Lee Yong is also in the process of returning from injury and could set to be replaced by Choi Chul-soon once more. Last week's goalscorer in Lee Sung-joon could be given another start in order to meet the U22 quota, likely at the expense of Han Kyo-won on the right-wing for at least the first half. As for Gangwon, the biggest selection issue for them is the loss of forward Kim Seung-dae who is unable to play against Jeonbuk having been loaned to the visitors from the champions.

What To Watch

Kim Jin-su

With rumoured interest from Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr FC continuing to swell, Jeonbuk left-back Kim Jin-su put on a display reminiscent of his arrival in the K League back in 2017 and showed exactly why he is so highly coveted. Kim's passing and link-up play with Modou Barrow down the left channel tormented Sangju Sangmu last week and his two perfectly-weighted assists ensured that he would earn the league's MVP award for the round.

Kim was the highest-paid player in the division last year and, with his contract set to end at the end of the season, Al Nassr could significantly improve his wages while allowing Jeonbuk to cash in last minute. However, Seoul Sports have reported amongst others that Jeonbuk have rejected a large offer for the defender and, given his showing last weekend, it is not difficult to see why. If the North Jeolla club are to claim a historic fourth consecutive title plus compete in Asia then they will need their best players through until the end of the season.

Is 'Byung-soo Ball' broken?

Cho Jae-wan's magnificent pirouetted backheel to take a late lead against FC Seoul in the opening round of the season seems an age ago given Gangwon FC's current form. Cho's goal summarised what was thought to encapsulate what this side had been about and pointed to a season of excitement ahead. 'Byung-soo Ball', named after manager Kim Byung-soo and his preferred style of passing play, had entered the Korean footballing lexicon and suddenly there was another top-half side to fear.

Seventeen rounds on though and the results have been mixed with their once-scintillating performances stagnating of late. Six league games without a win, not to mention crashing out of the FA Cup, has shone an unwanted spotlight on the manager, with accusations that perhaps he lacks a Plan B. However, as pointed out recently in an article by football coach Michael Booroff, Kim has sought to adjust his style to counter the rate of conceding and resort to a more traditional backline to shore things up, in turn taking its toll on the attack moving forward. Perhaps then this period is merely a transition as 'Byung-soo Ball' continues its evolution into something that could be both stable and attractive. What it does mean for now though is that Gangwon have not looked as beatable as this in a while and are heading into the weekend against the league's most in-form side.

[LISTEN: Is it the end of the road for 'Byung-soo Ball'?]

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The form guide makes this particular fixture easy to call, with Jeonbuk favourites to continue their pursuit of the title. Gangwon did get the upper hand over the champions back in May, although did require a man advantage. Considering their recent results and the absence of Kim Seung-dae though, a point would be considered a very positive result for the visitors.

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