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ACL Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs. Shanghai SIPG


After domestic success in both league and cup, K League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors resume their AFC Champions League campaign this Sunday with their eyes now set on an unprecedented 'treble'. However, with only a point from their first two group games, the Green Warriors will have to hit the ground running amid mounting injuries. First up, the Korean side face Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG and a familiar face who could be set to pose them some problems. 

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 Ulsan Hyundai (3-2 Agg)

Jeonbuk were last in action two weeks ago in the FA Cup Final where they overcame their league title rivals Ulsan Hyundai to lift a domestic 'double', the team's first in its history. The 2nd leg in Jeonju saw Jeonbuk initially cede their advantage within just three minutes when Junior Negrão tapped in his rebounded header to give the visitors the lead. However, two second-half strikes from attacking midfield Lee Seung-gi put Jeonbuk back into the driving seat as they saw out the tie and claimed the trophy.



Sydney FC 1-2 Shanghai SIPG

After seven matches winless (within ninety minutes) on the domestic front, Shanghai SIPG managed to salvage a victory against A-League champions Sydney FC. It was not made easy for the Chinese Super League side, having fallen behind in the first half to a goal from Trent Buhagiar and lucky not to have had a second goal to surmount due to Sydney hitting the post. However, two second-half headers from Li Shenglong overturned the deficit, and with Sydney being reduced to ten men after goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle was given his marching orders late on, ensured the Chinese side got their continental campaign off to a winning start.


Previous Meetings

Jeonbuk and Shanghai SIPG have came up against one another four times in their history but this will be the first time in the group stages. In 2016, both sides met in the quarter-finals where, after a 0-0 in China, Jeonbuk went on to defeat Shanghai 5-0 at home. These two teams also met one another in the Round of 16 last year and, after two 1-1 legs saw the tie go to penalties and the Korean champions crash out.



Team News

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

The biggest news heading into this fixture for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors is the loss of defensive midfielder and recently anointed K League 1 MVP Son Jun-ho, who has been sent back to Korea after international friendlies as a precaution due to 10 members of the Korean National Team squad and setup tested positive for COVID-19. Manager José Morais does have back up options, however, in the experienced Shin Hyung-min and youngster Lee Soo-bin, although both will struggle to match the influence Son has had this year.

Left-back Lee Ju-young has also suffered the same fate as Son after his involvement in Korea's international friendlies. The ramifications for Jeonbuk in this case though are far more worrying, leaving Choi Chul-soon the only full-back in the entire squad with minutes this season. 36-year-old and 2016 AFC Champions League winner Park Won-jae has travelled with the squad and could be asked to fill in although the manager may opt to utilise a winger such as Murilo or Han Kyo-won in the position instead.

Jeonbuk will also be without centre-back Choi Bo-kyung who sits out through suspension but have plenty of cover in this position, with Hong Jeong-ho and Kim Min-hyeok likely to start there. Right-back Lee Yong and attacking midfielder Takahiro Kunimoto are also ruled out of the tournament through injuries picked up across both legs of the FA Cup.

Modou Barrow has also flown out to be with the squad towards the end of this week after his involvement in Gambia's matches but, having not trained with the side for a few weeks, could well start from the bench.

The rest of Jeonbuk’s side is expected to be similar to that of which started the last FA Cup match.


Shanghai SIPG

Shanghai SIPG could continue to be without their lead assist maker Oscar ahead of this match and they will not have Marko Arnautović who has not travelled to Doha due to the squad restrictions on overseas players.  

In terms of their foreign contingent, the Shanghai side not only boast the aforementioned Oscar, but will be captained by Hulk who is now playing his fifth season for the club. The attacker is certainly familiar with Jeonbuk, having lined up against them in every encounter between these two sides, and was key in pulling his team through the knockout rounds last season at Jeonbuk's expense, scoring the late equaliser to take the match into extra time. 

However, it is Aaron Mooy that might cause the Green Warriors the most concern. The Australian midfielder made his move from English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion in the summer and has taken to life in Shanghai well. The player's performance on Wednesday evening was key to Shanghai overturning the deficit, providing an excellent assist to initially bring things level.


Jeonbuk will be wise to be wary of a number of Shanghai's domestic talents as well. Goalscorer Li Shenglong proved to be a dangerous aerial threat with his two powerful headers to give his side the lead although the 28-year-old has been unable to find the net in 17 league appearances this season. Further down the pitch, left-back Wang Shenchao can pose a threat on the overlap, particularly with Ricardo Lopes set to be positioned in front of him and with Jeonbuk's full-back vulnerabilities at present. Wang has scored three and assisted two in the CSL this season.


What To Watch

Ricardo Lopes Returns



Sunday's fixture sees former Jeonbuk winger Ricardo Lopes line up against his previous side for this first time since his high-profile transfer last winter. After lifting three league titles and the AFC Champions League with the Green Warriors during his four-season stint, the Brazilian made the switch to the Chinese Super League and took to his new surroundings with ease, scoring five goals in seventeen league appearances, though admittedly these goals were divided across just three matches. 

Jeonbuk will be well aware of the threat posed by Lopes, with the winger scoring double digits in three of his four seasons at the club and being one of their most reliable outlets moving forward, so much so that it took a good portion of this season for them to rekindle their attacking prowess, namely through the addition of Modou Barrow and the rediscovered form of Han Kyo-won. With Jeonbuk missing key personnel in both full-back positions, Lopes could well be set to expose his former club if given time on the flanks and dash their hopes in the competition if they cannot find a victory.



FNR

Prediction

Jeonbuk come into this match both in strong form and vulnerable due to injuries and player unavailibitly. The Korean champions could be set to be exposed out wide if Shanghai SIPG take that opportunity. However, with Oscar potentially still unavailable to dictate things in midfield, the Chinese side could struggle to get going as they did against Sydney, allowing Jeonbuk's attacking talent to capitalise early on.


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