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Islanders Still in Search of Number Two as They Prepare to Face Bluewings

Jeju United welcome Suwon Bluewings on Sunday afternoon with both sides separated in the table by just three points.  Both teams had to settle for draws in midweek, Jeju at home against Gangwon FC and Suwon on the road against Incheon United.  The visitors to the World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo have had a noticeable advantage in the head to head series through the years.  Will that trend continue, or will the Tangerines persevere for the second win of the season?  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.

Match: Jeju United vs Suwon Bluewings
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Sunday April 11th, 2021; 16:00 KST

Recent Form

Islanders Still in Search of Second Win of the Season

The draw against Gangwon FC in midweek represented the third time this season that Jeju had opened the scoring in a match, only to concede shortly thereafter and settle for just a point at the final whistle.  Goals have been hard to come by; that is a trend that needs to change if Nam Ki-il's men are to be a competitive factor in the division in the months to come.  They have been mostly sound defensively, but that will only be able to hold up for so long if the goal drought persists over time.  

The good news is that Joo Min-kyu is finally off the mark, having scored in each of the past two matches, in a 2-1 loss to Suwon FC, which was mired in controversy for several questionable officiating decisions and again against Gangwon last time out, hinting that he may establish himself as the team's number one striker for the near future.  He'll need to be a threat on Sunday afternoon if the islanders are to have a shout at just their second win of the season.

Bluewings Back Down to Earth

After opening the season unbeaten in five, including back to back clean sheets against Gwangju FC and Seongnam FC to open the season, and a 3-0 drubbing of Pohang Steelers, things have gone in quite a different direction in the past three matches following a 2-1 loss to FC Seoul in the latest edition of the Super Match, a loss to Jeonbuk at home last weekend and a stalemate at Incheon in midweek.

There was a lot of talk surrounding the club in preseason and in particular their chances of creating a potential surprise in the top half of the division following the job that Park Kun-ha did after taking over last season as they made it to the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League before bowing out on penalties to J League side Vissel Kobe.

They currently sit fourth in the table but the division is very tight this year, so points will be at a premium, especially up until the end of May when the league goes into a break for the beginning of the summer months due to the resumption of play in the Champions League and Asian qualifiers for Qatar 2022.

Team News

Jeju United

There were some good things to come out of the last match against Gangwon, notably the return of Kim Young-wook, who had been out injured since the beginning of the season.  Once he entered proceedings, the islanders looked a much more dangerous outfit on the offensive side of things, so the expectation is that last year's K League 2 assist leader will re-take a regular position in the starting eleven this weekend.  The contention is that his return was delayed so that he could be brought back at full fitness so as to avoid any setback in aggravating his previous injury.

Joo Min-kyu has been on the scoresheet in each of the past two matches for the islanders.
Joo Min-kyu has finally found his scoring touch, getting on the score sheet in each of the past two contests, and he looks set to lead the line against Suwon as well.  Jin Seong-wook and Oskar Zawada have also started up top this season, but with limited success.  The Pole did not play in each of the past two matches, as he was left out of the squad on both occasions.  There has been no hint of injury, but with the schedule becoming congested of late, it would come down to rotation to keep the squad fresh.

One who did not feature against Gangwon was Ahn Hyun-beom, who was given a rest after picking up a knock against Suwon FC last weekend as Kang Yoon-sung started in his place.  The hope is that a serious injury is not in question and that he will be available. 

Suwon Bluewings

Park Kun-ha has a variety of options to face Jeju on Sunday afternoon.
There is a lot of talent with this club, as evidenced by the likes of veteran Yeom Ki-hun, who, despite being used mostly as a substitute this year, continues to contribute well for the club where he has spent the majority of his career when he has been called upon.  Kim Gun-hee is the co-leader in goals with youngster Jung Sang-bin with two apiece and captain Kim Min-woo is the man who dictates the tempo in midfield.

There will likely not be a change in the strike partnership of the aforementioned pair, especially with the third round of the FA Cup coming in midweek next week, which means there is a good chance that Uroš Đerić will likely not be selected for the starting eleven on the weekend so that he can be in the rotation when Suwon face Daejeon Hana Citizen.

Park Kun-ha is likely to select his strongest eleven against Jeju.  They lined up in a 3-5-2 against Incheon with Lee Ki-je and Kim Tae-hwan playing out wide in midfield, and there is reason to believe that they should line up in a similar shape for the coming match.

What to Watch

Can Jeju maintain a lead?

Jeju have been snake-bitten on several occasions this year in being that they have unsuccessfully held on to advantages from leading positions, as was the case against Gangwon.  This is a worrying trend for the team and it is exacerbated by the lack of goal production up front.  There was a lot of good chemistry with the club last season which resulted in automatic promotion at the first time of asking, but a step up in competition is still taking time in terms of re-adjustment.

The majority of the squad already has experience playing in the first division.  However, the new pieces such as Gerso Fernandes, still need a bit of time to accustom themselves to the style of play in the K League.  It is important to note that each of the next two times the sides face each other this season, Jeju will be the away team, so picking up points from the match this time around is of paramount importance, especially considering the opportunity they have to move up the table with things as tight as they are.

In the head to head, Suwon have won twenty-two matches, while Jeju have won twelve with five matches ending in draws.  The last meeting between them was one to forget for Jeju as it sealed their relegation to K League 2 at the end of the 2019 season.  It did, however, signal change at the club and led to the dawn of the Nam Ki-il era, which has seen one of the most successful periods in islanders' history.

Who to Watch

Ko Seung-beom - Suwon Bluewings

The 26 year old central midfielder had a March to remember, as he was named Team MVP.  He currently leads the division in assists with four and has been instrumental in everything the team has done thus far in the offensive half of the pitch.  He has pieces around him to cause problems to Jeju's back three, and is not a stranger of going for goal himself, so there are many sides to his game that the islanders will have to be aware of at all times.  

Indeed, he credits his teammates for being able to be such an integral part of the Bluewings' attack:

"Thanks to the performances of my colleagues, I was able to accumulate attack points.  I think the fans enjoyed it.  There are many matches in April, so there is a need to prepare well, both physically and mentally.  I will do my best to continue my good form," he said upon receiving the team honor.

His presence will be duly noted when the teams kick off on Sunday at 4 p.m.

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