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Islanders and Horangi to Face Off in Final Match Before Extended Break

Jeju United head into their final match against Ulsan Hyundai before the extended break winless in their past seven matches, having thrown away golden opportunities in their past two matches against Gwangju FC and Seongnam FC to make up ground in the table.  The Horangi, meanwhile, have climbed to the summit of K League 1 with a three point cushion and a match to spare on the strength of their own seven match unbeaten run.  With the FA Cup in midweek, Hong Myung-bo's side for the weekend may look a bit different than usual.  Will the respective managers roll the dice?  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.

Match: Jeju United vs Ulsan Hyundai
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday May 29th, 2021; 16:30 KST

Recent Form

Islanders Reeling After Strong Start

Jeju United have hit a bump in the road lately with the tight schedule taking a toll on the club in terms of the sheer volume of matches played in a short stretch, resulting in injuries to several key players.  They have struggled recently not having won in their past seven matches, so the upcoming break will be a chance for them to nurse themselves back to full health ahead of the second half of the season which is to resume in July following Asian World Cup qualifiers and the completion of the Asian Champions League group stage.  Missed opportunities against Gwangju FC and Seongnam FC in their past two matches will sting but they will have to find a way to rebound if they are to head into the recess on a positive note.

The performance against Gwangju was particularly worrying as they did not look threatening in the final third at all for the duration of the match.  They were fortunate to come away with a point on the road thanks to Oh Seung-hoon, who has been one of the more consistent performers for the club this season.  They quickly coughed up the lead in the late stages of the first half against Seongnam after Joo Min-kyu had put them ahead and that was followed by a flat second half once again.  Nam Ki-il will have to look to what works best for him if the team is to avoid another setback.

Horangi Look to Stay in Form

Ulsan have looked a much different side of late after their 3-0 defeat to Suwon Samsung Bluewings in mid-April.  Back to back signature wins against former league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Pohang Steelers last weekend in the East Coast Derby have them three points clear at the top with a match in hand.  Lee Dong-jun has had a big part in that success, leading the team with five goals and one assist so far this campaign.  At plus twelve, they have the best goal difference of any side in the division, and with four clean sheets during their current run, they will be difficult to break down defensively.

Team News

Jeju United

Oskar Zawada has shown flashes but continues to search for his first goal in an islanders uniform.
Oskar Zawada returned from injury last time out against Seongnam and played the first half before being substituted at the beginning of the second half for Gong Min-hyun.  Particularly worrying statistically speaking was the fact that Jeju only had four shots on target out of fourteen attempts against the Magpies and their overall passing was under eighty percent.  They have not utilized possession as much as they should be this season and it has contributed to the recent string of poor results.  

Nam Ki-il is well aware that the packed schedule of late has had a significant impact on his players and looks for them to rest physically and mentally following the match this weekend.

"The players need to recharge physically and mentally.  The stress level has been high lately.  The players need a rest," he said.

Gerso Fernandes scored his first goal for the club last weekend, also adding an assist and the manager was quick to point out the fact that the former MLS star has been adapting to football in Korea much better of late.

Joo Min-kyu is currently joint top goal scorer in K League 1 with nine goals this season.
"Even though we didn't get the result we wanted, it was good to see the combination play between Gerso, [Oskar] Zawada, and Joo Min-kyu.  It is good to know that I have strategic options and I will be able to do more in the future with them."

Hong Sung-wook was responsible for an own goal against Seongnam, but Nam sees that with increased playing time, the young defender has shown growth in a short time.

"The result of the own goal was a circumstance of him trying hard to make the right play.  I hope he will learn a lesson from it and continue to develop as a player.  It's unfortunate, but it is part of the process in development as a player," he concluded.

Ahn Hyun-beom was injured in the match against Daegu FC on May 16th and there is not currently a timetable for his return, although he is expected to miss a considerable amount of time according to reports.  Song Ju-hoon will move to Gimcheon Sangmu and is unavailable for selection.  Kim Hyun-woo and Lee Jung-moon are also still nursing knocks and will most likely not return until the summer.  Lee Dong-ryul returned recently from injury and played against both Daegu and Gwangju but was kept on the bench last week.  He will be an option for the U-22 spot in the starting eleven this weekend.

It will be a special occasion for captain Lee Chang-min, who will make his 200th K League appearance on Saturday afternoon.

"Playing in 200 career matches is important but ending our current streak is more urgent.  Ulsan's greatest strength is their midfield play, where they have a lot of good players, including my former teammate Yoon Bit-garam."  

"As a team, we have to approach the match with fight and determination.  I will do everything I can so that after the match, a team achievement instead of my own personal record will be the main headline," he was quoted as saying in a press release from the club.

Kang Yoon-sung has been called to the U-23 national team by Kim Hak-bum to take part in a pair of friendly matches in June against Ghana.  There is a very strong chance he will be named to the final Olympic squad after being a big part of the side which won Korea's first-ever AFC U23 Championship in Thailand last year, meaning he likely will not be available to the club after this weekend until mid-August at the earliest if quarantine measures are still in full effect.

Ulsan Hyundai

Yoon Bit-garam scored the only goal of the match in Ulsan's 1-0 win in the East Coast Derby last weekend.
Former Jeju United standout Yoon Bit-garam scored the only goal of the match in the Horangi's 1-0 victory last weekend in the East Coast Derby over Pohang Steelers.  That makes it seven unbeaten in the league for the defending Asian champions.  Their 3-0 success in the FA Cup against Gyeongnam FC, thanks to goals from Lee Dong-jun, Kim In-sung, and Kim Ji-hyun means they also progress to the tournament quarterfinals.

It looks to be a very busy time ahead for Hong Myung-bo's men as five Ulsan players were called up for the remainder of second round Asian World Cup qualifiers next month while another three were called to the U-23 Olympic side for friendly matches against Ghana.  The senior call-ups include Jo Hyun-woo, Hong Chul (who has been injured, so his inclusion in the side is a bit of a mystery), Kim Tae-hwan, Won Du-jae, and Lee Dong-gyeongSeol Young-woo, Lee Dong-jun, and Oh Se-hun (currently at Gimcheon Sangmu to complete his military service) will join Kim Hak-bum's side.

Once the international break concludes, they will be right back at it, as they will play a makeup fixture against Seongnam FC on June 20th which was originally postponed because FC Seoul's Hwang Hyun-soo was confirmed to be COVID positive following his club's 2-2 draw with the Magpies at the end of April.

The Horangi are currently perched atop the first division with a three point gap in their favor.
It's then into the group stage of this year's AFC Champions League, where Ulsan find themselves in Group F with Vietnamese side Viettel Football Club and Thai outfit BG Pathum United as well as one of China's Shanghai Port or (most likely) A-League side Brisbane Roar.  With such a condensed schedule ahead of them, it is likely that this weekend's starting eleven selection could be rotated to keep the squad fresh.

What to Watch

Which Jeju United will show up on Saturday afternoon?

Nam Ki-il sees the extended break as a chance for the team to re-tool and get back to full health.
The islanders looked quite disorganized defensively in the first half against Seongnam last week.  Hong Sung-wook's own goal did not help matters much but they had to soak up far too much pressure in the first forty-five minutes.  They looked much more dominant after the break and should have taken all three points if not for Gong Min-hyun hitting the post just after the hour mark and Joo Min-kyu's late header finishing the wrong side of the post.  

They could have even lost the match very late on but the heroics of Oh Seung-hoon ensured they would still take a point from the match as he deftly palmed away a point blank header.  

Matches between the Tangerines have mostly been close.  The first meeting between them finished in a goalless draw but that was at the beginning of the season.  A lot will depend on how both managers choose to roll the dice ahead of the next round.

Who to Watch

Oh Seung-hoon - Jeju United

Oh Seung-hoon will need his back line to be strong against the top side in the league.
Oh Seung-hoon will once again be front and center on Saturday afternoon as he gets set to face his former club once again.  He earned a clean sheet the only time he faced them earlier this year and he will be a key figure if the islanders are going to have a chance to get a result this time around.

However, he will need his usual trio in front of him to help him out.  If Kim Oh-gyu, Kwon Han-jin, and Jung Woon all start from the first whistle, they will have a chance to keep Ulsan at bay in the early stages of the match.  Jeju conceded only eight goals in their first eleven matches this year but have been in a bit of a tailspin of late, allowing the same number of goals since.

It underscores a problem the side has - depth through the lineup.  The contributions will have to even out in the long run if Jeju has a chance of maintaining a place in the top six.  One possibility would be to have a look at adding some more pieces in the summer transfer window.  With the club under new ownership, they should certainly have the means to do so if it is indeed deemed necessary.


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