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Struggling Islanders Look to Arrest Nine Match Winless Slide Against Incheon

In their first match back following the extended break for the ACL Champions League and World Cup qualifying, Jeju United had a sparkling opportunity to capture all three points last weekend away to Gangwon FC but let their lead slip late and had to settle for just a draw.  Incheon United, meanwhile, have been making a steady climb up the table and now occupy seventh spot in the standings but sit just one point off the top half.  The islanders are in dire need of a win but their defensive woes have cost them over the past several months.  What will it take to turn things around?  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.

Match: Jeju United vs Incheon United
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday, July 31st, 2021; 20:00 KST

Recent Form

Islanders Slide Continues After Long Layoff

Jeju United had a perfect opportunity to take all three points from Gangwon FC in the previous round but allowed their defenses to slip in the late stages of the match and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.  Their previous match against FC Seoul had to be postponed due to COVID protocols after a member of the club tested positive for the virus, throwing off the rhythm of their final preparations for the resumpion of the season.

Gerso scored his second goal of the season against Gangwon.
They started well enough when Gerso Fernandes put them in the lead on nineteen minutes.  Kim Oh-gyu played a ball over top of the Gangwon back four which was latched on to by Joo Min-kyu, who then had the presence of mind to touch the ball into Gerso's path, who was all alone in front and had no trouble slotting the ball into the back of the net.  Jeju carried the play for much of the first half but goalkeeper Yoo Yeon-su was forced into making a save on 36 minutes to keep Rim Chang-woo from leveling the score and the islanders would go to the break with a one goal advantage.

The second half started with the home side edging the first quarter of an hour and they could have evened the score line when Yun Suk-young crossed in from the left for Ko Mu-yeol whose headed effort was denied by the woodwork.  With the match winding down, Jeju would double their advantage through Joo Min-kyu, who pounced on a rebound with just four minutes left of regular time and it seemed that the final result would be a foregone conclusion.

It would not turn out to be the case, as Gangwon struck twice, first through Lim Chai-min, who turned in Sim Chang-moo's corner with a header, and then Kim Young-bin would add the second in the second minute of injury time so that both sides shared the spoils at the final whistle.

Six Matches Unbeaten for Incheon United

Stefan Mugoša will be a challenge for the islanders' defense to keep tabs on in his current form.
Things have changed considerably for Incheon United since they last played against Jeju in mid-April, a match they lost 3-0.  They are currently unbeaten in their past six matches and sit seven points out of an ACL Champions League spot thanks in large part to the exploits of Stefan Mugoša, who has five goals since returning from injury and has been in top form recently.

Their last time out was a memorable one as they picked up a huge 2-1 win over Suwon Bluewings, with the Montenegrin scoring a second half brace, his second coming from the spot with just two minutes left in regulation.  He will look to add to his tally on Saturday night to move up the goal scoring chart.

Team News

Jeju United

Oh Seung-hoon should return between the sticks for Jeju this weekend after he was rested against Gangwon.  Hong Jun-ho joined the club from FC Seoul in the transfer window and could see action from the bench.  Jung Hoon-sung is on loan from Busan IPark until the end of the season and could also see time from the bench at some point as the season winds down, as the club failed to find a depth replacement for Islom Kenzhaboev, who recently left the club.

There were rumors at one point that Koo Ja-cheol would return home to re-join the islanders, where he began his football career in the team's youth system before turning pro but those speculations have died down and there has been little word on developments in the meantime.  Gong Min-hyun joined Daejeon Hana Citizen in K League 2 after a considerable drop in playing time this year following a career 2020 campaign.

Lee Jung-moon continues to be out with an unspecified injury and there is no timetable for his return.  Of more concern is the fact that Ahn Hyun-beom is lost for an extended period of time because of a knee injury and it is uncertain when he will be able to return to action. 

Kang Yoon-sung is with the South Korean men's Olympic team, which qualified for the quarterfinals in Tokyo after their resounding 6-0 thrashing of Honduras, so he will not be available for the next several weeks, depending on how far Kim Hak-bum's men progress in the tournament.

Incheon United

Incheon, meanwhile, have some injury concerns ahead of their second meeting with Jeju this weekend.  Elias Aguilar, who played for the islanders before returning to Incheon, missed each of the last two matches due to fitness concerns but could be available for Cho Sung-hwan against his former club.  His presence in midfield has been notable this season as he leads the team in assists with four, so his playmaking ability would be a major threat in the final third.

Both Kang Yun-gu and Oh Jae-suk have not played since league play resumed.  Both are out with unspecified injuries with no specified date as to when they will return to the squad.

What to Watch

Can Jeju Retain Their Defensive Shape?

The Tangerines controlled much of proceedings against Gangwon last week and for the most part, looked solid at the back end until the very end of the match, conceding twice late to throw away a much-needed victory.  Was it a matter of fatigue or simply being caught out of position?

But, it is not the first time this season that it has been the case, and it has resulted in their slide down the table after a promising start to the season after their return to the top division.  Conceding 23 goals in their first twenty matches hasn't been all of a bad thing to be sure, but it has been the manner and the timing in which those goals have been scored which have cost them points from leading positions on a number of occasions in 2021.  While there is still time before the split to rectify the problem, if they cannot turn things around soon, it won't be long before the teams below them in the table will be clicking at their heels.

This team has too much talent to be where they are but if they approach the situation with the proper mindset, things must eventually turn for them in the coming weeks.

Who to Watch

Joo Min-kyu - Jeju United

Joo Min-kyu has tallied eleven goals and one assist this season.
Joo is now the second-leading scorer in K League 1 following Lars Veldwijk's masterclass last weekend against Ulsan and has been the team's most consistent performer this season.  He was on the mark yet again last week and will be counted on as always to be the danger man in front of goal against Incheon.  He will have to be, as, after him, the next three players behind him have only two goals to their names each - Gerso, Ahn Hyun-beom, and Jung Woo-jae.

For that to happen, the service into him will have to be effective so that he can operate in the offensive third and hopefully find a chance or two in front of goal.  At current, he has a shout in for the Golden Boot but his teammates around him need to be more active in the final third, and it would help if he didn't have to take on the scoring load all by himself.  If there were to be a few others to provide a goal here and there, the way Gerso did last week, it would be much easier for him to get among the chances.  

He has played against Incheon United on eight occasions in his career and his teams have compiled a record of four wins, one draw, and three losses.  He has scored three goals and added one assist over that span.

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