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Islanders Face Stiff Away Test to Suwon Bluewings

Jeju United had their winless streak extended to ten matches after last weekend's 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Incheon United, and it is safe to say that the time to press the panic button has finally come.  They currently sit six points off the top split and just four points from the drop zone - if something is going to change, it needs to happen soon.  One thing looks certain at this point considering their current form - they will be in the fight come the end of the season to retain their status in the first division.  Suwon Bluewings, meanwhile, are very much in the thick of the hunt for an ACL place for next season.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the match.

Match: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Jeju United
Venue: Suwon World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday, August 7th, 2021; 20:00 KST

Recent Form

Bluewings in the Hunt For Asia Once Again

Suwon have started flat since the K League returned from its summer break, heading into Saturday night's match with three consecutive losses.  However, they are still very much in the hunt for a place in next year's Asian Champions League as they currently sit fourth in the table on 33 points, only one behind Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Daegu FC.  Park Kun-ha has initiated quite a turnaround since taking over the managerial role at the club last year and will be looking to the next round with optimism as Bluewings have been a thorn in the side for the islanders in recent years.  Kim Gun-hee has been the most prolific in the side this year with six goals and one assist on his account in 2021.  They have Gangwon FC in the quarter-final of the FA Cup next week before facing Seongnam FC next weekend.  Following that, they will be facing league leaders Ulsan Hyundai on August 22nd, so building a bit of momentum before that match could go a long way in the meantime.

Winless in Ten: Is it Time For the Panic Button?

Things continue to get worse for Jeju United as they threw away victory against Gangwon FC, going ahead by two goals only to cough up their advantage late and they were handled with ease by Incheon United last weekend, losing 4-1 thanks in large part to a brace from Stefan Mugoša.  Kim Hyun and Song Si-woo added the others.  It goes down as one of the worst performances of the season by last year's K League 2 champions.  They now find themselves four points from the drop zone and there are no easy games ahead for the time being as they will face Ulsan Hyundai at home, followed by three matches on the road against FC Seoul, Suwon FC, and Gangwon FC.  If they are unable to turn their fortunes soon, they could be in danger of returning to the second division in 2022.

Team News

Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Kwon Chang-hoon, who was one of the senior selections for the Olympic team in Tokyo did not play in last weekend's match and there is no update on his status for the weekend but if ready to play, he will definitely be given consideration for at least minutes from the bench.  Bluewings have a major problem in attack, however, as leading scorer Kim Gun-hee suffered an MCL injury a few weeks ago and speculation has it he will miss at least a few more weeks for rehabilitation.  Fortunately, it is thought to be minor, so there is every chance he will be able to play again this season.  

Yang Sang-min, Park Hyung-jin, and Park Dae-won are also doubtful for this weekend.  Han Seok-hee suffered a knee injury earlier in the season and is believed to be lost until the end of the campaign.  Ahn Chang-gi has returned to the team from the Olympics and may be included as a backup goalkeeper in the squad, and Doneil Henry returns after international duty with Canada at the Gold Cup but he may not be rushed back into the starting eleven just yet.

Jeju United

Ahn Hyun-beom played just over half an hour against Incheon last weekend but he has had some recent injury concerns with his knee and his fitness will be closely monitored.  If he is fit, he may get minutes from the bench again.  Lee Jung-moon is still out due to injury.  There has been little to update on his condition in recent weeks but he may not see match action for the next while.  

Kang Yoon-sung has returned from Tokyo and should be available to the team.  He will most likely be given minutes as a second half substitute if he does get a chance to play.  There is the odd chance he could fill in for Ahn as he has played mostly in midfield with Jeju this season as opposed to his natural position at left back but with Nam Ki-il seemingly set on a back three as has been the case going back to last season, Kang will be used in the middle of the pitch when given opportunities to play.

What to Watch

First Goal Could Dictate the Match

Doneil Henry was the match decider the last time the sides met in May.
Both teams have been struggling of late but Jeju even more so.  Suwon can count themselves lucky that they have not fallen behind in the race for the Asian Champions League after three consecutive losses.  As has been the case in recent years, the first goal of a match between these two sides has gone a long way in determining the outcome when the teams have met.

Both teams have won a match against the other this season, with the islanders winning the first meeting in April by a score of 2-1, thanks to goals from Jang Ho-ik, an own goal and the winner from Joo Min-kyu three minutes from time.  In the second meeting of the season one month later, Jeju had a two goal lead going into halftime on a Joo Min-kyu brace, but they spilled their advantage as Kim Gun-hee scored early in the second half, Đerić converted from the spot, and Doneil Henry found the winner four minutes from time to seal all three points for the Bluewings.

Both encounters have been unpredictable but with both teams currently struggling for form, the first ball in the net could go a long way in finding a winner on Saturday night.

Who to Watch

Lee Chang-min - Jeju United

Lee Chang-min's only goal of the season came in a 3-1 loss to Suwon FC back in May.
There were big expectations for Jeju United at the beginning of the season and to this point in the campaign, they have been largely unfulfilled.  Lee Chang-min will have to step up his game for the club if they are to turn around their current slide.  The split is approaching fast and time is running out to make up ground on the top six.  The schedule ahead is difficult and points are far from guaranteed.  Lee has played full minutes this season but his offensive production is markedly down in 2021 as he has only scored once and provided one assist - unacceptable for a player of his talent and certainly one picked to be the leader of the group.

He hasn't made himself a presence in midfield as has been the case in past years.  His lack of production has directly impacted the rest of the team but if he can pick up his performances in the coming weeks, Jeju just may be able to point their season back in the right direction.  A lot will depend on his motivation as several of the younger players look to him for guidance as they progress in their careers.  

Is he still the right man for the armband?  That question will likely have an answer when the summer draws to a close.


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