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Daejeon Hana Citizen must avoid repeat of last year

If Daejeon Hana Citizen are to clinch promotion to K League 1 this season then the Purples simply must avoid a repeat of last year by securing third place at the very least. Poor end-of-season form saw Citizen slip to fourth in 2020 and lose the all-important home advantage for the promotion playoff semifinal and became a victim of the draw-and-through rule.

In 2021, Daejeon have reached the K League 2 summit on just two occasions and have only managed to stay there for a week or two at a time. Gimcheon Sangmu's mid-season push, coupled with the unrelenting form of FC Anyang, means that Citizen look set to be battling it out with Jeonnam Dragons for which team finishes third or fourth. Daejeon are only a point above their South Jeolla counterparts but have a 10-point cushion over Chungnam Asan who have made an unlikely tilt at the playoffs. The two teams meet this Monday night.

Daejeon Hana Citizen, though, look resigned to a place in the playoffs this season with automatic promotion becoming increasingly out of reach. But the Purples simply must avoid a repeat of last year by ensuring that they secure home advantage in the promotion playoff semifinal. Doing so would begin this Monday night when Daejeon meet Jeonnam at the Hanbat Stadium. It's a game that, barring a monumental collapse from either team, is a preview of the playoff semis slated for November. 

What happened in 2020?

After a 1-0 win of Bucheon FC 1995 on 6th September 2020 and with the team in third, Daejeon actually fired manager Hwang Sun-hong. Cho Min-gook took over but oversaw two straight losses before picking up his first win as Purples boss away to Ansan Greeners. However, three straight losses followed that and Daejeon would win just two more matches in 2020.

This led to Daejeon facing Gyeongnam FC away on the last day of the regular season in a game that would decide the playoff places and needing a positive result. Daejeon were third heading into the final day on 39 points, one above Seoul E-Land in fourth and two above Jeonnam in fifth. However, Gyeongnam knew that a win over Daejeon, coupled with a draw in Jamsil between E-Land and the Dragons, would see them sneak into the playoffs. 



Gyeongnam rose to the challenge, Daejeon wilted. The Reds won 1-0 to move up to third and Daejeon slipped to fourth and then had to travel back to Changwon for the playoffs just a few days later. A 1-1 draw with a controversial VAR decision to rule out a goal by Bruno Baio sent Gyeongnam through to the final against Suwon FC - a true sliding doors moment.

Motivation

Now, with fewer than 10 games to go, Lee Min-sung and his men need to make sure that their form is consistent and the Purples do not give up third place. Seven of the players who started the 1-1 draw with Gyeongnam in the playoffs remain at the club. It is up to them now to use that playoff heartbreak as motivation to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Heading into this Monday's match with Jeonnam, the teams are separated by just a point. A win for either team would therefore almost certainly put them in the driving seat to finish third and clinch that all-important home advantage for the playoff semifinals. 

Daejeon's recent form has been okay of late, not great but not bad either. The Purples have two wins from their last five outings but lost 4-2 away to then-bottom Bucheon FC 1995 and drew 1-1 with an out-of-form Busan IPark last time out thanks to some lax defending and questionable goalkeeping. It will be up to manager Lee Min-sung to get his side back on track.

Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Jeonnam Dragons Preview

Recent Form

Daejeon: DLWWD 
Jeonnam: WDDLD

Both teams have just one loss in their last five outings. Daejeon have two wins whereas Jeonnam have managed just one. Citizen have scored six and conceded six while the Dragons have scored seven and conceded five. 

Previous Meetings

Daejeon and Jeonnam have met three times already this season with the most two recent encounters ending as stalemates. Just six matches ago, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw at Dragon Dungeon after sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Purple Arena. The first meeting of 2021 ended in a 2-1 Daejeon win with Jeonnam striker Samuel Nnamani scoring an own goal winner.

Last 10: Daejeon four wins, Jeonnam three, draws three
Goals: Daejeon 13-10 Jeonnam
Overall: Daejeon 21 wins, Jeonnam 28, draws 20

What to Watch

Lee Min-sung's tinkering


The tinkering and tactical arrogance of Daejeon manager Lee Min-sung has cost his team some important matches this season. His persistence with playing captain Park Jin-seop, a number eight, as a centre back has been baffling. Park has been deployed as either a central defender in a back three and four on nine occasions this term and Daejeon have won just two of them - 1-0 vs Chungnam Asan and 2-0 against Ansan Greeners. Park is needed further up the field and the Purples have better options at the heart of the defence in Lee Ji-sol, Lee Woong-hee and, when fit, Kim Min-duk. 

Daejeon's last two wins came with a back three but with Kim Min-duk and Lee Ho-in either injured or unfancied, Coach Lee may have to stick with a back four, something he has used just 24% of the time this season. After two matches without a win, Lee Min-sung will be expected to make a handful of changes to the team - expect to see Alibaev back in the side while Bruno Baio will be hoping that two goals in two will be enough for him to keep his place. Who partners Baio may be up for debate with Kong Min-hyun looking short of confidence and match sharpness. 

Eulji Lewis

Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Jeonnam Dragons kicks off at 19:30 KST on Monday 13th September and can be watched LIVE, for FREE and in HD on K League TV.

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