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Islanders Seek Top Half Berth on Sunday Afternoon

Jeju United host Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Sunday afternoon in the final round of K League 1 matches before the league splits off for the final five rounds of the 2021 campaign.  Both en between the sides this year have ended in 1-1 draws.  A draw once again would be enough to see the islanders into the top half to finish the season, a remarkable achievement after returning to the top flight after their K League 2 title success in 2020.  Matches elsewhere could also figure into the equation.  KLU's Branko Belan previews the all-important clash.

Match: Jeju United vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Sunday October 24th, 2021; 15:00 KST

Recent Form

Islanders Squander Clinching Opportunity Against Gangwon

Jeju United's trip to Gangneung did not prove fruitful as they didn't meet the desired objective of securing three points which likely would have guaranteed them a spot in the top six.  After a scoreless first half, Jung Woo-jae put them in the lead just two minutes after the break, but Gangwon would reverse matters with a pair of goals in the space of three minutes as Kim Dae-won struck from the penalty spot on 62 minutes with Lee Jeong-hyeop adding a second just minutes later.  Lee Jung-moon would restore parity in the 69th minute and there would be no more scoring until the final whistle, with the sides sharing the spoils in the end.

Jeonbuk Keeps Pace at the Top

A second minute strike from Kim Bo-kyung was enough for Jeonbuk to claim maximum points against Gangwon last time out, despite being reduced to ten men after Hong Jeong-ho was sent off in the 56th minute.

The visitors quickly snatched the initiative in the early stages of the match, prodding down the right hand side with Moon Seon-min.  The ball would find Lee Yong, who crossed into the box, for Gustavo, whose initial effort was kept out but Jeonbuk's number thirteen was there to slam in the rebound.  Gangwon's best chance of the half came in the 28th minute when Go Mu-yeol latched onto an early cross inside the penalty area, but his volleyed effort whisked past the post.  The teams would trade forays into the attacking third, but the score would remain unchanged at the interval.

Jeonbuk's chances of victory were given a blow when Hong Jeong-ho was given his marching orders just over ten minutes into the second half after successive bookable offences, the second against Lim Chae-min being the one to end his afternoon early.  Despite the setback, Jeonbuk held their defensive shape and Gangwon were mostly wasteful in front of goal.  They could have produced an equalizer in the 78th minute but Seo Min-woo's headed effort was denied by Song Bum-keun.  The hosts could have stolen a point at the death, but Rim Chang-woo's headed ball which found the back of the net from a Kim Dae-won free kick in injury time was chalked off for offside and Jeonbuk kept pace at the top of the table, remaining just one point off the summit.

Team News

Jeju United

Kim Kyung-jae scored a dramatic late winner in the recent win over Seongnam FC.  Will Jeju have another hero on Sunday afternoon?
The islanders are unbeaten in their past three matches with wins over Pohang Steelers and Seongnam FC to go along with their draw against Gangwon last time out.  Their fate is still in their own hands, but they must produce a result against Jeonbuk to guarantee their place in the top half.

There are other permutations that could work in their favor, however.  Both Pohang Steelers and Suwon Bluewings are currently on 42 points and are still in the hunt for the top six.  Suwon plays away to Daegu FC this weekend, who are still chasing qualification for the Asian Champions League next season, while Pohang host Incheon United at the Steelyard.  At least a draw by either side would guarantee Nam Ki-il's men a place among the elite for the 2021 season, but relying on results elsewhere most definitely should not be the focus for Sunday afternoon.

The islanders' manager is well aware of what is at stake.

"I expect it to be a good match.  Jeonbuk will come out strong and they are aiming for the championship.  But, we will not back down.  We have faced adversity already this season.  We continue to become stronger.  We will continue to create chances in our opponents' penalty area.  We want to become a club that our people on Jeju can be proud of," he said in a team press release.

Joo Min-kyu also addressed the media, saying that the feeling of responsibility in the team is high.

"I am the captain of the team, but all the players are preparing for the match with the responsibility of being a captain.  The atmosphere in the team is good.  I feel a good energy at the moment.  I think the match will go well," he commented.

Lee Jung-moon has been performing well of late in his new role as an attacker.  He scored his first goal for the club in the last match against Gangwon, and will certainly have an opportunity to contribute on Sunday afternoon.  His size could pose questions for Jeonbuk's back line.  He has the ability to be an "ace up the sleeve" type of player as Jeju look to seal a top half finish after being promoted from the second division last season.

There are no suspensions in the side and all regulars will likely be available for selection thanks to the extended time off.  No injuries have been reported in training throughout the week.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Gustavo will be one to watch out when Jeonbuk takes the pitch against the islanders.
Jeonbuk continue their chase for yet another title and are on great form heading into Sunday, currently unbeaten in their last six league matches.  Gustavo and Stanislav Iljutcenko have both scored twelve goals this season and will look to be key factors again on Sunday.  Lee Yong and Paik Seung-ho looked strong against Gangwon in their last league match, as did Moon Seon-min.  

Jeonbuk had a lot of success on the right side with Yong and Moon, so that combination will likely remain intact.  Song Min-kyu will likely start on the left side in midfield to occupy the U-22 spot in the starting lineup in place of Takahiro Kunimoto.

Hong Jeong-ho is suspended after his two yellow cards against Gangwon.  His place in the starting eleven will be taken by one of Koo Ja-ryong or Choi Bo-kyung, with the latter likely to be the preferred choice.

What to Watch

Will the Combinations Work in Jeju's Favor?

The objective for the islanders this weekend is clear - secure a point to guarantee a top six finish.  That will be easier said than done, however, as Jeonbuk are looking to keep up the pressure on league leaders Ulsan Hyundai.  From the perspective of a manager, the message to the players should be clear - focus on the job you have to do and worry less about what is going on around you, which is to say that the islanders should not rely on results elsewhere to determine their fate.  In the case that all three teams in question are tied on points after the final matches, Jeju have the edge in goals scored with 41, to Suwon with 39, and Pohang with 35 goals.

Their opponents, Daegu FC and Incheon United also have something to play for, as the Sky Blues chase Asian Champions League qualification for next season, while the Durumi look to keep themselves as far as possible from the relegation battle with the split ahead.

All matches on Sunday afternoon will be kicking off at the same time, so tension will be in the air in thickets.  The islanders just have to remain focused and take heed of lessons learned in their previous meetings with Jeonbuk this season.  If they can manage to do that, then Final A should be a realistic possibility.

Who to Watch

Joo Min-kyu - Jeju United

Joo Min-kyu will look to potentially take the lead in the scoring race this Sunday afternoon.
Currently joint-top scorer in K League 1 with fifteen goals, the striker has had a bit of a cold spell of late, drawing blanks in the last three matches he has played and he missed the match against Gangwon through injury.  His last league goals came in back-to-back weeks against Incheon United on September 11th, a 2-1 win and a 3-0 win against Gwangju on September 18th, a match which originally finished as a 1-1 draw but Jeju were awarded the victory after Gwangju had made an extra substitution in second half injury time and decided to forfeit the match. 

If there was ever a time for him to recover his scoring form, this would certainly be the weekend to do it.  He has proven himself to be one of the premier strikers in the top division this season and must show it now when Jeju need him most.  A goal on Sunday could also get him one step closer to the scoring title, so there is some personal motivation in it for him as well.


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