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Preview: Jeju United vs Suwon FC - A Better Start for Jeju in 2023?

With both teams coming off the back of seemingly disappointing 2022 campaigns, both have a lot on the line. Jeju United will be hoping to prove all doubters wrong as they look to secure ACL football for the first time under Nam Ki
-il. Whereas Suwon FC will be determined to secure a top six finish with many doubting whether they have the capability to make it into K League Final A. Matchday 1 sees Suwon FC make the approximate 450km journey to Seogwipo, in Jeju-do.

Jeju United’s End of Season Form

Jeju's end to 2022 in K League Final A saw them pick up two wins from the five allocated matches, with both wins coming away from home. Their first was a 2-1 away win against Pohang Steelers, through an 84th-minute winning penalty, by Lee Chang-min. Jeju's second win of their final five games was a deserved 2-1 victory on the final day against eventual champions, Ulsan Hyundai. Jeju were 1-0 down at half-time, despite a strong start. However, a powerful strike in the bottom corner from promising youngster Seo Jin-su saw Jeju equalise in the 51st minute. A 93rd-minute headed-winner by Koo Ja-cheol from Lee Chang-min's corner, saw Jeju pick up all three points on the final day.

Jeju United's Last 5 Form: WLLWL

Suwon FC’s End of Season Form

Suwon FC's final five games were in K League Final B, where they picked up just one win and one draw. Their only win was a 2-1 struggle against rock-bottom Seongnam, with a 3rd minute goal from Kim Geon-ung, and an eventual winner from Lars Veldwijk in the 55th minute. Suwon FC's draw was against the eventually relegated military team, Gimcheon Sangmu. Leading 2-1 at half time, things seemed hopeful, but a lack of concentration saw Gimcheon equalise in the 88th minute.

Suwon FC's Last 5 Form: LLWLD

Head-to-Head Form

In the last five meetings between these teams, the results have been shared somewhat evenly. 

2022/09/02 - Suwon FC 2-2 Jeju United
2022/05/15 - Suwon FC 1-3 Jeju United
2022/03/06 - Jeju United 0-0 Suwon FC
2021/11/27 - Jeju United 1-0 Suwon FC
2021/08/21 - Suwon FC 1-0 Jeju United

As seen by the recent pairings of these teams, a draw seems like the most likely outcome for February 26th, or, if there is a winner, the margin will be very slim.

Jeju and Suwon FC have faced each other a total of 14 times in all competitions, with the first meeting coming in the Korean Cup back in April 2014. The game went to penalties after a tense 90 minutes which ended 3-3. The subsequent extra time saw no goals. Suwon FC won that game 5-4 on penalties.

All-Time Head-to-Head:
Jeju United Wins - 5
Draws - 4
Suwon FC Wins - 5 

What to Look Out For in Jeju United

Nam Ki-il's sides, historically, like to play a more defensive set-up. This seems to be changing in recent years, with Nam opting for a more progressive, possession and pressing style of play. Nam's favoured formation is a 3-4-3 and the Korean manager likes his forward wingers to cut inside and punish defenders across the face of goal. We saw plenty of examples of this in 2022 and that is backed up with the statistic that Gerso Fernandes was amongst the highest-ranked in the league for touches in the opposition box. Reis, Gerso's replacement and new signing from Gwangju, has a willingness to cut in and shoot which will fit nicely into that style of play.

What to Look Out For in Suwon FC

2022 saw many tactical surprises from Suwon FC, with their manager implementing many different formations. 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and even a 4-1-4-1 at times. However, the three players mentioned earlier, seem to be the biggest threat going forward for Suwon FC. With a 3-4-3 formation, this would perfectly match Jeju's tactics, potentially shutting out any threats Jeju have up their sleeve. Suwon FC have established themselves as an exciting team to watch of late due to their aggressive forward-pressing style of play. They are able to break with great speed on the counter-attack, punishing the opposition defenders if given the opportunity. However, the most costly drawback of this tactic for Suwon FC, is that it leaves them exposed defensively, which, in turn, results in an excessive number of goals against them. This tactic in 2022 led to Suwon FC conceding 62 times, which was the second leakiest defence in K League 1.

This matchup will be highly competitive and based on statistics and potential tactics, I will predict a 2-2 draw.

Who to Watch for Jeju United

All eyes will be on Jeju's new signing, Yuri Jonathan (pictured on the right), from Liga Portugal 2 side CF Estrela. Having lost their 2022 K League top goalscorer, Jeju will be hoping the Brazilian can adapt quickly to fill the large boots left by Joo Min-kyu. Other notable potential debuts for Jeju United's opening league match in 2023, are Reis from Gwangju (pictured in the middle), and Lim Chae-min from Shenzhen FC.

Former Suwon FC versatile player, Lee Gi-hyuk joins Jeju United and looks to make his debut against his former club. Starting the majority of his career games as a right winger, Lee is also no stranger to starting in the centre of midfield.

As of 22nd February, Jeju United announced their new signing Lee Ju-yong from Jeonbuk. The 30-year-old left-back spent 2022 on loan at Incheon United in which he made 11 appearances. Lee brings with him lots of K League experience, especially at the highest level, with five K League titles to his name. Jeju will be hoping his impact can take them one step closer to ACL qualification. 

Who to Watch for Suwon FC

Going the other way is Yoon Bit-garam. The Korean made 15 appearances in Jeju's midfield last season, and the 32-year-old will be hoping to make his Suwon FC debut against his former club. His spell at The Tangerines is one he may consider underachieving, from a personal standpoint. Scoring seven times in 2018, and nine times in 2019, his three goals for Jeju in 2022 were certainly underwhelming for such a creative midfielder. Yoon will be aiming to revitalise his career at Suwon FC, and what better way to do it, than against his former employer. 

Another one of Suwon FC's not-so-secret weapons is their top goal scorer of 2022, Lee Seung-woo. The 25-year-old joined in January 2022 as a free agent. Since then, the winger by trade picked up 14 goals and three assists in 35 games across the main league and Final B, demonstrating his importance to the team as they finished top of Final B. Lee will be looking to pick up in slightly better form. He managed more yellow cards (two) than goal contributions (one) in 2022 Final B. His role will be crucial as he can adapt to play on either wing, even playing as a second striker on some occasions. 

Where to Watch

Fans based in Korea can watch on Coupang Play. Those fans residing overseas can watch the match via K League TV!

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