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ACL Preview: Injuries Pose Problems for Petrescu’s Jeonbuk ahead of Ulsan Clash



Tuesday evening sees Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to Ulsan HD (Hyundai) in the quarterfinal stages of the AFC Champions League coming off the back of an underwhelming start to the campaign the weekend prior. The Horangi, however, commenced their title defence with a victory over East Coast rivals Pohang Steelers and will be hoping to maintain the momentum as Hong Myung-bo’s side look to extend their domestic dominance to the continent.

Despite a pre-season of headline signings and two encouraging performances over Pohang Steelers in the ACL Round of 16, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' fans were left once again scratching their heads as promise failed to live up to potential, with the Green Motors fortunate to come away with a point at home to Daejeon Hana Citizen. 

The former K League Champions found themselves a goal down within ten minutes through a well-executed finish from Vladislavs Gutkovskis (Gutek) and were not able to take hold of the encounter until the second-half having often been undone by the organisation of Daejeon's midfield.

The home side did rally after some forward-focused substitutes were introduced to proceedings, with attacking wingback  Ahn Hyun-beom cutting in to bring Jeonbuk level, having avoided survived an opportunity for the away side to double the lead moments earlier, where had a headed chance from Gutek hit the crossbar.

Dan Petrescu opened his post-match press conference bemoaning the performance and expressing his dissatisfaction. The manager did praise the substitutions and the way they changed the match but admitted that his side were fortunate not to have found themselves two goals behind, summarising that perhaps the result did not match what was seen on the pitch but that he still expected better regardless.


Continuing on, Pretrescu expanded on the injuries and fitness concerns that he is currently having to contend with, something he had also elaborated on before kick-off in regards to Hernandes' absence.

After an encouraging debut against Pohang Steelers in the Round of 16, the recently signed winger pulled up at halftime with an injury after taking a shot. Petrescu mentioned he had returned for a couple of days of training before the Daejeon game but a reoccurrence of the injury means he is set for six weeks on the sidelines.


When asked about his other international options, Petrescu mentioned the lack of fitness for Nana Boateng and Marcus Vinicius has meant their exclusion after joining pre-season later than the rest, the former returning from a two-month layoff through injury while the latter only signing in the recent window. 

Meanwhile, centre-back Thomas Petrasek was not mentioned and remains out of the matchday squad, yet his path to the starting eleven may have shortened slightly with Hong Jeong-ho's removal from proceedings after picking up a knock. It remains to be seen if Hong will be available for Tuesday evening.

Before the game, Petrescu had also made a point of saying that he is still yet to have his preferred eleven available since joining in the summer, and will need to work with the options that he has available.



For Jeonbuk's Tuesday team selection, the manager has limited room for rotation. If Hong Jeong-ho is unfit, then the back four may consist of Kim Jin-su, Jeong Tae-wook, Park Jin-seop and Kim Tae-hwan, with Lee Soo-bin and Lee Yeong-jae likely to be positioned in front of the defence. 

Song Min-kyu is likely to see his place restored, sitting just behind Tiago in attack, while out wide, Ahn Hyun-beo may feel he has made a claim to start following his goal, albeit it would be further forward than his preferred wingback position, but would allow him to drop back and support given his pace. Ahn would likely replace Han Kyo-won with Moon Seon-min potentially moved to the right side in a shape ultimately resembling a 4-4-1-1.


Ulsan Hyundai


Ulsan HD, or Ulsan Hyundai as they shall still be known for this iteration of the AFC Champions League, kicked their K League 1 season off against East Coast rivals Pohang Steelers, running out 1-0 winners thanks to an Ataru Esaka strike. 

While not exactly spectacular, it was a solid showing from the Horangi and the kind of controlled performance that would have been welcomed for facing fierce rivals after such a long pre-season. 

While highlights were not exactly forthcoming in the first half, Kim Min-woo thought he has scored on his Ulsan debut on the half-hour mark, turning in Eom Won-sang's low ball across the box only to be flagged for offside.

Ulsan did break the deadlock shortly after the interval though, with Esaka's effort from the edge of the area bouncing itself beyond Pohang goalkeeper Hwang In-jae and into the bottom corner.

While the goal did seem to awaken the visitors somewhat, with new signing Joge Luiz coming closest to levelling things, a red card for new Steelers' defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis ensured any hopes of a late equaliser were dashed.

Unfortunately for Hong Myung-bo, injuries to Ko Seung-beom and Kim Young-gwon mean that his preferred eleven may not be available for this Tuesday. During the match, they were replaced by Lim Jong-eun and Lee Dong-gyeong respectively, albeit the latter's introduction seeing him play alongside Joo Min-kyu in attack with Esaka being dropped back slightly to create a more traditional 4-4-2, a shape Hong has used in his most recent encounter with the Green Warriors at the end of last season. 

Hong may then opt for something similar come Tuesday, with Gustav Ludwigson also set to start out on the left wing. However, should he wish to stick more rigidly to his preferred 4-2-3-1 shape, the option of Lee Kyu-sung as a direct replacement for Ko seems most likely given that the manager has utilised him previously in the role in the Round of 16. However, Jeonbuk are expected to pose a far tougher test than that of Ventforet Kofu, despite their recent struggles.


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