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Preview: Jeju United vs Gyeongnam FC


Two old rivals will renew acquaintances on Sunday afternoon when Jeju United host Gyeongnam FC in K League 2.  Both moved down a division after disappointing results last year, with the islanders going down automatically following their foot of the table finish, while Gyeongnam were defeated in the Promotion/Relegation two leg final against Busan IPark.  Things have been looking much different for Jeju lately as they have won four straight matches in the league and will look to keep pace at the top with another win.  Gyeongnam are not far behind, and despite some underwhelming results, they have only lost once this season, ensuring that it will be another close encounter between the two.  KLU's Branko Belan previews the match.

Match: Jeju United vs Gyeongnam FC
Venue: Jeju World Cup Stadium
Kickoff: Sunday June 28th, 2020; 16:00 KST

Last Time Out

Chungnam Asan 0-2 Jeju United

Jeju stretched their winning run in the league to four matches with bottom side Chungnam Asan last weekend thanks to goals from Jung Jo-gook from the penalty spot and Lee Chang-min with fifteen minutes left.  It was not the most convincing performance, but Nam Ki-il's men continue to find ways to win.  The victory moved the islanders up to second spot in the table, and they are now just one point behind table-toppers Daejeon Hana Citizen heading into the weekend's action.


Highlights



Gyeongnam FC 1-1 Bucheon FC 1995

Gyeongnam squandered a chance to win at home and move up the table having to settle for a draw against Bucheon.  Things started well enough when they went in front after 21 minutes thanks to a free kick from Yoo Ji-hun.  It looked as though Bucheon 'keeper Choi Bong-jin's ability to see the ball may have been impaired somewhat as he was rooted to his line while the ball flew into the net.

That turned out to be the only significant movement on the scoreboard and the hosts took a one goal margin to the break.

The match would change in the second half as Bucheon would be reduced to ten men after Kim Kang-san would receive his second yellow card for a challenge on Ko Kyung-min after having been booked just before halftime.  It seemed certain at that point that the Reds would take all the points, but the visitors had other things in store.  Kim Yeong-nam found himself with enough space to shoot from distance with twenty minutes remaining after Gyeongnam had failed to clear their lines, and his effort finished cleanly in the back of the net.

Gyeongnam would charge forward in search of a winner, but Choi was able to hold his line, including denying Park Ki-dong late on as he got down well to palm the ball the wrong side of the post to give both teams a share of the spoils at the final whistle.

Highlights


Previous Meetings

The head to head between the sides in K League 1 last season was split down the middle, with both teams winning a match and two others ending in a draw.  Jeju earned their first win of the season last year against Gyeongnam in May, in what was the debut match on the sideline for now since departed Choi Yun-kyum, a 2-0 success thanks to goals from the Brazilian duo of Magno Cruz and Tiago Marques.

The second time they met in July, it finished 2-2 in Changwon.  The match was played in monsoon-like conditions.  Uroš Đerić had the home side in front after only two minutes, but Magno Cruz and Yun Il-lok each scored for the islanders who took a one goal lead to the break.  Jeju would not be able to hold on to their advantage, as Luc Castaignos found an equalizer in the second half for the Reds, and both had to settle for a share of the spoils.

The final regular season matchup between the two went Gyeongnam's way as Jo Jae-cheol and Woo Joo-sung scored in the second half.  Nam Jun-jae was able to pull a goal back with one minute left in regulation time, but it was not enough.

In the meeting between them in Final B, the match ended 2-2 once again, with Yoon Bit-garam and Đerić trading goals in the first half.  Elias Aguilar gave the islanders a brief lead on 66 minutes, but an own goal twelve minutes later by Kim Won-il was enough to deny Jeju what would have been a very important win and set the stage for relegation.

The overall series has been extremely close, with Jeju winning eight matches to Gyeongnam's seven, while points have been shared on ten occasions, signaling the possibility that Saturday's encounter will once again be a close affair, likely to go down to the final whistle.

Team News

Entering Sunday's match with four wins in a row, a key component to Jeju's success over that stretch has been the play of the defense, and in particular goalkeeper Oh Seung-hoon.  The islanders have conceded only one goal in their four wins and the man between the sticks knows how important his role is in keeping the momentum going.

Oh Seung-hoon is enjoying a great run of form in the midst of Jeju's four match winning streak.

"The goalkeeper is the last bastion of defense in football.  If I play poorly, then the entire team plays poorly.  I am determined to concede as few goals as possible this year to help the team win.  The atmosphere at the club is really good right now and expectations are high.  Promotion to the first division is the stated goal and I have to continue to do my part in order for that to happen," he said in a statement released by the club.

Oh is currently ranked first among goalkeepers in K League 2 with regards to the number of goals conceded by a player with at least six starts, and second in clean sheets with three.

In other news, it was announced that the club made a swap deal with Jeonnam, in which Im Chan-ul will move to the Dragons while the islanders get Kim Gyeong-jae in return.  Im only made fourteen appearances for Jeju during his time on the island with one assist, but Kim played thirty times for Sangju Sangmu while completing his military service last year and could be a good option in the center of defense as a depth piece and occasional starter when needed.

Valentinos Sielis was rested for the match against Chungnam Asan last weekend and may return to the starting eleven against the Reds.  There are no suspensions or injuries of note, thus Nam will look to field his strongest combination to try and increase the gap between his club and his opponents this weekend.

While it hasn't entirely been a poor start to the season for Gyeongnam, the club has already dropped points in matches they really should have won, with last weekend's match against Bucheon a good example.  To their credit, they have only lost once.  But, it seems that Seol Ki-hyun's "non-preference" towards foreigners has come to a head, as it has been reported in the football media that  Uroš Đerić is apparently set to leave the club to go back to K League 1 and join FC Seoul.  He has only one goal to his credit thus far in 2020.

Ha Sung-min could be ready to return to the midfield for the visitors on Sunday, while Negueba traveled with the team and could make the bench, although he is still experiencing problems with his injured knee.

In transfer news, Jeong Hyuk has joined the team from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on loan until the end of the season.  He has already undergone a medical and will be available to play against Jeju this weekend, according to a press release from the team.

There are no suspensions in the side, but there could be some rotation in the lineup in hopes of upping the tempo on the offensive side of things when they go toe to toe with their old foes from a season ago.


The Adversary

Gyeongnam have a chance to draw level on points with the islanders with a win on Sunday afternoon.

Seol Ki-hyun has been unimpressed with his side's performances lately.  This was made clear following the match against Bucheon.

"I can see why Bucheon is one of the top teams in the league.  They are a well prepared team.  We were lucky with today's result.  We were lacking in terms of our physical condition, tempo and speed.  I felt we were not a strong team.  It's possible I may have to re-evaluate my targets and adjust my preparations," he said in a statement following last weekend's match.

The choice of tactics will likely play a factor as Gyeongnam have shifted from an attacking 4-3-3 setup to 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-3, respectively in each of the past two matches.  But, the lack of an in-form striker presents problems up top for them.  Đerić has traditionally been a thorn in the side for Jeju, but he quickly fell out of favor with the manager and it looks as though he could potentially leave the club in this transfer window.

What to Watch

Hwang Il-soo has been one of the better performers for Gyeongnam this season, but has been left out of the squad the past two matchdays and also did not play in the Reds' second round FA Cup match at the beginning of the month.

There may be a chance for him to return to action this weekend, and he would be a good addition to the lineup.  He has pace on the flanks and could be a problem for Jeju's fullbacks with his ability to create space around the penalty area in wide positions.  Whether he gets the call remains to be seen, but with a pair of goals and an assist to his name thus far this season, it has to be stated that he has been one of Gyeongnam's most notable contributors to this campaign.

Joo Min-kyu will look to add his name to the scoresheet against Gyeongnam.
After scoring in three consecutive matches against Daejeon Hana Citizen, Bucheon FC 1995 and Ansan Greeners, Joo Min-kyu was kept off the scoresheet each of the past two times out, but he has still been a presence in and around the box in terms of his hold up play, distribution and chance creation for his teammates.  Nonetheless, a goal against an opponent like Gyeongnam would do him well to add to his goal tally for the season.

FNR

Prediction

Jeju looks to be the better team on form lately, but Gyeongnam is not a team to be taken lightly.  The islanders have sparkled defensively in recent matches, but if they try to depend on Oh Seung-hoon too much, it may backfire on them.  Should they be able to find a goal early, it will allow them to set the tempo of the match, but they also have to be wary of the Reds' ability to score at unexpected times.  It will likely be a close one, but Jeju should be able to see it out in the end.

Predicted Score: Jeju United 2-1 Gyeongnam FC


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