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FA Cup Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs. Jeonnam Dragons

Korea FA Cup Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs. Jeonnam Dragons

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors play host to their local rivals Jeonnam Dragons in the first Honam Derby since the latter's relegation to K League 2. Having exited this tournament to second-tier opposition for the last four years, however, the North Jeolla side will be wary of making it a fifth and handing over regional bragging rights for the first time in five years.

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-2 Seongnam FC

Jeonbuk underperformed once more and were forced to fight back from two goals down against a Seongnam side who had only found the net twice in their six previous league matches. The Magpies took the lead within four minutes when Lee Jae-won was presented a more than generous amount of space to lash in an effort from the edge of the penalty area. Goalkeeper Song Beom-keun perhaps should have faired better, in what was a reare mistake for one of Korea's most promising 'keepers, flailing a loose palm to merely graze the ball on its trajectory into the net. Seongnam doubled the lead moments before half-time. A smart run by Lee Tae-hee caught the Jeonbuk backline off guard and he pulled the ball back for Park Tae-jun.

Jeonbuk came out more positive in the second half, piling pressure on the Seongnam defence in a bid to salvage the match. Han Kyo-won scored his fifth of the season in what is turning into quite the campaign for a winger was seen as third choice up until this season. Lee Seung-gi played the ball out to Han and drove into space and fired in cooly from the edge of the area. Ten minutes later and Lee Seung-gi had levelled proceedings for the home side with a deflected shot that beat the 'keeper at his near post. Jeonbuk continued to push in search of a winner, and thought they had found one with minutes to spare, only for the goal to be disallowed. The draw sees Jeonbuk slide down to second having previously held a four-point lead over Ulsan only two weeks ago.

Jeonnam Dragons 0-0 FC Anyang

After two 4-0 victories in both the league and the cup, Jeonnam Dragons were hoping they could repeat their high-scoring exploits against a struggling FC Anyang with the joint-highest number of goals conceded in the league. Despite this, Jeonnam manager Jeon Kyeong-jun switched back to a 4-3-3 from the 3-4-3 he had employed in the previous couple of matches. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the only positive to take away was a third consecutive clean sheet after they were unable to break down the Violets' resolve. A fine double save from Anyang goalkeeper Jeong Min-ki just before the half-hour mark denied Jeonnam's best opportunities but ultimately the side struggled to create throughout and looked a far cry from the team that disposed of Ansan Greeners so convincingly the week before.

Previous Meetings

These two sides have met on 71 occasions, with Jeonbuk leading the number of victories over their southern neighbours 28-19. The last time these two sides faced each other was back in late September 2018 when Han Kyo-won scored a late winner to sink the Dragons. Jeonnam have not enjoyed a victory in this fixture in over five years and will be hoping that they can end this run on Wednesday.

Team News

In past seasons, Jeonbuk have tended to use these FA Cup matches to experiment with rotated lineups, often at the expense of progression. Therefore, players who have been on the fringes may well be handed opportunities to demonstrate their worth. With no U22 to comply with in this competition, players like Lars Veldwijk could be afforded a start ahead of Cho Kyu-sung. Elsewhere, defenders such as Kim Min-hyeok could be handed a start. It would be unlikely for Jeonbuk to rotate their goalkeepers but Lee Bum-young is still yet to make his debut for the club since signing last year and then being ruled out for a season through injury. This could be a good opportunity for him to finally get some minutes. Regular left-back Kim Jin-su is likely to start though having been banned in the league for two matches and will therefore not be playing this weekend.

Jeonnam Dragons come into this match with no major injury concerns and will likely send out their strongest possible team to see if they can come away with a shock victory. The South Jeolla side tend to employ overlapping fullbacks, particularly down the left, to feed in crosses to the strikers. This has been more evident in their two recent 4-0 wins with the inclusion of newly-signed left-back Oleg Zoteev who has started life in Gwangyang well since arriving at the start of the summer window.

However, the team's attacking movement is likely to be restricted to counter-attacking and set pieces so as not to overexpose themselves to Jeonbuk's talented midfield. Therefore, Jeonbuk will also have to focus on Dragons' towering striker Julian Kristofferson and the aerial threat he could pose from these situations, despite only picking up three goals this season. Finally, former Jeonbuk striker Lee Jong-ho is likely to make an appearance against his former employers. After returning to Jeonnam this season, Lee's struggled to recapture the form that previously earned him the moniker 'Gwangyang Rooney' during his first stint with the Dragons, partly dues to serious injuries, but Jeonbuk will still be well aware of the talent he possessed and the damage he could cause.

What To Watch

Will Jeonbuk take this seriously?

As alluded to above, Jeonbuk have normally used FA Cup matches as a means to give minutes to fringe players. However, this season has seen their style of play come under more scrutiny after a number of unconvincing performances regardless of the final scoreline. Certain statistics do suggest they are underperforming, especially given the fact they are creating the most chances in the league but are failing too often to convert. Having also picked up only a point in their last two matches, allowing a four-point lead at the top slip, manager José Morais could do with a positive result and performance to ease some of the pressure that is gradually mounting. A loss to not only lower league opposition, but a team considered local rivals, would only worsen matters. Therefore, while some key players may start on the bench, it is likely that Jeonbuk will keep a relatively strong starting eleven as they continue to look for the fluidity and incisiveness they have often lacked this year.

The Dragons' Defence

While Jeonbuk may opt for a strong side, they should still be wary as their southern neighbours have proven not to be pushovers against some of K League 2's promotion favourites. Jeonnam Dragons currently boast the best defence in their division, conceding just six times in 10 matches, despite having faced the highest number of shots. Their organisation and structure has rightly been praised but it has led to an unwanted reputation of perhaps being a bit dull.

This resolve in defence has come at the price of their attack, having scored just nine goals this season, the third-fewest in the division. However, four of these goals came just two matches ago. Manager Jeon Kyeong-jun has been trialling a 3-4-3 formation in recent weeks and claiming two 4-0 results (one in the league and one in the cup) in doing so. He has since returned to a back four over the weekend though and may stick with that for this encounter.

Jeonbuk have struggled with sides lower in the K League 1 this season, requiring a penalty against Incheon Untied and late goals against recently promoted Busan IPark and Gwangju FC. The Champions have found packed defences very difficult to break down and often look unsure how to do so, repeatedly crossing into the box to no avail but finding victory by simply wearing their opponents down. If Jeonnam can maintain their organisation, they could well frustrate their northern rivals on Wednesday.

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Given their recent form, Jeonbuk may well take this match more seriously than previous FA Cup encounters. That does not necessarily mean they will find this match easy-going, however. Jeonnam are a far more organised outfit than the side that were relegated two seasons ago and could well be fired up for this encounter. Ultimately, due to the Dragons' lack of potency in front of the net, and Jeonbuk's strength in depth, the Champions should have enough to progress through narrowly to the quarter-finals.

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