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2021 Season Preview: Daejeon Hana Citizen

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After playoff heartbreak in 2020, Daejeon Hana Citizen will be looking to go one better and make a long-awaited return to the top flight this coming season. The Purples will have a fourth permanent manager in as many years in former Korea U23 assistant Lee Min-sung at the helm, the man tasked with leading the club to glory.

Last Season

W11-D6-L10, 4th

What Happened?

Last season, Daejeon finished 4th in K League 2 and reached the playoff semi-finals but a 1-1 draw away to Gyeongnam FC wasn't enough for them to progress. Citizen were riding high and looked on course for automatic promotion in the earlier stages of the campaign. But, a run of two wins in 11 throughout the summer months left the 2014 promotion winners with a playoff spot at best.

Daejeon began the season with Hwang Sun-hong who was harshly sacked, and ended the campaign with Cho Min-gook as a second caretaker. Injuries to several key players such as Connor Chapman and Kim Dong-jun hindered Daejeon and they were never really able to keep up their early season form. Bruno Baio was brought in to fire the Purples to the promised land but the Brazilian managed just four goals in 20 appearances. Ultimately, Daejeon lacked fire power and were terribly unlucky with injuries and with VAR.


Notable Moves


Centre back Kim Min-duk has joined from Ulsan, pacy right back Lee Ho-in has signed from Gangwon FC, both likely to be first team regulars. But one of the standout signings so far is Lee Jin-hyun from Daegu FC. At 23, Lee isn’t anywhere near his prime yet but has already shown glimpses of what he can do at Pohang and Daegu as well as for the Korea U23s. Lee can play centrally or out wide as a right winger. In terms of outgoings, Andre Luis has returned to Brazil after Daejeon decided not to make his loan deal permanent and will be a huge miss. 

Key Player 

Bruno Baio


Daejeon’s key player this year will have to be Bruno Baio who is the club's only senior out-and-out striker, otherwise they have little chance of winning promotion. A reliable goal scorer who can get 15 goals or more will be key in what is a very competitive K League 2 this season with Busan IPark, Gyeongnam FC and Gimcheon Sangmu assembling very strong squads. Baio has signed a new one year deal, keeping him at the club for a second season, and is said to be in excellent physical condition. Last year, Baio began the season injured and unfit. But if the Purples can rediscover the Bruno Baio which scored 10 goals in 16 appearances for Jeonnam in 2019, they might just have a chance. Fellow Brazilian Edinho will also be an important player, the pair began to link up well towards the end of the season and combined for goals against Bucheon and Jeonnam during Daejeon's playoff run-in.


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Young Player to Watch

Lee Ho-bin



Other than Lee Ji-sol, there are only a couple of players 22 or under who are likely to feature regularly. One of whom is right back Kim Ji-hoon who, after making nine appearances and laying on two assists, has been given the number 13 shirt, up from 36, which could be an indicator that he is set to feature More. Another, however, is 21 year old central midfielder Lee Ho-bin. Lee has been limited to just six appearances in Daejeon’s first team but is highly rated a lot is expected of the third year professional. 

Biggest Question 

Is Lee Min-sung the man to lead Daejeon?


The biggest question for Daejeon is whether inexperienced manager Lee Min-sung can lead the club to glory. Eyebrows were raised when the former Korea U23 assistant coach was appointed when reports in the press suggested that Daejeon wanted to appoint an experienced coach. Daejeon’s squad is full of midfielders but light at centre back and up front and so a first season in K League management it is going to be a huge test for Lee. His style comes across as autocratic and pre-season preparations are said to be extremely tough. Time will tell whether his methods bare fruit, however.

Reason to Watch 

A club which has a lot of money to spend will always be under pressure to perform. Daejeon is no exception and it will be interesting to see how they can compete with the big boys of K League 2. New gaffer Lee Min-sung says he wants to implement something of a pressing style which is similar to English Premier League champions Liverpool so whether this can be achieved will be something to keep an eye on.

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