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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors


After seven league matches without a victory, Gangwon FC will be hoping their luck can change as they prepare to host Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the last K League 1 team they managed to score a win over. The visitors are a much different outfit from that day, though, and come into Sunday's match looking to build on back-to-back successes.


Recent Form

It's undoubtedly been a difficult year for 11th-placed Gangwon. They've managed just two wins out of their opening 17 matches, have struggled to find any sort of consistent goalscoring touch, and are starting to look like a side increasingly low on confidence. There have been three loses in the Bears' last five, the most recent of which being a 2-1 midweek home defeat to Daejeon Hana Citizen, who were able to capitalise on moments of poor defending to come away from Chuncheon victorious. Going forward, Choi Yong-soo has the seemingly increasingly difficult task of finding the right balance to his team that will allow for both defensive solidarity, and attacking potency.

Jeonbuk, however, are a team looking upwards. Caretaker manager Kim Do-heon has done a commendable job restoring confidence to a squad which has garnered 58.3% of its current points tally under his watch. Last time out, Jeonbuk beat Daegu 1-0 thanks to a well-placed Song Min-kyu effort. That result leaves the Green Warriors four points off the top three, and with four wins out of their last six, perhaps signalling that better days are already arriving.

Team News

Aside from Lee Seung-won, who is unavailable due to his time away captaining Korea at the U20 World Cup, Choi Yong-soo has near enough a full roster at his disposal. Such a luxury doesn't solve any selection headaches, though, with the 49-year-old yet to find his most effective lineup for 2023.

On the Jeonbuk side, they have a few absentees. Kang Sang-yoon and Park Chang-woo are unavailable due to their U20 World Cup commitments, Paik Seung-ho and Kim Moon-hwan are expected to continue their absences, Andre Luis' injury status is unclear, and Hong Jeong-ho isn't likely to be ready for action until after this month's two week break. Lee Dong-jun could return following his illness, however.

Head-to-Head

This is a fixture which firmly favours Sunday's visiting side. Jeonbuk have won 21 of the 32 meetings, losing only seven times, and drawing on four occasions. However, it's Gangwon who triumphed earlier this season, with Yang Hyun-jun's injury time winner securing a 1-0 victory for the provincial club. The Bears will need to be just as resolute at the back as they were in that match should they wish to come away with all three points at the weekend, and ensure a clinical edge is shown should a goalscoring opportunity come their way.

What to Watch

Is it make-or-break for Choi Yong-soo's Gangwon?

Last June, despite the fact Gangwon's fortunes were beginning to look bleak, Choi Yong-soo was backed. Such an unflinching show of faith was then rewarded tenfold, with the 49-year-old guiding the Bears to 11 wins out of their last 21 matches (compared to three from the opening 17). In the process, Kim Dae-won had his best ever season, the likes of Lee Jeong-hyeop benefited from massive upswings in form, and Yang Hyun-jun was allowed to grab headlines as one of Korea's brightest young prospects.

Right now feels a little similar to the time just prior to Gangwon's major turnaround of 2022. The threat of relegation appears very real, the players seem lacking in belief, and Choi Yong-soo has been unable to figure out a system best suited to getting results from his team. But will the manager of the Bears be able to inspire his men to a second straight summer revival? Or has the Eagle had his wings firmly clipped, spelling danger for Gangwon?

Can Jeonbuk reach the top half?

Despite their improved results, Jeonbuk still find themselves sat outside the top six. In fact, this is the lowest the Green Warriors have been in the table at this stage of the season since 2008, when they were sat in 11th (though there were 14 teams in the league back then). Nevertheless, Kim Do-heon has the team undergoing a resurgence ahead of the imminent arrival of Dan Petrescu, and after two consecutive wins without conceding a goal, Jeonbuk will be confident they can extend their good run against a stumbling Gangwon, and return to the upper-echelon of the division.

Who to Watch

Park Sang-hyeok

Perhaps surprisingly, 20-year-old Park Sang-hyeok is the only Gangwon player to have scored more than one goal in the league this season. And, while his current tally of three isn't exactly awe-inspiring, it's enough to show the promise this young forward has. For he mightn't be close to the finished article, with some refinement definitely needed in regards to areas such as linkup play, but Park is doing something his teammates are struggling to, and that's score.

With two goals in his last two appearances, the striker looks to be maturing, and if utilised correctly, he will continue to make an impact. Choi Yong-soo certainly needs a hero to pull the Bears out of danger and who knows, Park Sang-hyeok may just end up answering the call.




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