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Preview: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs. Pohang Steelers

league 2023.03.30   I   hits 579

This Saturday marks the 50 year anniversary of the establishment of Pohang Steelers, the K League's oldest side, and to celebrate Kim Gi-dong's side will head to Jeonju World Cup Stadium to take on a struggling Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Will the celebrations continue throughout the weekend or will the Green Warriors put a dampener on proceedings?

Last Time Out

Despite a 2-0 victory over Gwangju the week prior in a match that looked like Jeonbuk had finally arrived for the 2023 season, any hope was quickly dashed as the Green Warriors fell to Daegu FC. The Sky Blues did not take long to find a lead, just eleven minutes in fact, as Kim Jin-hyuk put the home side in front. Despite Jeonbuk's best efforts to get back into it, Daegu's Cesinha struck in the 90th minute to seal the points. The result sees Jeonbuk lingering in 8th with Daegu leapfrogging them into sixth. Kim Sang-sik's side head into Saturday's clash with just four points, having scored only four and conceded five.

Pohang's fortunes this season have been somewhat of a stark contrast as they continued their unbeaten start to the campaign. However, Round 4 saw them come close to ending this positive spell. Having won their first two outings and managing a draw in their third, it took until the 90th minute to secure something from the visit of Gangwon. Young attacker Lee Ho-jae popped up in the 90th minute to cancel out Jefferson Galego's first-half penalty. The Steelers head into the weekend in fourth place, one of just three teams yet to taste defeat in 2023.

Previous Meetings

Saturday will mark the 94th meeting between these two sides across all competitions, with Jeonbuk edging the total number of victories by 38 to Pohang's 33. The Green Warriors also came out victorious in the last encounter between the pair, winning 3-1 in the Final A straight.

In four meetings last season, Jeonbuk won two, Pohang won one and the remaining game finished in a draw. Pohang's single victory last year came early on in the season, with a 1-0 win in Jeonju thanks to a Jeong Jae-hee effort.

Team News

Jeonbuk manager Kim Sang-sik may already feel the pressure mounting given his side's somewhat underwhelming start and this has only been compounded further by the injuries to both Kim Jin-su and Paik Seung-ho who will both remain out of action for several weeks. On top of that, Jeonbuk continue to nurse Lee Dong-jun and Jun Amano back to full fitness but doubts remain if they will be ready for their return this weekend.

As for Kim Gi-dong's Pohang side, Ha Chang-rae will be unavailable for the anniversary celebration as he serves a suspension but the rest of the side should remain relatively unchanged to that which has started the season so confidently. Kim Gi-dong is also hoping for the return of defender Alex Grant to the starting lineup after he was able to feature against Gangwon from off the bench.

What To Watch

A turning point for Kim Sang-sik?

While it has been somewhat of an underwhelming start for Jeonbuk, further compounded by the fact that their likely title rivals Ulsan Hyundai have began the season perfectly, there is hope for Kim Sang-sik's side that things may soon turn around. 

Despite having only scored four, Joenbuk have the third-highest xG in the division (6.36) and the third-most shots (51) albeit with low accuracy (37.3%). However, there have been flashes of their potential as they look to bed in a new attacking set-up, a set-up that has been plagued by inconsistency in these opening rounds through injuries.

Injuries to Lee Dong-jun and Jun Amano have hindered Kim Sang-sik from allowing his first choices to build up chemistry while pre-season injuries to Gustavo and Rafa Silva has left them playing catch up upon their return. Factor in Andre Luis' winter arrival who is also trying to find his place in this side and the challengers for positions who currently reside on the bench such Moon Seon-min and Han Kyo-won, and perhaps it is understandable that the Green Warriors are still lacking chemistry in the starting eleven each week. Having had an international break to resolve issues though, and the talent at his disposal, Saturday's home fans will be expecting a turn in their fortunes.

Pohang's Attacking Intent

While Jeonbuk may point to indicators of better things to come, Pohang are already experiencing them. Pohang have netted just six times, yet they have posed serious questions of sides through their build-up play. 

The Steelers currently top the division for crosses, 1 vs 1 dribbles, touches in the penalty box and, somewhat subsequently, are the first for drawing fouls from their opponents. While there were concerns pre-season about how the departure of Shin Jin-ho would affect the side, it seems like manager Kim Gi-dong has continued to utilise his remaining personnel to instigate his attacking vision.

It is therefore no surprise that they have started this season so brightly and, having finished third last season, will be hoping to prove their title credentials by seeing off one of the regular contenders this Saturday.

Who To Watch

Lee Ho-jae

As Pohang Steelers reach the half-century mark, what better way to celebrate the past by shining a light on the future. The Steelers have brought through a number of youth players that have lit up the league in recent years and, this season, Lee Ho-jae seems to be looking to add his name to that list.

The 22-year-old is entering his third season with Pohang and still only has one K League start to his name despite 35 appearances. He is also yet to be named in the first eleven in 2023 yet finds himself not only top of Pohang's scoring charts at present but also second in the division having bagged three goals and surpassing his season-best after four outings.

Whether Lee has done enough to warrant a place in Saturday's squad remains to be seen but, whether from kick-off or from off the bench, Pohang fans will once again be assured that their teams 50 year legacy continues in the form of youth production.

Where to Watch

Fans in countries with K League overseas broadcasting rights can follow the game live on television. More information can be found here.

Alternatively, the match is also available for FREE on tv.kleague.com.