ACL Semifinal 1st leg: Jeonbuk v FC Seoul Sept 28

In almost 2 hours, Son Heung-Min will likely line up for Tottenham for the Champions League match at CSKA Moscow, see Tim Lee’s post about that. We might return in this post to give updates, but for the latest, do check Tavern Twitter.

The Asian Champions League title is within reach for a K-League side this year, but the question is, who will come out on top to represent in the upcoming semifinal clash between Jeonbuk and FC Seoul?  #1 vs #2 in the K-League table, will this inevitably be the Korean version of Bayern Munich v BVB? Regardless, this will be as K-League United’s Matthew Binns puts it, “the biggest fixture in Korean football this year.”  They’ve both cruised (well, maybe Jeonbuk more so than Seoul) against their superior funded Chinese opponents, but recent acquisitions like Hulk and Pelle for respective sides Shandong Luneng and Shanghai proved no match for the experience and overall quality of the K-League sides. Even star managers like Magath and Eriksson couldn’t bring those clubs to the ACL promised land. And once again, no J-League clubs at this stage of the tournament, which is somewhat perplexing given perceptions of fast technical improvements in the Japanese domestic leagues.

K League United has some varying opinions on who will come out ahead in this first leg, that’s a great way to preview the first leg fixture, but first it will help to stake out logistics for watching this match:

Jeonbuk v FC Seoul Wed Sept 28 6:00 AM US EST / 7 PM Korea Time

TV/Streaming: in Korea: Afreeca, Daum, MBC Sports +. In the US, creative options available (perhaps check with Tavern Twitter before kickoff)

Quick things to know about the semifinal

Head to Head this year, Jeonbuk has run away with the K-League title, thanks in part to their 3 wins this season over FC Seoul. When there was a chance for Seoul to close the gap, Jeonbuk shut it down each and every time.

But what’s different this time?  The ACL is a beast of another nature and motivation. Seoul has a shot if the trio of Adriano, Dejan and Park Chu-Young (and let’s include Yun Ju-tae to the attacking options with his goal scoring heroics of late). Adriano is in the hunt for the golden boot for prolific scoring in Asian competition. There is the sense that despite Jeonbuk’s many lethal advantages (Kim Bo-Kyung, Lee Jae-Sung, Leonardo) Seoul has the potential to both shut down the green machine’s high octane offense with ex Ulsan defender Kwak Tae-Hwi transferring to Seoul during the last transfer window AND light up Jeonbuk with Dejan/Park/Adriano trio finally clicking into gear.

There is some distant synergy between the two sides: Jeonbuk’s Kim Shin-Wook (aka the Wookie) might/probably see some action against his old Ulsan teammate Kwak Tae-Hwi. Both were on the ACL title winning Ulsan side in 2012. Here in a video interview he describes Kwak having strengths and weaknesses, the latter he thinks he can exploit to score on his old teammate (and yet, I can’t help but sense in the video that the Wookie himself is not terribly convinced of his own words).


Tavern prediction: I usually refrain from making forecasts but I’ll try to make things interesting. I’m going against most prognosticators and go for a shock 3:1 victory for FC Seoul over Jeonbuk. That will put pressure on the Jeolla side for the 2nd away leg at Seoul – that is unless most predictions about the results are correct.

On the other side of the East/West divide that will meet for the finals, Al Ain v El Jaish is already underway, with Lee Myong-Joo’s Al Ain side with a slight 2-1 lead after 60 minutes…

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  1. Interesting of late, Seoul has been trying out the 3-5-2 again despite preferring a 4-2-4/4-4-2 in Hwang’s early days with the club. I wonder if we’ll see Seoul try to do to Jeonbuk what Jeonbuk did to them in the season opener – sit back like crazy and look for a lucky goal, or at least hold them to a draw in Jeonju.

    One thing’s for sure, going attack attack attack on Jeonbuk is generally a suicidal plan, but letting yourself get sucked into their narrow pressing isn’t ideal either. If a 3-5-2 isn’t for defensive purposes, it’s at least for width. The wing backs will be important as always but so will players like Takahagi and Joo Sejong to diligently defend as well as distribute.

  2. Yeah the Korean media is reporting that we might see a 3 back again – personally I think Hwang’s Seoul sides have been more convincing in a 4-4-2 but we’ll see how this goes…

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