▲ Jeju United in the AFC Champions League last season. Photo courtesy Jeju United F.C.
Jeju United will kick their season off on Wednesday with a game against Cerezo Osaka in the AFC Champions League.
It will be their first game in almost three months so let’s preview the game to see how things are shaping up!
Jeju’s 2017 season: A quick recap
Jeju had their most successful season since 2010 last year as they finished the year in second place. This was largely due to a long run of excellent form at the end of the season that saw them go for 12 games unbeaten.
The season also saw some success for the team in the AFC Champions league as they managed to qualify from their group for the first time in Jeju's history. However, despite winning the first leg of the round of 16 game 2-0, they ended up losing the second one 3-0 after extra time. This meant they were unable to advance to the next round.
There have been a lot of changes to the squad over the break.
Most unfortunately for the team is the fact that they have lost a couple of last year’s most crucial players.
Yoon Bit Ga-ram will likely be missed the most. His return to Jeju after a year in China last summer seemed to have a direct impact on the form of the team and it was after this that Jeju started their rise up the table. However, he has left for Sangju Sangmu in order to complete his military service.
He isn’t the only player who will be missed. Speedy winger Ahn Hyun-beom has also left to complete his military service at Asan Mugunghwa, while goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun, who played around half of Jeju’s games last season, has left for Gangwon.
Guinea-Bissauan CF Frederic Mendy has also left after never quite finding his feet at Jeju, despite some promising performances.
It isn’t all bad news, however, as Jeju have also brought some players in. Mainly focusing on their attack, they have signed Tiago Marques and Roberson. Both these signings continue Jeju’s trend of signing attacking talent from Brazil.
However, other than these two and a couple of youngsters, Jeju haven’t been that active in the transfer window.
What can we expect from this game?
Despite the loss of Yoon Bit-garam, the lack of a replacement, and the uncertainty about how well the Brazilian signings will fit into the team, Jeju can expect to have a successful season due to the fact that they managed to keep pretty much all their other best players from last season.
Midfielder Kwon Sun-hyung has been made the captain and he will hope to continue to be the general of Jeju’s midfield and the base of their attacking brand of football. Likewise, CB Oh Ban-seok, who was so crucial to Jeju’s defensive form last year, will still be here to take up his place at the heart of Jeju’s defense.
Chung Woon at fullback, attacking midfielder Lee Chang-min, and Brazilian striker and last year’s top scorer Magno Cruz will all likely be crucial in the year ahead.
This means that Jeju should be able to continue playing the way they had a lot of success with last season. They are likely to try to keep things tight at the back while attacking quickly and directly.
Jeju’s Opponents: Cerezo Osaka
Cerezo Osaka finished third in the J League last year although they also won two domestic cup trophies. They have played in the ACL twice before, both times getting out of their group. They were knocked out in the quarterfinal in 2011 and the second round in 2014.
Interestingly, they are managed by Korean manager Yoon Jung-hwan who spent two years at K League team Ulsan Hyundai. During this time Ulsan was known as a solid yet unremarkable team. However, this knowledge of Jeju and the way K League teams play may prove to be useful.
Osaka also arrived on Jeju on Feb. 11, a bit earlier than they normally would travel to an away game. This is said to be in the hopes of acclimatizing and ensuring that they will be ready for the game.
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