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Rivals set sights on dethroning Jeonbuk for football supremacy

All Headlines 16:30 March 07, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- As the two-time defending champion of the top South Korean football league, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will have a bull's-eye on their back all season.

Rival coaches said Monday they will be more than happy to dethrone Jeonbuk from the K League Classic supremacy.

Coaches for each of the 12 clubs gathered in Seoul for their preseason press conference. The 2016 season will kick off Saturday with three matches, headlined by the tilt between Jeonbuk and defending FA Cup winner FC Seoul at 2 p.m.

As predicted, Jeonbuk were Public Enemy No. 1 at the press conference. They're going for their third straight title after adding proven stars -- reigning scoring champion Kim Shin-wook being one -- to an already stacked squad.

While paying their begrudging respect to Jeonbuk, the bench bosses said they won't just bow down easily.

FC Seoul, after bringing back former MVP and scoring champion Dejan Damjanovic, are seen as the biggest potential threat to Jeonbuk, and Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo said he is ready to battle Jeonbuk from the get-go.

"I think we've been unfairly labeled slow starters, and we hope to change that against Jeonbuk in our season opener," Choi said. "I know they'll be ready and our defense will have to bear down against their attack."

Choi recalled that when he let on that Jeonbuk would be the biggest title favorite the last couple of years, his prediction "unfortunately" came true. He insisted he and all other coaches should no longer be afraid of Jeonbuk.

"I think the coaches are too uptight," Choi added. "I think we can all dethrone Jeonbuk. We should all shake off our fears. I've never thought Jeonbuk should be considered the single biggest title favorite this year."

Choi, whose FC Seoul have notched two straight victories at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, said he personally enjoys the tag as a potential champion.

"I don't think we lack for passion or drive, compared to Jeonbuk," Choi added.

Seo Jung-won of the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, whose club finished second to Jeonbuk the past two seasons, said Jeonbuk may be the favorite now but things can change quickly.

"Not everything works out the way it's predicted in football," Seo said. "You never know what will happen midway through the season."

Suwon didn't make much of a splash in the winter transfer market, leading pundits to believe they likely won't match last year's performance. Seo said it hasn't affected team morale.

"Returning veterans are really driven, and we hope to stay in the upper echelon," Seo said. "I think they will have a huge impact as far as motivating the rest of the club."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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