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AFC Preview: FC Seoul vs. Gamba Osaka

Introduction
Looking at the four qualifiers that will take place over the next two weeks, I think Suwon has the easiest seed.  Their opponent sits in 13th place in the J-League, while Seongnam’s and Jeonbuk’s are second and third in the Chinese League, respectively.  So I think those two teams will have tougher games and I don’t think Seongnam will advance further than the last 16.

With the exception of Jeonbuk, all of the teams are taking their opponents quite seriously.  Games that were supposed to have been played over Buddhas' Birthday weekend have been moved.  I had plans to take the KTX to Daejon to watch Seoul play, but that has since been scrapped.  A bit of a shitty move if you ask me, but oh well.  

The man to watch out for- Takashi Usami.  

FC Seoul vs. Gamba Osaka
Seoul’s opponent, Gamba Osaka is second in the league.  In their last ten games, they have won seven, drawn two, and lost one.  They have scored 17 and conceded nine. The leading scorer in the J-League and the most dangerous player on form right now, who plays for Gamba Osaka, is Takashi Usami with 10 goals.

Looking through their roster, they have quite a few players (at least seven, maybe more) on the Japanese national team, which means they have a bit more quality than 90% of the teams in the K-League.  Maasaaki Higashiguchi is a goal keeper for the national team.  In defense, there is Hiroki Fujihara, Daiki Niwa, and the national team captain Yasuyuki Konno.  In the midfield there is Kotaro Omori and Yushito Endo and at forward there is, again the J-League leading scorer, Takashi Usami.

Seoul has also previously played Gamba Osaka in 2009, losing at home 4-2 (Gamba only played at half speed, but were scintillating) and winning in Japan 2-1.  That Gamba Osaka team was pretty super though, having given Man Utd. a run in the World Championship Cup (whatever the hell that competition is called). Sometime thereafter, they were relegated but have since rebounded.

Seoul's form has been much better since their lost in Suwon.  They traveled to Japan and beat Kashima Antlers in the last minute to claim a spot in the knockout rounds.  However, they still struggle to create shots on goal in games and this problem has yet to be rectified.  Since I do not think this can be solved by Wednesday, they had better focus on defending and keeping Takashi Usami quiet.  That means limiting the individual mistakes that have plagued the team this season.  

 (https://www.facebook.com/fcseoul/photos/pcb.822754821112280/822754561112306/?type=1&theater)
Prediction
So based on the stats and past history, I would say there is no way in hell Seoul will advance to the next round.  That being said, Choi Soo Yong’s teams seem to find a way to get it done in the ACL.  Look at the game against Kashima Antlers.  They should not have won, but they did somehow.  I think the same will happen in Osaka as well.  Seoul will find a way to advance the semis, where their luck will probably run out.


(https://www.facebook.com/fcseoul/photos/a.147713995283036.48649.147491315305304/821321547922274/?type=1&theater)

Glad When the ACL Takes a Break
I think the Asian Champion's League has a bit of an affect FC Seoul’s season.  After qualifying and playing week in and week out is finished, they then begin to do better.  This usually occurs sometime around the end of May.

Choi Soo Yong’s teams have gotten off to terrible starts the last three years.  In the first ten games of 2013, they won two, drew four, and lost four.  They did not win their first game until number eight, beating Daegu 4-0.

In 2014, they were even worse.  They won two games, drew three, and lost five.  However, in both seasons, after the thirteenth game, they found their form and began to accumulate points.

The fact that these games happened at the end of May after the first knock-out round probably demonstrates that the AFC does affect Seoul’s domestic campaign.  If the pattern remains true, then Seoul will struggle against Ulsan at home at the end of May, but begin to pick up points and climb the league from June.  

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