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K-League Challenge Playoff Preview – Suwon v Seoul E-Land

With the final round of league fixtures in the K-League Challenge played on Sunday there’s hardly time to draw breath before the playoffs kick-off on Wednesday night. The first matchup is 3rd vs 4th which means that Suwon will be taking on Seoul E-Land for the right to face Daegu on Saturday.
Remember also that these games are one-leg affairs with the winner being decided over 90 minutes and the home team taking the prize in the event of a draw. Only the promotion/relegation play-off final with Busan I’Park is played over two-legs. In other words, Seoul E-Land will have to win on Wednesday night to avoid being eliminated.

There’s not a lot to choose from between the sides but, if nothing else, then we should probably expect some goals in this one. So far this season in four matchups between the sides we have seen 17 goals with E-Land just edging the aggregate 9-8. Both sides have two wins each, one apiece at each stadium, but Suwon will probably take confidence from having won the last two matchups between the teams including a 4-1 victory at Jamsil in the last meeting of the teams in mid-October.
For Seoul, they’ll be looking for a repeat of their first visit to the Suwon Civil Stadium when they delivered a very impressive 5-1 demolition of the home team which sparked a run of great form from them which they largely have to thank for their presence in the playoffs in the first place. Since those days the form has been significantly more patchy and, in fact, the team has only managed 6 wins in the entire second half of the season.

Suwon certainly have the momentum going into the game, and might even feel slightly disappointed that they didn’t manage to steal the title given their strong second half to the season. They’ll probably look at points dropped against Bucheon, Anyang and Gangwon and wonder what might have been given that the gap to champions Sangju was just two points in the end.

Predictions are always difficult in the Challenge and given what’s at stake on Wednesday night it may simply come down to who wants it more on the night. For E-Land they will be looking at experienced stalwarts like Kim Young-kwang, Kim Jae-sung and Cho Won-hee to provide a solid base for frontmen Joo Min-kyu and Tarabai to work from.  It’ll be interesting to see if any of the fringe players that featured in the 4-4 draw at Gangwon have pushed their way into Martin Rennie’s thoughts but it’s likely he’ll rely on his tried and trusted troops for this one.

The key-man for Suwon is likely to be centre-forward Japa. His goals have been vital for Suwon and he’s proved a thorn in the side of E-Land this season having bagged four in their last two meetings. If E-Land are to win they will need to eliminate his goal threat. The arrival of tricky Spaniard Sisi has added a new dimension to Suwon’s midfield and he’s another that will have to be watched closely.

Overall, it’s difficult to fancy anyone but Suwon going through to the next round in this one. The form guide, the home advantage and the fact they only need a draw all point them doing the celebrating on Wednesday night. On paper at least though I still believe E-Land have a better squad and greater quality in across most areas of the park, the question is whether Rennie can engineer a performance from his key men on the night. If he can, their experience might just be the decider in this one. 

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