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AFC Preview: FC Seoul vs. Sanfrecce Hiroshima


(from youtube.com)
With the first game of the AFC group stage out of the way, FC Seoul will meet up against Yojiro Takahagi's former team, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, on Tuesday.  For once, because it is a red day, I do not have to work so I am pretty excited to watch this game.  It has been a long time since Seoul has been in action and I am curious to see what they look like.

Unlike Tuesday's game, I expect this to be quite a challenge for Seoul.  Since Sanfrecce Hiroshima lost to the Chinese club Shandong Luneng, this game takes on a significance that might otherwise not have been if they had won.  Lose and they are down six points, which makes for quite a deep hole to climb out of.  It will not be impossible to get through, but the margin of error will be that much thinner than it already is, so I am sure that Hiroshima will play for the win rather than just a draw.

I would still say that this is a must win game for Sanfrecce Hiroshima.  Even five points down is quite a bit to make up, which means that manager Hajime Moriyasu (Manager of the Year 2015) will have his club extremely motivated to come of the gate quickly.  Therefore, I expect this game to be exciting with lots of opportunities for goals.

(from canchellena.lanacion.com.ar)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima- Record

Surprise winners of the J1-League, Sanfrecce Hiroshima put together quite a good run last year to trump Gamba Osaka, whom I thought would win the whole thing with Takashi Usami leading the line.  After the first stage, they were in third place  with a record of ten wins, three draws, and four losses.  From there, they won the second stage with a record of thirteen wins, one draw, and three losses.  They  beat Gamba Osaka on aggregate over two legs, 4-3, to claim the championship stage.  Here is their overall record for the last five years:

Year
P
W
D
L
GF (Avg.)
GA (Avg.)
Pts. (avg.)
Pos
2011
34
13
11
10
52
49
50
7th
2012
34
19
7
8
63
34
64
1st
2013
34
19
6
9
51
29
63
1st
2014
34
13
11
10
44
37
50
8th
2015
34
23
5
6
73
30
74
1st

In the last five years, they have won the league three times.  Still, last year was quite a good year for a team that finished in 8th place the year before.  Granted, they were the champions in 2013, so the building blocks were there, but that is still a significant turn around.  In 2015, they led the league in scoring while conceding the fewest number of goals, which demonstrates a certain level of dominance.

(Taksuma-Asano- from youtube.com)
Sanfrecce Hiroshima- Players

Lining up for them is the J-League's Rookie of the Year Taksuma Asano.  He scored nine league goals and fourteen total for Hiroshima, making for quite an impressive campaign.  At only 21 years of age, he is primed for a long career.

Asano is quite fast his ability to run over short distances has been described as "explosive".  He helps create space for himself and teammates because of his speed and he has the ability to score goals as well.  I feel as though he will be the most dangerous player on the pitch Tuesday afternoon.

Hiroshima also has the reigning league MVP, Toshihiro Aoyama.  The adjective that applies to Aoyama is industrious.  He plays at the base of the midfield, shielding the back four and acting as a passing metronome to start attacks.  He ran the most on Hiroshima's team last year and was second in the league for distance covered.

Last year, their striker Douglas led the squad with 22 goals, but he has moved to Al Ain in the Arabian Gulf League.  He has been replaced in the foreigner spot by Peter Utaka, a Nigerian International formerly of relegated Shimizu S-Pulse (relegated).  His career has not been as storied as his brother John Utaka, who played for Portsmouth in their heyday.  Yusuke Minagawa played up front for Hiroshima last Tuesday, but he seems to be a relative unknown.

Past Encounters

In 2014, these two teams were placed in the same group.  The first game they played, Seoul lost 2-1 as Takahagi and Shiotani both scored.  On the return to Seoul, probable persuasion from an Asian betting syndicate led to some shady decisions by referee Fahad Jaber Al-Marri (see 1:40), which helped Seoul secure an undeserved draw.  That being said, Yun Il-lok's finish for the first goal was magnificent, which makes me ask what the hell happened to him last year.

Line-up

FC Seoul 5-3-2 football formation

I cannot see why Choi Yong-soo would change anything from last time out.  Seoul have had a week to recover on the beaches of Thailand and are probably well rested.  I do not see why he would alter his lineup in any way unless there was an injury, particularly up front with the strikers.  Maybe he shifts Shin Jin-ho out for someone else, but most likely not.

Prediction

I think the game will be played at a high-tempo and there will be a lot of chances.  Hiroshima need to get points, especially three, which means they will come out of the gate.  Last year, they excelled in scoring goals while defending stoutly.  Hiroshima is more than a capable opponent for Seoul and I cannot see things going nearly as well for them at home as they did on the road on Tuesday.

Unlike the last two year, I expect for Seoul to come out and attack the goal.  I do not expect them to play so statically or conservatively, which means there will be gaps in the line and that Seoul will most likely concede a goal or two.

Final Score: 2-2


4 comments

  1. Great preview, cant wait for this match. High expectations for FCSeoul too as they won 6-0 against Buriram United. Fans expect another victory. Yun Il-Lok will be back as he is like a lucky charm for FCSeoul in the ACL. He tends to score important goals in important matches.
    -Nicole Chung.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I hope they play well and that Buriram wasn't a one-off. I would like to see Yun Il-lok play well again. He was awesome in 2014.

      Delete
  2. Your prediction was way off lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always get them wrong. I really thought Hiroshima would be better.

      Delete

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