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Writer's Chat: FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings

(Managers Hwang Sun-hong and Seo Jung-won speak to the press ahead of Saturday's game. Photo courtesy of www.footballist.co.kr)

With the games coming thick and fast FC Seoul and Suwon meet for the 3rd, and likely, final time this season. Seoul correspondent, John Emanuelson, and Suwon correspondent, Scott Whitelock, discuss Seoul's terrible summer form and Suwon's relegation scrap. 

First, Scott asks and John answers:

Scott: At this stage of the season, lagging 12 points behind Jeonbuk, can FC Seoul still have realistic expectations that they can challenge for the title?

John: Anything is possible as Newcastle demonstrated in 1996 against Man Utd., yet I think Seoul would be better served focusing on securing second or third at this point.  However, should Jeonbuk stumble, fingers crossed, then I believe Seoul have the ability to make-up ground on the league fat cats.  Hopefully, July's form was just a blip and Seoul can return to their early season dominance, but I wouldn't recommend that any gamblers out there to bet big on that happening.  Instead, save your money and take your loved ones to Outback Steakhouse or some other midscale restaurant.  Splurge on some booze and appetizers.  Afterwards, go see Suicide Squad and sneak in a couple cans of Cass. 

Scott: After a disastrous July in which Seoul only collected 8 points from a total 21 on offer, Seoul appear to have turned the corner. What were the reasons behind this summer blip and have Seoul fully put their issues to one side?

John: This blip is probably a culmination of many factors and as I have said previously, was most likely would have occurred regardless of whoever was the manager.  Still, switching managers mid season is usually a recipe for a shit sandwich.  Add in key members such as Go Yo-han, Ju Se-jong, and Kim Won-sik being injured along with an unjust 7 game suspension for the team's leading scorer Adriano, it is easy to see why Seoul were so poor in July.   Oh, and our CBs are always good for cocking up at the most inopportune time, yet the team persisted with three in the back rather than inserting another midfielder (an area we need to improve in) or forward (the team's only strength) into the lineup.

That being said, I expect Seoul to do better in August.  In their game against Pohang, Seoul looked fantastic, especially in the second half.  Whatever P.E.D.s Kim Chi-woo is taking (allegedly- haha, I kid) seem to be working since he has been great going at forward and secure at the back lately.  Against Seongnam, Seoul dominated possession, but didn't do much. However, thanks to the hosts generosity and a terrible offside line, Seoul came away with three more big points. A big thanks to the Magpies and I look forward to visiting Tancheon next year.

Scott: With 2 huge games in the ACL coming up, along with an FA Cup semi final, is there any chance that FC Seoul could be distracted by their upcoming schedule?

John: I left my 8-ball in Korea, so I have no idea what will happen, but the likelihood of that happening is quite high.  The ACL was originally going to be a piece of piss, but after Shandong Luneng went out and spent the G.D.P. of Estonia, Seoul have their work cut out for them.  I expect Graziano Pelle and Cisse will give Seoul's CBs a torrid time and that Seoul will concede at least two, maybe three times.  That being said, Shandong's league form continues to be inconsistent and they are coached by the anachronism Felix Magath, so maybe Seoul can knock-off the Richie Rich bastards.

With regards to the FA Cup semifinal, unless manager Hwang Sun-hong perpetually resides in opium den, he must be aware that winning this trophy remains Seoul's easiest route to qualify for the ACL.  Thanks to Bucheon upsetting Jeonbuk, Seoul are the favorites to repeat and it will be an abomination if they fail to win the trophy.  Of course having said that, I could see Suwon winning it all and qualifying even though they will finish in 9th or 10th place.

So to answer your question, I do expect Seoul to focus more on the cups and less on the league.  It is inevitable and considering how awful June and July have been, I would be quite happy with an FA Cup win. Getting to the semis or even further in the ACL would be gravy at this point. 

John's score prediction: It will be another scrappy match, but Adriano continues his fine track record of scoring in the Super Match and Seoul come away 3-2 winners.

Now, John asks and Scott answers:

John: What are your reactions about Suwon's 5-3 victory over Jeju and can this victory be the catalyst to propel the team up the table?

Scott: The result against Jeju was certainly pleasing, but only for the fact that Suwon got the 3 points and it finally heralded a return to form for Yeom Ki-hun. However, the manner in which the 3 points were won was much less than pleasing. After taking a deserved 3-0 lead Suwon somehow conspired to ship two goals, and if it wasn't for some wasteful finishing from Jeju could have found themselves 3-4 down, before their late rally saw them over the line. A weakened and static central midfield was exposed and a team in better form than Jeju may have exposed that a little more. 

What was much more pleasing was Suwon's resilience against Ulsan on Wednesday night. Playing without a recognised centre forward (both Jonathan and Jo Dong-geon were injured, whilst Kim Gun-hee was suspended) Suwon were able to trouble Ulsan's defence whilst not really allowing Ulsan a shot on goal. Lee Jung-soo looked as composed as ever at centre back, whilst his partner, the much maligned, Koo Ja-ryoung even had a steady game and did little wrong. Whilst Suwon never really threatened much themselves going forward, it was pleasing to see them keep a very dangerous Ulsan team at bay. The defensive cohesion displayed in midweek certainly bodes well for this upcoming super match.

John: How would you rate your new striker Jonathan so far and any thoughts on Romeo Castelen?

Scott: Jonathan was signed to score goals, and so far, a goalscorer is all he appears to be. He doesn't do much in a game other than get himself on the end of deliveries, and unfortunately he hasn't had the best of supply from the Suwon midfield. The one time he did get on the end of a decent cross he tucked it away superbly, and Suwon fans will be hoping that he can reproduce more of that over the next year. To be fair to the striker, he joined at a terrible time when the team was not playing well and there was not much he could do to arrest the slump. Jonathan isn't the type of player who is going to drop deep, pick up the ball, dance around 4 defenders and score a wonder goal (although it is the natural assumption that every Brazilian should be able to do that). He is a player that will lurk around the box and pick up the pieces, and most likely score. But if the service isn't there then he doesn't contribute much to the game. 

As I mentioned above, Jonathan is currently out injured with a mystery leg injury and is unlikely to return before the weekend, which leaves Suwon with only one recognised striker. 

As for Romeo Castelen, he looks like a player who has had not played football in a while and is not match fit. He is a player who is bright and tricky on the ball and isn't shy to try and take on his markers. But he currently lacks the pace required at this level and he will find the K League very difficult until he is up and running on all cylinders. But, I have seen enough from him in his few cameo appearances to suggest that he will be a nuisance playing from the right-wing and not many full backs will enjoy defending against the combined threat of Castelen and Yeom Ki-hun. 

John: Both Super Matches have been quite scrappy, resulting in lots of fouls but not many chances.  With so much riding on the line do you expect history to repeat itself or will this be a more open game?  

Scott: There is zero chance of us getting a classic end-to-end game simply because every game is too important to Suwon at the moment. Make no mistake about it, Suwon are heavily involved in a relegation battle and every point is precious. It would be nice if Suwon were sitting comfortably mid-table, with nothing to play for and Seo Jung-won could just throw caution to the wind and tell his players to go all out for the win. But, sometimes, circumstances dictate your game plan and I think the manager would take one point if it was offered to him now. 

Suwon are heading to Seoul with a depleted squad, are on a rare 2 game unbeaten run and with the team actually defending as a unit in their previous game. As such, I think they will adopt a very conservative approach to the game. I expect the majority of play to be in Suwon's half with 10 men sitting behind the ball trying to limit the space of the Seoul forwards. Also, Suwon just don't have the pace to be able to exploit Seoul on the counter attack, so when Suwon do have the ball I imagine it will be played around midfield with not much pace or desire to play through Seoul. 

Suwon's game plan will be one of containment. And I just don't think Seoul are currently good enough to beat Suwon. Seoul's goals have dried up of late and Adriano doesn't look half as threatening as he did in the first half of the season. 

For a football purist it will be an interesting tactical battle. However, for the casual observer it's going to be a very boring 90 minutes of football.

Scott's score prediction: FC Seoul 1 - 1 Suwon Bluewings

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