Preview: Gwangju FC vs Suwon Bluewings
(The Suwon defence deal with an overly physical Jeonbuk team during Sunday's fiery encounter)
After a bruising trip to Jeonju at the weekend, Suwon again travel south as they take on Gwangju on Wednesday evening. A 5 game unbeaten run has seen Suwon keep their head above relegation waters, but with only 6 points separating themselves and Suwon FC in 11th place, this is not a game that the Bluewings can take lightly.
Gwangju have had a fantastic season and have proven wrong their pre-season tag of favourites for relegation, and at this stage of the season still only find themselves sitting 5 points away from an ACL qualification spot.
They have been a team have been so reliably inconsistent that their record currently stands at 10 wins, 10 losses, 10 draws, 35 goals scored and 36 goals conceded. The only thing that you can be certain of with Gwangju is that you will never be able to predict what they will do. Oh, and also, if they are going to win a game it will almost definitely be due to a Jung Jo-gook goal. With a current tally of 16 goals the powerful striker has been the surprise package of this year's Classic campaign and is my pick for player of the year. He has been instrumental to the success that Gwangju have had this season and Gwangju have only lost in 4 of the 14 games that he has registered a goal in. Infact, only one other Gwangju player has scored more than 1 goal this term (Song Seung-min), and his tally of 4 comes nowhere near Jung Jo-gook. Without his goals it may have been a completely different season for Gwangju.
In the two previous games between these teams, Gwangju have acquitted themselves superbly and have claimed a win and a draw, remaining undefeated against Suwon this season. Perhaps they were lucky in the 1st meeting back in April as Suwon missed chance after chance and allowed Jo-gook to poke home an equalizer in the final few minutes. However, when the teams met in Suwon in late June, it was a completely different story as Gwangju ran all over a dormant Suwon midfield, beating their opponents by two goals to nil. A 2nd half blitz from Gwangju saw them register 6 shots on target and score 2 goals, whereas Suwon were pinned back in their own half and didn't register a single shot on goal in the 2nd period.
A recent unbeaten run of 6 was ended at the weekend by an in-form Jeonnam team, however, Gwangju will be aiming to keep things tight against a Suwon team who are struggling to turn draws into wins. If they can keep Suwon at bay Gwangju may well fancy themselves to claim all 3 points and continue their unlikely push towards the ACL.
Coming into this game on a 5 game unbeaten run and playing some decent (if not quite scintillating) football Suwon should certainly be traveling south in the hope that they can claim 3 vital points.
Seo Jung-won's tactical switch to a 3-5-2 (or a 3-4-3 if you are a glass half full kind of guy) formation has worked wonders with Suwon claiming 4 points on the road against superior opponents. With 3 centre-backs in place Suwon look much more defensively sound and they have also been using the width created by the wing-back's much more effectively. Special praise must be heaped upon the returning Hong-chul playing at left wing-back. The former national team player, who only returned from a long term injury last month, has been instrumental in Suwon's stabilisation over recent weeks. His sound defensive technique combined with his fantastic crossing ability has added a different dimension to the left side of an attack that had struggled under the leadership of a lackluster Yeom Ki-hun.
Moreover, with the space on the wings being utilised much more effectively, Santos, and especially, Jonathan have been able to play more centrally and it is no surprise that Jonathan has now scored 2 goals in 2 games. The star Brazilian showcased everything good about his game on Sunday evening in Jeonju as he ran the Jeonbuk centre-backs ragged. There was a new found aggression on show to match his dribbling, hold-up play and instinctive finishing. He held the ball up surprisingly well against two extremely physical defenders and I think Cho Sung-hwan had had enough of him by the time he picked up his 2nd booking and headed for an early shower.
However, thanks to Kim Shin-wook's beef head routine and Lee Dong-gook's amateur dramatics, Jonathan somehow picked up his 3rd yellow of the season and is set to miss this game. Lee Jong-sung is also set to miss this game after he needlessly lunged in on Leonardo and earned himself a red card which swung the game away from Suwon. Luckily, Suwon have ready made replacements in Jo Dong-geon and Park Hyun-beom. A fit again Kwon Chang-hoon (why he was injured has never been ascertained) is also back in the matchday squad and his 10 minute cameo against Jeonbuk hinted that he may be coming back into some form.
Suwon have a very realistic chance of claiming all the points in this game, but they should approach it in exactly the same way as they have the last 2 games. The first aim should be to create a strong foundation for any attacks and once they have a foothold in the game, they should look to use the width provided by Hong-chul and Shin Se-gye on the wings. If they can do that and provide the opportunities for Jo Dong-geon and Santos up front then Suwon could yet put clear daylight between themselves and the bottom 2.
Predicted Score: Gwangju 0 - 2 Suwon