Writer's Chat: FC Seoul vs Suwon Bluewings
Scott: After a disastrous start to the season, Seoul head into the league season opener struggling. Do you think their performances in the ACL games will affect Seoul in any way going into this game?
Scott Asks and Paul Answers
Paul: That's certainly a possibility. Ideally, Seoul would have wanted to go into the Super Match with some momentum to help take the pressure off. After losing their first Champions League game, the pressure was already on to bounce back against Urawa Reds on Tuesday but then to go and lose so heavily, it now means that Seoul's confidence will have taken a real knock heading into such a big game.No doubt the players will want revenge from the cup final but having had such a poor start to the ACL campaign, as you say, I could envision Seoul to be a bit wary and perhaps a bit nervous heading into Sunday's game.
Scott: The big talking point about Seoul this season is where exactly their goals will come from now that Adriano has left the club. Do you think that either Dejan or Park Chu-young can step forward and score the goals that Seoul will need in order to defend their Kleague crown?
Paul: You are quite right, and I suspect it will remain a talking point until Seoul bring a striker in but with the window closing and no more non-Asian foreigner spots left it doesn't look too promising. Dejan and Park Chu-Young are good players to have someone play off, Dejan in particular, but I can't foresee either of them getting upward of 15 league goals. Dejan got 13 last term which is good for a target man, whilst Park got 10. If they are to ward off any challengers then they will need to find someone to score the goals for them.
Scott: Having left Suwon for their biggest rivals in the winter, Lee Sang-ho is almost certainly guaranteed to get a less than hospitable welcome from the traveling Suwon fans. Do you think this hostility, or indeed, the general hostility that surrounds the Super Match will have any bearing on the game?
Paul: I think hostile atmospheres, certainly coming from the Suwon supporters, is pretty much par for the course. It would certainly be a test of character but at home, and with big characters like Osmar and Dejan in the side, I think Seoul will be able to handle that side of things and help any players who they suspect might be susceptible to any criticism from the fans. In terms of Lee Sang-ho, if he is to endear himself to Seoul fans, then Sunday is the time to do it.
Scott: What is your prediction for this game?
Paul: It's the first game of the season and it's a case of must not lose. To lose the first game of the season to your biggest rivals could have a detrimental effect on how the next month pans out so I would suspect Seoul will set themselves up not to lose. They can defend well at times, as we have seen that already in the ACL game against Shanghai SIPG in particular with Gwak Tae-Hwi a rock at the heart of Seoul's defense, but with the manner in which the goals were conceded against Urawa Reds on Tuesday, one would be worried about the goalkeeper Yoo Hyun. And, as we have already talked about, it is where Seoul's goals are going to come from.
I am going to say that it'll be a draw, perhaps 1-1.
FIFA 17 Preview
Here's a look at what Marc Guay's FIFA 17 simulation predicted.
Paul Asks and Scott AnswersPaul: Suwon's last domestic game was of course the Cup Final, has it finally sunk in yet that Suwon Bluewings won the FA Cup? Surely, there must be a real feel good factor about Big Bird and among the supporters at present?
It's still pretty surreal the way that Suwon were able to turn around their 2016 season in just a matter of weeks. Having been the laughing stock of the league for the best part of 5 months, how the team were able to mount that end of season run speaks volumes for the strength of character in the squad and the feeling of togetherness that was generated from that run has certainly been carried forward into this new season.
It also helps a lot that Suwon's biggest rivals, Seoul and Jeonbuk, have been heavily weakened during the winter transfer window while Suwon has been ambitious and improved upon last year's playing squad. After a rough few years for the supporters, they are finally starting to dream a little bigger this year and who can blame them for doing that?
Paul: Starting the season with a Super Match against the old enemy FC Seoul, is that a perfect way to start? Or would you prefer to wait further into the calendar before having to play such a big match?
Scott: Suwon have probably the toughest start to the season than any other team. Having already faced Kawasaki and Guangzhou in the ACL, they now travel to the reigning league leaders, only to face the reigning ACL Champions, Jeonbuk, a week later. Throw in an arduous trip to Hong Kong 3 days after that Jenbuk game, and Suwon can count themselves a little unlucky to have such a rigorous opening to the season.
However, Suwon will be looking to make a real statement of intent when they take on Seoul and Jeonbuk over the next week. If they can begin the season with 2 victories against their closest rivals then surely the rest of the league will need to take notice of a team that has a ton of potential to improve throughout the season.
Paul: You have been pretty emphatic in your assertions about winning the league, what (or who) do you think will give Bluewings the edge over other sides in the division? What is it about Bluewings that other teams just don't have?
Scott: In short, they have something that no other team has, a tried and tested goalscorer. Suwon's closest rivals, Seoul, lost their key striker in the winter, and their other main rival, Jeonbuk, has a strike force that has a proven track record but has a combined age of 100 and only managed to score 20 goals shared between three players last season. The likes of Gangwon FC have last year's top goalscorer in Jung Jo-gook, and Pohang have Yang Dong-hyun who has had a good couple of seasons with Ulsan and then Pohang, but nobody really expects either of those teams to challenge towards the top of the table.
However, the signing of Johnathan last summer was a huge turning point for the club and the talented striker added a different dimension to a squad that was heavy on talented footballers, but light on goalscorers. He has already got off the mark for the season with a well taken goal in the ACL game against Guangzhou and he will be keen to add to his tally against Seoul. The only downside is that his 1 year loan will expire in June and if he were to depart at that time it may see the demise of this team, much like what happened to Seongnam in 2016 when the talented Thiago left them. The club is trying to finalise a full-time transfer, but if the Brazilian striker keeps scoring at his current rate then teams with bigger budgets that Suwon's may come knocking before the summer.
Paul: Big games call for big game players, first of all what are you predicting result-wise, and who do you see to be the man to orchestrate any such result?
Scott: The Super Match is usually more of a war of attrition rather than a beautiful, end-to-end free for all. Therefore, this may just come down to who has the strongest defence and who can take the one opportunity that may come their way. And so, it may just be the back three of Suwon, and in particular, new boy Matthew Jurman, who is the key to victory for Suwon. The Australian centre-back made an accomplished, if not flawless, debut on Wednesday night
and particularly impressed with his calmness at the back. On a number of occasions, he was able to dribble and pass his way out of defence and that will be important as Suwon aim to maintain possession on the huge pitch in Seoul. Moreover, the back 3 together, managed to limit a very talented Guangzhou team to a handful of half chances, and if it were not for Goulart's wonder goal, Suwon would have emerged victorious thanks to a solid display from the defence.
If the Suwon defence can keep Seoul at bay then I would expect either Santos, Ki-hun or Johnathan to snatch a goal at the other end and for Suwon to take a 1-0 victory back to Gyeongi-do.