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Preview: Daegu FC vs FC Seoul

With their AFC Champions League hopes officially dashed for another year, Seoul return to Korea fully focused on K League. Though a great deal of flaws were exposed in Seoul's hapless ACL campaign, there may be some bright sides from it. Not least of which, facing a struggling Daegu side this weekend. 
(header image via sportsq.co.kr)

Overview

(Form includes ACL & FA Cup, graphic via soccerway.com.)


They'll Always Have Sydney

After reaching the AFC Champions League semi-final in 2016, FC Seoul is now officially done before the conclusion of the group stage. Group F was always going to be difficult with 2007 winners Urawa Reds, 2014 winners Western Sydney Wanderers, and Chinese Super League powerhouse Shanghai SIPG as their competition. It was easily this year's Group of Death and not making it out wouldn't in itself carry much shame, but the simple fact of the matter is Seoul could have and should have done better. It was the way in which they were utterly dismantled, and on more than one occasion flat out embarrassed, that was so jarring.

However, there are some positive takeaways from the tournament. Seoul managed to pick up their first win in Sydney vs the Wanderers after six times trying. That's a tremendously small victory to take heart from, but it's one of those seemingly silly stats that can get into a team's head that they can't shake. And now it's gone.

More important than morale victories, the ACL helped Seoul confirm two things: they need more depth and talent. Eking out wins against the likes of Gangwon and Gwangju in K League is one thing, but if Seoul wants to compete internationally (or even with top clubs domestically), then the ACL showed them they need reinforcements. Yes, Dejan leads the league in goals, but no one else cracks the top 15 and nearly the entire attacking pool is comprised of wingers. The lack of depth up top isn't the only issue ACL brought light. Seoul conceded 15 times through five matches and looked comically bad (looking at you, Yoo Hyun) at times doing it. To push themselves into the title conversation, they're going to need a new keeper and at least one more starting defender. Instead of going slightly under the radar in league play where wins are easier to come by, the issues at both ends of the field were put on display in international play. Losing as badly as Seoul has in ACL is never a fun thing to go through, but at least it proved what they need to do when the transfer window opens.

Play The Kids

With so many gaps coming to light in ACL, now is the time for manage Hwang Sun-hong to blood in the youngsters and see what they have to offer. Most of the vets traveled to China midweek and may be in need of a rest, but, with all due respect to Daegu, there are few better teams to try out the kids against. There's no better place to start than at the back where 25-year-old keeper Yang Han-bin deserves another look in net given the obvious fact Yoo Hyun isn't the man to move forward with this year. Yang may not be an every day keeper, but maybe he has some surprises up his sleeve and can earn the starting spot. Only one way to find out if the young keeper can earn the spot and prevent Seoul from buying someone in the window. On the other end of the field, they certainly shouldn't play a full 90 or start, but given how poorly the attack has been this season why not throw in 18-year-old Park Sung-min or 20-year-old Kim Jung-hwan for a few minutes to see what they have to offer? Before making the roster decisions that clearly need to be made when the brief window opens at the end of June, Hwang should take this time to figure out exactly what he has on his squad.

Familiar Foes

Although these two sides haven't been in the same division for several years, there's plenty of history between them from Daegu's glory days of yore. Daegu even got the better of Seoul for a while during the mid 2000s when they won four out of six over a two year span. The rivalry was renewed last year when Daegu nearly picked up a miracle win at Seoul World Cup Stadium in the FA Cup. Holding a shock 2-1 lead late into the second half the then Challenge club seemed poised to pull off the upset, but Seoul still had Adriano and he went and did Adriano things to tie it up. Having been smacked awake from the near loss, Seoul showed their quality in extra time and came away 4-2 winners. In spite of the fact Daegu lost that match, and haven't beat Seoul since 2011, they'll likely be drawing on the experience of nearly slaying the giant last year for confidence this weekend.

The Adversary

Staying up was always going to be the main concern for Daegu in their first season back in Classic since 2013, but having won just once this calendar year, it's not looking good. Daegu head into the match having lost three in a row in all competitions and are sitting just three points from the bottom with zero momentum to change their slide. They simply can't seem to keep the ball out of their net and have allowed the 3rd most goals in the league (12), with only Jeonnam (13), Ulsan (13), and Incheon (14) allowing more. What's worse, only four players have found the back of the net for Daegu in 2017. And the man at the top of that list with four, Léo Mineiro, has been suspended due to yellow card accumulation. His absence not only leaves their top scorer on the bench, but asks serious questions of manager Son Hyun-joon regarding which formation he'll line the team up in given the issues at both ends of the field. Much like Seoul, Daegu has largely stuck to a three man backline this season, but has usually opted for the 3-5-2 with the Brazilian strike tandem of Evandro and Léo up top. With half of that duo missing, goals pouring in, and three losses on the trot, perhaps it's time for the manager to change things up a bit. Will be interesting to see how he lines up his men with Seoul coming to town and if he'll simply look to lock down with an overly defensive formation and go for a single point to stop the slide.

Prediction

Regardless of how Son lines his team up and what tactics he uses to counteract Léo missing from the lineup, this is absolutely a match Seoul should win. Daegu is struggling mightily at the moment and if Seoul is going to climb the table at all, these are the kind of teams they need to not only beat, but beat convincingly. I think they'll get the win, but I'm not so sure about the convincing part of it.

Daegu FC 0-2 FC Seoul

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