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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Suwon Bluewings



Suwon Bluewings have the opportunity to reach as high as 2nd in the table when they travel south to face Ulsan Hyundai in the 18th round of fixtures of the 2017 Kleague Classic season. Another win on the road would propel Suwon above their southern rivals and within touching distance of Jeonbuk (atleast just for a day). And with only 9 points separating 2nd and 9th places in the table a loss at this stage of the season could signal that a potential disaster is awaiting around the corner, and for both these teams you get the feeling that there is a case of do or die over this fixture. 
(Photo courtesy of www.bluewings.kr)

Last Time Out

Suwon continued their impressive form away from home on Wednesday night with victory over a Daegu team who had already recorded some great home wins this season, and who were going into the game off of impressive draws against Seoul and Jeonbuk.

Suwon made light work of relegation threatened Daegu, but two needless red cards for Daegu's foreign contingent, Cesinha and Leo Mineiro, definitely helped a Suwon team that once again struggled for fluency in a scruffy first half.

Nevertheless, goals from Johnathan, Yeom Ki-hun and Yoo Ju-an sealed an emphatic win for the Gyeongi-do team leaving them within touching distance of the upper echelons of the table.

Whilst Suwon were busy displaying their clinical attack in midweek, Ulsan's attack did quite the opposite in their 0-0 draw away to Sangju Sangmu.

Despite controlling almost the entire game, registering 7 shots on target and limiting the home team to zero shots on goal, their spluttering attack failed to convert a number of good chances as the game meekly petered out. This has been a perpetual problem this season for Ulsan and if they are to stand a chance against an in-form Suwon team they will need to take their chances on Saturday.

Team News

Suwon come into this game looking incredibly weak in attack as a mini-injury crisis threatens to halt their gradual rise up the table.

Forward, Johnathan, was removed at half-time in midweek, suffering from a muscle strain and is a major doubt for the weekend fixture. So to is Park Gi-dong who was completely missing from the matchday squad on Wednesday which may leave Seo Jung-won with the dilemma of having no fully fit strikers for what is their biggest game of the season thus far.

One positive for the Suwon manager must be the incredible debut week for 18 year old Yoo Ju-an. After scoring and providing one assist on his professional debut last weekend, he followed up with another goal against Daegu. The youngster's impact has surprised almost everyone in Kleague and, playing as a number 10, he has displayed an intelligence and reading of the game that belies his tender age. It is still early days in his career, but another goal this weekend would increase his stock further and would leave him in a position to demand a regular starting spot.

The Adversary

Although they had a slow start to the season, only winning 2 of their first of their first 7 league games, and coming very close to being knocked out of the ACL by Hong Kong Premier league team Kitchee, an extremely good run of form in May saw Ulsan climb the table and they have been comfortably sitting in 2nd or 3rd place in the table for a few weeks now.

Despite a managerial change in the winter along with the big name signing of Lee Jong-ho, Ulsan are again one of the more defensive minded teams in the league this year. Quite incredibly, although they sit at the top end of the table, Ulsan are one of the lowest scoring teams in the Kleague Classic and only bottom team Gwangju have scored less than Ulsan's low tally of 16 goals.

But where Ulsan have struggled in attack they have excelled in defence, and only Jeonbuk and Jeju have a better defensive record. Their defence has often kept them in games, a point which is highlighted by the number of games they have won by a single goal margin (all 8 of their victories in the league have come this way). However, with the transfer of Jeong Seong-hyun to Sagan Tosu a key component of this defence has been ripped from the team. The promising centre-back had been one of Ulsan's most consistent players this season and whether they can maintain their impressive defensive record without him remains to be seen.

Who To Watch

He may have relatively poor statistics this season (4 goals, 0 assists) but the main danger in the Ulsan team is undoubtedly Mislav Orsic.

If you spend just 20 minutes watching him his attacking talents become obvious, with his pace down the wing and the service he provides from that area being the high points of his game. Moreover, he has the ability to cut in-field onto his right foot and unleash vicious shots on the opposition goal. That shooting talent is further extended to free-kicks and set pieces, and anything within 30-40 yards of goal is within his range.

But this season he has really improved his defensive qualities and he has a real desire to contribute in defence and help his team. He tracks back extremely well and has the engine and stamina to run up and down the wing for the entire 90 minutes. His positioning is near perfect and he is often in the correct position to block passing lanes and keep any penetrative passes to a minimum.

On his day, Orsic is one of the most dangerous players in the league, and if he is firing on all cylinders on Saturday Suwon may have a very long 90 minutes ahead of them.

Prediction

If this game was being played in Suwon it would be easy to assume that it would be another disappointing day for Suwon, but their incredible away form must not be overlooked. Since the beginning of April they have won all but 2 of their away fixtures and have scored 19 goals in the process. And given that another away victory could send Suwon to 2nd in the table, the away team will surely be aiming for all 3 points.

The result of this game will rely heavily upon what type of team Suwon are able to field come 7pm on Saturday evening. Johnathan, Park Gi-dong, Damir and Koo Ja-ryoung all have fitness doubts and it is extremely difficult to imagine that a 2nd string Suwon team could score the goals required to beat one of the best defences in the country. But, if those players are available to play, we can expect a close and entertaining game, and perhaps one of the matches of the season.

Ulsan 1-1 Suwon

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