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playoffs

Playoff Preview: Asan Mugunghwa Vs Seongnam FC

The 2017 K League Playoffs begin this Wednesday with seven-times K League Champions Seongnam FC heading to Yisunsin Stadium to take on the newly-founded police team Asan Mugunghwa for the Promotion Playoff Semi-Final.  After a dismal run of form of two wins in 20, the Magpies were famously relegated via the playoffs last season. But, after somewhat of a shaky start to this campaign, the Magpies clawed their way into the top four and will be looking to make an immediate return to the Classic via the very playoffs that ended their stay in the top flight just twelve months ago. The police teams of years previous haven't been able to achieve promotion to the Classic but this current crop of Asan Mugunghwa players will be looking to make the most of home advantage, a score draw would be enough to see Asan advance to the Promotion Final against Busan IPark.

(image via Seongnam FC)
from Soccerway.com

Last Time Out

Asan Mugunghwa ended the regular season with a 1-1 draw to fellow playoff participants Busan IPark. Brazilian midfielder Rômulo put Busan ahead just after the restart but a Lee Jaeahn spot kick on the 67th minute ensured that the spoils were shared at the Gudeok. The result meant that Asan head into the playoffs having failed to win their last two. Prior to which, the police team won four on the spin.

A 1-0 away defeat to Gyeongnam ended the season for the Seongnam but due to Bucheon 1995's 2-2 draw away to Seoul E-Land, the Magpies maintained their playoff berth by the skin of their beaks. The result that actual sealed Seongnam's place in the playoffs was the 1-1 draw at home to Daejeon Citizen a fortnight ago. Despite going behind, the Magpies dramatically levelled from the spot in time added on. Although questions were raised on the validity of the foul, the Magpies didn't mind one bit, certainly not Park Sungho who stepped up to rescue a priceless point. The Magpies head to Yisunsin Stadium on the back of a just one win in five and a mere four wins in ten.

Overview

Wednesday's hosts Asan Mugunghwa tend to line up in either a 4-1-2-3 formation or a 4-4-2, with the latter preferred against teams placed higher up the table. The recent draw away to Busan saw manager Song Sunho opt for a 4-4-2, as was the case for the defeat to Gyeongnam in the previous round. However, for two of Asan's last four wins, a 2-1 victory against Suwon FC and a 3-1 win over Daejeon, Song's 4-1-2-3 formation had been deployed with Kim Hyun, Lee Jaeahn and Han Euikwon in attack. With Asan only needing a score draw to advance, Song may opt for a more cautious 4-4-2 but given Asan's last two results, a return to a more expansive formation may be seen as Song's preferred choice.

Seongnam gaffer Park Kyunghoon has set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 system for the majority of the season. Park Sungho or Lee Hyunil usually spearhead the attack with last year's K League Challenge MVP Kim Dongchan deployed in a number 10 role behind the main striker. Either side of Kim Dongchan is usually Slovakian winger Filip Hlohovsky and Lee Sungjae, or on loan FC Seoul forward Sim Jehyuk. In the absense of centre back Marin Oršulić, Park has largely stuck with the centre back pairing of Yeon Jaehoon and Bae Seung-jin, flanked by Lee Jimin and Lee Taehee in the full back positions.

Previous Meetings

Seongnam have come out on top in three of the four previous meetings this season between these two sides. The most recent of which was a 1-0 at Tancheon in September when a Kim Dongchan goal in the 79th minute proved to be enough to seal the victory for Park Kyunghoon's men. Seongnam's last visit to Yisunsin Stadium was in July when a goal in each half ensured that the points returned to Gyeonggi-do. Park Sungho put the Magpie in front on the stroke of half time before Lee Changhoon doubled Seongnam's advantage 11 minutes after the restart. In April, the two sides played at a 1-1 draw in Asan with goals coming from Hwang Euijo on 55 minutes and Jeong Dahoon on 71 minutes for Seongnam and Asan respectively

K League Promotion/Relegation Playoff: How It Works

K League Promotion Dates

Playoff History

Asan Mugunghwa

With it being their debut season in their current guise as Asan Mugunghwa, the police team are yet to experience the K League Promotion/Relegation playoffs. However, as Ansan Mugunghwa, the police finished second in 2014 as runners up to Daejeon Citizen. Ansan went on to face Gwangju in the Promotion Final but lost 3-0 at home thanks to a quick-fire Fabio brace with goals on 70 and 71 minutes before a Diego striker sealed the win five minutes later.

The Police team have never competed in the top flight of Korean football, despite finishing the 2016 season as Champions. Due to the team's relocation to Asan, it was decided by the K League that, despite finishing first, automatic promotion would be awarded to Daegu FC who finished second. Since the inception of the K League Challenge, the second tier, the Police team have finished second on two occasions (2013 & 2014), tenth (2015), first (2016) and third once (2017). In 2013 only the team that finished first qualified for the Promotion/Relegation playoff and so it was the army team Sangju Sangmu who went on to face Gangwon FC in the two-legged final.  Also, two teams from the 14-team K League Classic were automatically relegated, namely Daegu FC and Daejeon Citizen who finished 13th and 14th respectively. Gangwon FC finished 12th and so went on to face Sangju Sangmu in the final, losing 4-2 on aggregate over two legs.

Seongnam FC

The Magpies were famously relegated via the playoffs last season, losing to Gangwon FC in rather controversial circumstances. Seongnam are the most decorated club in K League history with seven league titles to their name as well as two Asian Champions League titles and three FA Cups. However, a spectacular fall from grace in 2016 saw the Magpies fall through the trap door. Having failed to win any of their post split games, losing three times and drawing twice, Seongnam finished 11th and went on to face Gangwon. A 0-0 draw in Gangwon was followed by a 1-1 draw at Tancheon which meant that, thanks to the away goals rule, Gangwon were promoted and Seongnam were relegated.

In 2014 the Magpies managed to avoid a relegation playoff by the skin of their beaks with goal difference being enough to preserve their status in the K League Classic. Seongnam finished 10th on 31 points, Gyeongnam 11th on 31 points but a -9 goal difference compared to -21 for Gyeongnam meant that Seongnam lived to fight another day.

Team News

Seongnam's Croatian defender Marin Oršulić is said to be a doubt for Wednesday's game. The towering centre back has been out of action since August with an initial meniscus injury.

For Asan, Kim Dongcheol is back in contention after the on-loan Seoul E-Land defender missed the draw with Busan through suspension.

Who To Watch

Image via Asan Mugunghwa

Han Euikwon, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder who is in his first year of military service, is Asan's current top scorer with seven goals from 18 appearances, including four in his last six outings. Han joined Asan on loan from Daejeon Citizen at the beginning of the season but only broke into the team in around June of this year. Han has been deployed up front, on either side of a three-man forward line, or  as a right winger in a 4-4-2. Han made into the official K League best XI for rounds 32 and 33 and is bang in form heading into Wednesday's clash.

Image via Seongnam FC

Park Sungho recently celebrated 300 games in professional football recently and even at 35 years old has been the forward whom Seongnam manager Park Kyunghoon has relied upon this term. Park's goal tally stands at just nine but goals have come at a premium for Seongnam all year. Park's goals make up for sixteen points for the Magpies, scoring goals in 1-1 draws or 1-0 wins, 19 including his opening goal in a 2-0 win over Wednesday's opponents Asan. His penalty against Daejeon Citizen in round 35 (pictured above) proved to be the decisive goal that, in the end, ensured that Seongnam secured their place in the top four.

Prediction

On the road this season, Seongnam have lost just three times and so the trip to Yisunsin Stadium may suit the Magpies. Two of those defeats have come in the last two months, prior to which Seongnam went on a run of 13 away games unbeaten with eight of those games ending in victory. Asan have just one defeat in six but have failed to beat any team in the current top four this term. Seongnam, meanwhile, have just four defeats against any of the current top four, with three of those defeats coming against Challenge Champions Gyeongnam.

Asan Mugunghwa 0-1 Seongnam FC




2 comments

  1. What happens if Asan wins the playoffs then beats number 11 in the Classic, but Sangju stay up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as I know, both teams are permitted to be in the Classic next year should such a scenario occur. Otherwise, the K League would probably have said something by now. But, as we both know, things might get left until late.

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