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Preview: Gyeongnam FC v Sangju Sangmu.

K League Challenge Champions Gyeongnam are back in the top flight after a three year absence after being relegated in 2015 in a two legged relegation defeat by Gwangju FC. The feeling around the club is fantastic and the well assembled squad is more than ready to pit their wits against the best in Korea.  An intriguing opener against Sangju Sangmu this Sunday is the home side's first test of the season.
(Image via Gyeongnam FC)


Previous Meetings

The two sides previously met over three years ago since the army outfit have been in the top flight since 2016. They clashed in the then K League Challenge with Sangju (the eventual champions) coming out on top in three out of the four meetings between the sides back then. The military boys have seemed to have had the edge over the reds for a number of seasons now. In a pivotal game in the southerners' battle to avoid the drop in 2014, Gyeongnam made the trip to Sangju but were well and truly beaten 3-1.

However this is a new dawn under manager Kim Jung Boo and with Sangju not having the best of squads this year, and with them being among the bookies favourites to struggle this season, it's an opening day fixture which the home side have to be happy with.

Team News

The home side have a full strength squad to chose from. The first eleven kind of picks itself with the added flair of Negueba from Brazil who can play on either wing and the exciting talented winger/number 10 in Japanese player Kunimoto added to the mix. It makes for really exciting, attacking prowess available for the reds. The manager will have a tough choice to make of who will be in between the sticks. Lee Bum Soo started the season in fine form last campaign before a season ending knee injury stopped his season abruptly. His deputy Lee Joon Hee didn't really put a foot wrong thereafter and was key in them securing promotion last season. The main focus will be providing the ammunition to the beast from Brazil in Marcao up top.

Sangju boast the talents of two ex-Gyeongnam players this season in the form of Yoon Bit Garam and Song Soo Young; both are very good players on their day. Gyeongnam fans will have fond memories of when Yoon Bit Garam first broke onto the scene playing for the reds; a graceful player who after two seasons with Gyeongnam, you could clearly see was destined for bigger things. He duly signed for Seongnam where he impressed further to become a national team player.  He now plies his trade on the island for Jeju United. Song Soo Young was a dead ball specialist and could whip in a great cross with his right foot.   Both players were loved by the supporters and I am sure they will recieve a warm reception when returning to their old stomping ground.

Bit Garam started his professional career back in 2010 playing for Gyeongnam.  (Image Via Flickriver)                

Who to Watch


Gyeongnams two new overseas signings in Kunimoto and Negueba will be champing at the bit to make a good impression early on and cement their place in the side. The aforementioned Yoon Bit Garam for Sangju is, on his day a truly wonderful player to watch, and can be deadly in and around the box. He takes all free kicks as well and possesses a wand of a right foot. His vision is unbelievable and I wouldn't be surprised if he is in the mix being the highest assist maker this season in K1.


But the main player to watch here will be last seasons run away leading goalscorer Marcao. Can he make the step up to K1 and dominate defenders like he did last campaign? Only time will tell but I know that all eyes will be on him. He turned down some very lucrative offers from Japan and China in the winter to remain with Gyeongnam this season. His heart is at Gyeongnam, he is just coming into the second year of his current three-year contract.

Prediction 

First of all I think it'll be a great occasion for everyone concerned with Gyeongnam FC, playing K1 football again. Being down in the K2 for three years hit the club hard financially and the level of football produced wasn't what the supporters were hoping for until last season.


The fixture is the only game on Sunday so all eyes will be on it from all over the footballing community here in Korea. I am going for a nervy 1-0 win, with who else but Marcao with the winner around the 70 minute mark.

Gyeongnam 1-0 Sangju Sangmu



 





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