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Preview: Busan IPark vs Gwangju FC

After a disappointing draw last weekend, Busan IPark host Gwangju FC this Sunday afternoon in the K League 2. The home side will be bidding to close the six point gap to K League 2 leaders Bucheon, while Gwangju are still looking for their first win of 2018 following their relegation at the end of last season.
(image via facebook.com/bsipark)

Last Time Out

Busan IPark were denied three points last weekend by an injury time penalty from Ansan Greeners striker Raul. Busan had led through Choi Seung-in's penalty, which had looked to be enough to settle a game of few chances. Busan dominated possession at home but lacked penetration in the final third and they rarely threatened the Ansan goalkeeper. Ansan kept Busan at bay well and Raul's coolness from the spot earned them a point that they arguably deserved.

IPark responded in midweek with a 2-1 home victory in the FA Cup against league leaders Bucheon. Although the away team sent a second-string team down to the south coast, the performance was much improved from Busan and will be a boost to morale given Bucheon's excellent start to the season that has seen them win all five of their league games. After a stunning free-kick from Song Hong-min gave Bucheon the lead, Busan responded with goals from Alemao Junior and Kim Jin-gyu in the second half to progress to the 4th round.

Gwangju FC, meanwhile, fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Daejeon Citizen last Sunday. A red card for Gwangju's Lee Han-do was followed three minutes later by the winning goal from Uzbek international Shohruh Gadoev. The result condemned Gwangju to their second defeat of the season and leaves them without a win from five attempts since their exit from K League 1.

Team News

Busan IPark coach Choi Yun-gyeom has experimented with 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 formations so far this season. Although the latter brings out the best in veteran full-backs and former Korea internationals Kim Chi-woo and Lee Jong-min, the tactics failed against Ansan Greeners last weekend. With wingers Kim Moon-hwan and Lee Dong-jun operating as a front two, Busan lacked physicality through the middle and the formation didn't get the best out of the speedy youngsters who prefer to operate from out wide.

Busan IPark's 34 year-old full-backs Lee Jong-min and Kim Chi-woo (image via Busanipark.com)

In the midweek game against Bucheon, the return to a 4-3-3 formation was more effective. Busan created several chances in each half, with Han Ji-ho, Shin Young-jun and substitute Kim Jin-gyu all impressing in their roles either side of Brazilian striker Alemao. With so much talent available in the wing-forward positions, it seems a waste for Busan to play a system with wing-backs and a front two. I would expect coach Choi to keep the winning formation from midweek, especially given the ineffectiveness of the attack last weekend.

The manager rested several players for the FA Cup game, and the likes of Jung Ho-jung, Song Chang-ho and Romulo are likely to return to the starting line-up. One interesting choice will be who starts up front against Gwangju. Alemao took his goal excellently during the week, but Choi Yun-gyeom appears to prefer Choi Seung-in, a player who scored 11 league goals for him at Gangwon in 2015. Since leaving Gangwon the striker has struggled to find the net, and to date he has only four league goals (two of them penalties) in 33 appearances for the club.

Who To Watch

Kim Jin-gyu celebrates another winning goal (image via Busanipark.com)

While early season results have been mixed, coach Choi Yun-gyeom should be praised for his transformation of central midfielder Kim Jin-gyu into an inverted winger. The 21 year-old has been explosive so far in 2018, scoring three times from only four appearances in all competitions. After being introduced in the second half against Bucheon, Kim was as lively as ever, darting into the box to finish clinically after exchanging passes with Ko Kyung-min. His movement off the ball has been excellent, and he has that element of unpredictability that scares defenders, as he is always looking to make something happen. After being an unused substitute in the previous two league games, it must be time to give this young prospect an extended run in the team.


Gwangju have scored only one goal in their five K League 2 games so far this season. Although they have already racked up three clean sheets, they will need to show more attacking intent if they want to seriously challenge for the promotion places and an instant return to the top division. Busan will expect to dominate proceedings at the Gudeok Stadium, but Gwangju won't be easy to score against. The home side have a number of quality options in the wing-forward positions, however, and I think whoever fills those roles will make the difference this weekend.

Busan IPark 2-1 Gwangju FC

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