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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons

Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Jeonnam Dragons K League 1 Round 10
Ulsan could climb as high as third in the table with victory over Jeonnam Dragons this Saturday - unthinkable just a few weeks ago after their awful start to the campaign. The visitors will be no pushovers though having come from behind to beat FC Seoul midweek. Will Ulsan make it five wins in six? Or can the Dragons get back-to-back victories for the first time since last April? Dan Croydon previews the match with help from Jeonnam writer Aodan Halligan.   
(image via kleague.com)
Game: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons
Venue: Munsu Stadium, Ulsan
Kick off: Saturday 28th April, 4.00pm KST

Last Time Out

Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 Incheon United
(Highlights: here)

Ulsan made it 13 points from the last 15 available with a win over Incheon United on Wednesday night. It really should have been more comfortable, given manager Kim Do-hoon named a such a strong starting XI, perhaps wary of Incheon's impressive attacking display against Suwon Bluewings last weekend.

Kim's side went two-nil up and looked to be cruising to victory;  a penalty from Toyoda and an own goal by Incheon striker Mugoša the difference between the two teams at the break. But the visitors regrouped in the second half and found ways to expose the Horangi back line. Mugoša made amends for his own goal with a neat header to pull one back and suddenly Ulsan seemed panicked.

Despite Incheon creating some good chances and even hitting the woodwork at one point, the hosts did hang on, just. But the last twenty minutes or so exposed Ulsan's inability to keep the ball and kill off the tie. The pace of Oršić was always a danger on the break, but the likes of Kim In-sung and particularly Kim Seung-jun were just not able to keep hold of the ball to bring the Croat into the game.

Manager Kim Do-hoon will have to learn from this close shave and make sure his side are not guilty of taking their foot off the pedal again if they take the lead against Jeonnam this Saturday.

Previous Meetings

The Tigers have dominated the Dragons at Munsu over the years, with Jeonnam only winning twice in 19 attempts. They visited twice last season and lost both times by a single goal - Mislav Oršić and left-back Lee Myeong-jae getting the goals in two 1-0 wins for the Tigers.

It was, however, a very different story when Ulsan traveled over to Gwangyang last April when the Blues were on the wrong end of a 5-0 thrashing as Jeonnam inflicted Ulsan's heaviest K League defeat in decades.

Team News

Ulsan were dealt a blow before kickoff midweek when it was announced Brazilian striker Junior would be out for six weeks with a knee problem. The ex-Daegu man had scored in four league games running before he limped off in the goalless draw at Gyeongnam last weekend.

Junior joins long-term absentee Lee Jong-ho on the sidelines, further limiting Kim Do-hoon's striking options. Expect Yohei Toyoda to lead the line again on Saturday, supported by Kim Seung-jun. Both players have struggled in front of goal so far this season, particularly Kim who let another golden opportunity slip away towards the end of the Incheon game. 

The Adversary

Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 FC Seoul
(Highlights here)

The Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 win over FC Seoul midweek helped lift them off the bottom of the table and has given them a much-needed confidence boost going into round ten of K League 1. The victory, which was their first at home this season, and only their second of 2018, ended a run of seven games without a win. And the return of several key players this week after injury and suspension such as Wanderson, Tomislav Mrčela, Lee Ho-seung, and Lee Seul-chan has strengthened morale even further.

Delighted Dragons celebrate Vedran Jugović's winning goal vs FC Seoul. (Image via K League)
Head coach Yoo Sang-chul made eight changes against FC Seoul and is expected to rotate his squad heavily once again against Ulsan as it will be the Dragons third game in seven days. So, midfielder Han Chan-hee and club captain Kim Young-wook should return to the starting lineup, while Croatian midfielder Vedran Jugović, the matchwinner against FC Seoul on Wednesday, has played more games than any other Dragon player this season and thus may be used sparingly on Saturday.

Meanwhile, defender Lee Ji-nam picked up a knock against Seoul so he may miss this game and the club’s top scorer Choi Jae-hyun, who was seriously injured in the 3-0 defeat against champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on April 14th, is recovering from knee surgery and should be out for around three months.

Yoo Sang-chul will probably stick with the 3-4-3 formation that he employed against FC Seoul as it has also has served him well away from home several times this season. Therefore, Wanderson should feature as a left wingback once more and Lee You-hyeon may be retained on the opposite flank. Ha Tae-goon’s ability to hold up the ball could prove vital on the road once again, so he’ll probably start up top and Macedo may have to settle for a place on the bench.

And even though Ulsan are in great form and strong favorites this Saturday, the Dragons will have a spring in their step and could provide a sting in the tail for the home side.

by Aodan Halligan

Who To Watch

Yohei Toyoda
The 34-year-old striker finally bagged his first goal for Ulsan on Wednesday when he confidently slotted away an early penalty to put his team 1-0 up.  The Japanese international, on a season-long loan from Sagan Tosu, looked ecstatic to finally break his duck as he ran to the touchline to celebrate with the coaching staff.

Yohei Toyoda embraces manager Kim Do-hoon after scoring his first goal for the Horangi. (Image via K League)
Now, Toyoda will be looking to build on that goal, knowing he will probably be Kim Do-hoon's first choice striker for the next couple of months. Toyoda is already a real fans' favourite thanks to his tireless work in the air and chasing down of lost causes.

And after seeing the performance of Jeonnam's defence in their 1-4 loss to Gangwon last weekend, Kim Do-hoon will be asking his big target man to pressurise the back line again in this match. He may not score on Saturday, but Toyoda will be a real nuisance to the Dragons, which will probably give some scraps for the pacier players like Oršić to feed off.

Prediction

Form and history suggest a home win but that second half against Incheon will have scared Ulsan. Hopefully, they will have learned they cannot relax after taking the lead against these so-called "weaker" teams.  Indeed, Jeonnam's comeback against Seoul on the same night highlighted the fighting spirit in their camp. It's still a home win for me, but my head says don't dismiss Jeonnam entirely.

Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 Jeonnam Dragons

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