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ACL Writer's Chat: Suwon Bluewings vs Ulsan Hyundai

Suwon Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai put their seasons on the line on Wednesday night when they face each other in the last 16 of the 2018 Asian Champions League. Ulsan hold a precious one goal advantage going into this game and if they can keep Suwon goalless again, they will know that their place in the quarter final is assured.  Here our Suwon columnist, Scott Whitelock, discusses the game with our Ulsan columnist, Dan Croydon.

Scott Asks, Dan Answers

Scott: Ulsan had a bit of a hiccup at the weekend but managed to hold onto a draw against Gyeongnam. Do you think that result will affect them coming into this game? 

Dan: Yes, actually I think it will have had a positive affect as Ulsan once again proved they can grind out a result.  As we all know, Gyeongnan possess a lot of quality going forward, yet Ulsan were able to keep them at bay despite playing the entire second half with ten men.

Richard Windbichler once again showed why he is one of the top players in the league, effortlessly marshaling both defense and midfield and repelling almost everything Gyeongnam could throw at him. But for a piece of individual magic from Marcão, Ulsan would have had all three points. The fact they held on for the draw, while also resting key players ahead of this game means it was far from a hiccup.

SW: Ulsan put on a defensive masterclass against Suwon in the first leg and prevented them from scoring an away goal. How crucial do you think factor will be? 

DC: It makes Ulsan’s mission at the Big Bird a very simple – just don’t lose.  It’s a scenario that they should be very comfortable with too as it plays perfectly to their strengths. They were rock solid in the first leg, not giving ACL legend Dejan as much as a sniff of the goal.  Ulsan are unbeaten in twelve now, and if their defense can hold out again on Wednesday night they will be through to the next round.

SW: Yeom Ki-hun was on the end of a few ‘crunching’ challenges, one of which resulted in the veteran fracturing his rib. Do you think that was a pre-meditated plan from Ulsan? And if so, do you think that is something they will take into this game? 

DC: Looking at the tackle that injured Yeom Ki-hun it was pretty innocuous really.  He was hurt by the way he landed rather than from the impact of the challenge, and unfortunately these things do happen in a contact sport. Of course the timing was terrible as it has put Yeom out of the World Cup, which is not only disappointing for Suwon, but for fans of Korean football in general.

As for Ulsan’s overall approach in the first leg, I didn’t notice them being overly physical. They were committed and strong in midfield as they always are, but always disciplined. However I agree it wasn’t the prettiest game to watch either, mainly because we had an extremely picky referee. Both sides were clearly frustrated with him, especially in the first half and things did threaten to boil over at one point. Hopefully we get someone better on Wednesday night, as both sides are capable of much more attractive football when given the freedom to play. 

SW: Both teams season’s are on the line here. How do you see this game going?

DC: It seems rather obvious to say, but the first goal (if there is one) will be absolutely vital. If Suwon can get it, then it’s suddenly a very different game as the visitors will eventually have to open up more. But if Ulsan can keep things tight until half time, then they have to be favorites. The pace of Oršić and Kim In-sung will make Ulsan dangerous on the break too, so I wouldn’t bet against an away goal. 

SW: Score Prediction?

DC: Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai

Dan Asks, Scott Answers

Dan: Suwon need to score at least one goal to stand any chance of going through to the next round.  But they have failed to create any chances of note in their last two games against Ulsan. Do they need try something new on Wednesday night or just keep plugging away?

Scott: Having spent 180 minutes trying, and failing, to break that formidable Ulsan back line they surely have to try something out of the box Wednesday night. But Seo Jung-won is a manager who is set in his ways and very rarely strays from the tactics and formation he believes in. So it's highly likely he will serve up more of the same.

Suwon haven't played terribly over the last two games against Ulsan, but they have been slightly predictable in their play. Long, direct balls into Dejan have been ineffective and Ulsan have been able to double up on the key danger men. Dejan, Yeom Ki-hun and Kim Jong-woo have been marked out of the previous games and if Suwon are to progress then they will need one of the supporting cast to step up and do something special.

In my opinion, with the team needing to keep their own clean sheet, they should look to play players with pace and try to counter attack Ulsan. Jeon Se-jin has not been used since the Super Match a couple of weeks ago, and Waguininho and Yoo Ju-an both have bags of pace to spare. Suwon will need to be at their supreme best if they want to overcome the odds stacked against them. But if they have players with a little bit of X-factor in their team, that challenge will become slightly easier.

DC: Was the manager able to rest some key players in the victory over Daegu at the weekend?

SW: He was able to pretty much rest the entire first eleven. From those who have been regularly starting only the likes of Shin Hwa-yong, Kwak Kwang-seon and Jang Ho-ik started the game against Daegu. And luckily for Suwon, with the game going swimmingly, Jang Ho-ik was substituted after 60 minutes to give him a good rest for this game.

The performance of Matthew Jurman should have been enough to show Seo exactly what Suwon miss when he is not in the team. The Australian international has only been involved in two games this season. But he was flawless in both those games. He was dominant against Daegu and even won the penalty that put Suwon in the lead.

You can expect the likes of Dejan, Kim Jong-woo, Lee Ki-je and Kim Eun-seon to all come into this game feeling fresh and with a point to prove.

DC: The tie is so finely balanced. What's your crystal ball telling you? Who is going through?

SC: This is an extremely difficult one to predict. But the way that Ulsan blunted Suwon's attack last week leaves me siding with them. Suwon, on paper, have the better team, but they have only scored two goals from open play in the last five games.

The organisation and unity that Ulsan has is special. And when you add the pace and skill of Orsic and Kim In-sung on the break then you have a dangerous opponent. Ulsan haven't lost in their last twelve games, and unless Seo Jung-won does something special it is difficult to see Suwon breaking that sequence.

DC: Score Prediction?

SW: Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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