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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Ulsan Hyundai

K League Round 11 Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Ulsan Hyundai

Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai meet for the first time this year when they face each other in round 11 of the 2018 K League 1 season. And, with their upcoming fixtures in the Asian Champions League to contest, this will be the first of three games in a two week period between the two K League rivals. Both teams will be keen not to give up any ground going into those crucial continental games but a win in either direction could be the perfect mental boost.
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

In their biggest game of the season, Suwon pressed the self destruct button and imploded when they went down 2-0 to rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai. With Suwon on a six game unbeaten run and having won their last eight away games in all competitions, there was a lot of hype surrounding the fixture and expectation that Suwon could bridge the gap between Jeonbuk and make a real fight for the title. But all that hope had dissapeared by the time that the team sheets were announced and it was realised that Seo Jung-won had named a second string starting line-up. The likes of Dejan, Yeom Ki-hun and Kim Jong-woo were all left on the bench, whilst there was not even a place in the matchday squad for Matthew Jurman and Jeon Se-jin, who had scored two goals in his last two games.

The poor team selection left Suwon with a mountain to climb but they were set back even further when a stray free-kick luckily fell to the feet of Jeonbuk's Lee Seung-gi and the winger made no mistake from 10 yards out.

Suwon were then plunged into yet more chaos when a bad challenge from Waguininho resulted in the Brazilian being shown a red card after consultation with the VAR. Despite being a man and a goal down to the strongest team in the league, Seo Jung-won still refused to alter his gameplan and it backfired shortly before half time when Jang Ho-ik recklessly brought down Lee Seung-gi as the Jeonbuk player was about go through one on one with the goalkeeper and the referee had no choice but to give him a red card and reduce Suwon to nine men.

Yeom Ki-hun was introduced at half time and even though Suwon only had nine men they gave a better account of themselves in the second half and were able to mount sporadic attacks. It was a valiant effort by those nine men, with special mention going to Cho Won-hee who put in a herculian effort, and they came close to finding an equaliser when a Yeom Ki-hun free kick sailed narrowly over the crossbar early in the second half.

But, despite their efforts, Suwon couldn't prevent Jeonbuk from extending their lead when Lee Dong-gook, on his 39th birthday, scored and ensured that Jeonbuk would win and extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points.

Meanwhile, Ulsan played out a rather uneventful draw against relegation candidates Jeonnam Dragons. Ulsan took the lead in the 40th minute when Orsic scored against his former team from the penalty spot.

But Ulsan didn't hold the lead for very long and Kim Kyung-min equalised for the away team. Ulsan tried to find a winner in the second half but couldn't quite get the goal that would have claimed the victory and the game finished 1-1.

Previous Meetings

Quite freakily, both Suwon and Ulsan have identical records in this fixture with both teams having won 18 times each, drawn 12 each and losing 18 times each since the K League began. However, over recent season Ulsan have slightly bettered Suwon and the South Gyeongsang team have won 4 of the 8 games between these two since the start of the 2016 season.

Last season, Ulsan had even registered two victories against Suwon before summer came having beaten Suwon by the exact same scorline (2-1) in May and July. Suwon were able to gain some revenge though, when they beat Ulsan 2-0 at home in mid October when both teams were battling to finish in the ACL qualifying spots.

Team News

With both Jang Ho-ik and Waugninho serving suspensions (1 game and 3 games respectively) and with the prospect of Saturday's Super Match on the horizon Seo Jung-won will have a tough team selection to make for this game.

Both Matthew Jurman and Jeon Se-jin will be expected to return to the startng eleven for the visit of Ulsan. But after their exertions against Jeonbuk, it is unlikely that many of the players who were asked to play for an entire half with only nine men will be starting this game. That then leaves Seo Jung-won with the prospect of playing his first choice eleven only three days before that all important Super Match.

The Adversary

Ulsan travel to Suwon unbeaten over the course of the eight games they played in April. During this run Kim Do-hoon and his side have managed to drag themselves away from the foot of the table and are currently sitting in that condensed mid-table pack of teams all of whom will be eyeing the wide open ACL spots.

The Horangi may not have lost in April, but there are signs the problems from earlier in the season are starting to creep back in - most worryingly the lack of attacking creativity.  The grueling schedule and injury to top scorer Junior have inevitably led Kim to rotate his lineup, which has exposed the likes of Kim Seung-jun and Hwang Il-soo, who have thus far been unable carry enough attacking responsibility on their slender shoulders.

The warning signs have been there for Kim Do-hoon. His side have not scored a K League goal from open play in four games - the last four goals coming from three penalties and an own goal.  So when lone striker Toyoda was subbed against Jeonnam last Saturday with thirty minutes to go and the game in the balance at 1-1, there was an audible sigh of despair from the few hardy souls in the stands.  Kim was reverting to his painfully ineffective 'counter-attack' approach. Sure enough what followed was half an hour of a lot of probing and punting, but zero goalmouth action.  The game crawled towards the final whistle when the referee mercifully blew up after only two of the allotted four minutes added time. It finished one apiece; two more points dropped for Ulsan.

If Saturday's offering wasn't depressing enough for Ulsan fans, the schedule does not get any kinder in May. This game is the first in a run of six games in eighteen days for the Horangi, including three midweek matchups with Suwon, meaning  Kim Do-hoon will likely stick with that same conservative approach - come out of the blocks fast hoping to take an early lead, then sit deep and hang on for dear life. All well and good as long as your opponents don't score first.  You may think that's time for Pan B. To that Ulsan fans say "Ha! What Plan B?"

After watching the debacle against Jeonbuk on Sunday it is clear Suwon have their own issues, but I just cannot see Ulsan scoring in this game.  It's a comfortable home win for me, and I don't think Kim Do-hoon will mind too much if he can save his players' legs for the ACL games.

Prediction: Suwon Bluewings 2-0 Ulsan Hyundai

By Dan Croydon

Who To Watch

If he is in the team then Jeon Se-jin is the name that is on every Suwon fan's lips at the moment. The 18 year old has made a huge impression since making his full professional debut against Incheon two weeks ago. A fine header in that Incheon game was followed up only days later with a goal against Gyeongnam meaning the youngster has scored in every game he has played in.

He is small in stature and still needs time to mature but he has already demonstrated that he has all the abilities required to make a name for himself at K League level. Although he is a winger by trade he has an eye for a goal and has bags of skill and pace to go along with that desire to score.

Prediction

Until their last game Suwon had been showing some real potential and had strung together an impressive run of form. And when they play their first choice players they will be a match for anyone in the league. But Ulsan are on a decent run of form themselves and have not been beaten since late March when they succumbed to Pohang Steelers.

With this being the first of three games between these two teams in such a short period of time I imagine that neither team will be willing to give much away in order to win this game and it could well be Ulsan's second uneventful draw in a row.

Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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