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Super Match Writers' Chat: FC Seoul Vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

The second Super Match of the 2018 season sees K League legend and former FC Seoul hero Dejan Damjanović return to Sangam for the first time since his controversial transfer in January. Whilst Suwon Bluewings are flying high in second place, manager-less FC Seoul will play host to their most fiercest rivals having not put their best foot forward thus far this term. Ahead of Saturday's huge clash, columnists Paul Neat and Scott Whitelock sat down to discuss all things Super Match.
(copy and paste image credits here)

Overview

Traditionally, the Super Match is the biggest fixture in the K League calendar. These two K League giants are amongst the most decorated in K League history with seven league titles between them. The rivalry dates back to the mid 1990s when, after the K League's decentralisation policy in 1996, LG Cheetahs (FC Seoul) moved to Anyang, 13 miles south of the capital. Suwon Samsung Bluewings joined the K League around this time and, due to the proximity of Suwon and Anyang as well and the interests of Samsung and LG respectively, a rivalry was formed. Originally, the fixture was called the Jijidae Derby, in reference to the hill on South Korea National Route 1 which connects the two cities. Since 2004, when LG Anyang Cheetahs moved back to the capital, the fixture became known as the "Super Match". As FC Seoul vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Saturday's clash will be the 42nd league meeting between these two fierce rivals, 54 overall.

The first Super Match of the 2018 campaign was derided after a 0-0 draw that was uneventful to the point that the superlative aspect of its title has been put under scrutiny. However, since then, FC Seoul have managed to get their first victories of the season under their belts and have parted company with their manager, Hwang Sunhong. Meanwhile, Suwon Samsung Bluewings, are on a run of just one defeat in nine and sit second in the table with just two defeats all season. Saturday's clash ought to be different to that of 8th April 2018 and has the makings of being a Super Match that lives up to the title.





Putting aside the disaster in Jeonju, Suwon are still in a very healthy position coming into the Super Match, with five wins from their last seven games. Their defence is getting stronger by the game and are beginning to create more chances - things are slowly beginning to click for them. But, after the loss to Jeonbuk and the draw to Ulsan, if they were to lose this fixture all that hard work would be for nothing that will be in the mind of the manager as he prepares for this fixture and quite likely will dictate what tactics his team execute on Saturday. Suwon will most likely travel to Seoul and look to defend and pick them off on the break. Jeon Sejin, the 18-year-old starlet, has burst onto the scene at Suwon with two goals from his first three starts and should be a guaranteed starter come Saturday. If he is given the space to utilise his blistering pace then his stock could rise even further and write his name in the Suwon history books.

by Scott Whitelock

Paul Neat Asks, Scott Whitelock Answers

Paul Neat: After the Jeonbuk display, where tempers flared and Suwon ended up being down to nine men before half time, do you think there’s a chance that discipline could be an issue again on Saturday?

Scott Whitelock: Not at all. That game was completely out of character for a team that had been, until now, one of the cleanest in the league. Before that game Suwon had only picked up a paltry 10 yellow cards in total, and had received a controversial red card in the last Super Match. The game against Jeonbuk should be viewed in isolation and was a freakish event that was partly caused by the manager’s team selection.

PN: Speaking of which, you've lamented Seo Jungwon’s team selection and tactics on a number of occasions but do you think he learned from the Jeonbuk game based on what you saw against Ulsan? His team selection caused somewhat of a stir; omitting Dejan, Yeom Kihun, Jurman and Jeon Sejinthen made nine changes for the 0-0 draw with Ulsan. Can we expect to see a similar XI fielded on Saturday?

SW: To be frank, the Jeonbuk game was an absolute disaster. It wasn’t through any fault of the players who performed excellently under very difficult circumstances, instead the blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of the manager. To travel to the champions of the league, with what was effectively Suwon’s second-choice team was an extremely strange decision and last week Seo was quoted as saying that he felt a lot of regret for the result.

His choice to rotate so strongly was eventually proven wrong as Suwon laboured to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night and it remains to be seen whether Seo will have learned from that mistake. Luckily for him, he has some excellent players in his squad and their desire and determination was on show for everyone to see in Jeonju last Sunday.

PN: Before the last Super Match, Suwon had been beaten 4-1 by home to Sydney FC in the ACL and so Seo’s approach was very cautious, his team were very timid and reluctant to go forward. Seoul hadn’t picked up a league win then and so the game was criticised as not being a proper Super Match. The circumstances are a bit different now, can you see Suwon going for the throat and taking the game to Seoul? Do you think we will see a “real” Super Match?

SW: Besides from the 2016 FA Cup Final, which was a fantastic spectacle, we haven’t seen an open, attacking and entertaining game between these two teams since Seoul’s 4-3 win over Suwon in 2015. So my question would be is the ‘Super Match’ really that super anymore?

This fixture is in desperate need of some excitement and I truly hope that both managers realise that and release the shackles from their teams. If the likes of Yeom Kihun, Park Chuyoung, Dejan and Evandro can produce the football that we know they are capable of then there should be enough quality in the game for goals to be scored.

PA: Score Prediction?

SW: FC Seoul 1-2 Suwon Bluewings


FC Seoul head into the Super Match on the back of two 0-0 draws and so will be in desperate need of a win. The polarising Hwang Sunhong has departed and that may just be enough courage some of the stay-away fans to return to Sangam. In the league, Seoul's record over Suwon is very good, in fact Seoul haven't tasted defeat in the league to the Bluewings since 2015, a run that stretches to 11 matches. But, history counts for nothing when there are points on the line and that is exactly what Seoul need right now. Even a win won't ensure them of a place higher up the table but a victory would at least prevent the ACL-chasing pack from edging further away. In the media this week caretaker manager Lee Eulyong has promised to play attacking football and scoffed at any notion that this upcoming Super Match will be boring. FC Seoul need it, the K League needs it.

Scott Whitelock Asks, Paul Neat Answers

Scott Whitelock: Cho Youngwook has made quite an impression in his first few games as a professional footballer. What qualities does he bring to this Seoul team and do you think he can have an influence on this game?

Paul Neat: He has, and it was about time that he was given a chance to show what he can do. I was extremely impressed with him during the U20 World Cup last year and thought that FC Seoul made a smart acquisition when the signed him. For such a young man he is intelligent on the ball, has good vision and has shown that he has composure when it matters. The two assists he got against Daegu highlighted this, as well as his ability to send accurate crosses in, not to mention and his goal against Jeonnam showed that the 20-year-old can finish, too.

He gave Seoul another dimension, adding width and someone who was willing to run at fullbacks and get crosses in towards the touchline. He injects a bit of energy into the team too which was lacking beforehand. Given how attacking Suwon's wing-backs are in that 3-4-3 system, Cho, if selected, may find joy on the full back areas.

SW: You’ve well documented Seoul’s woes this season but what impact do you see Hwang Sunhong's departure having? Do you think his departure before the Super Match has given Seoul a better chance of getting a result?

PN: Before Hwang had resigned I don't think many were expecting much from FC Seoul in general this season, let alone just in this upcoming Super Match. As is the case with any manager leaving, it is a clean slate for everyone and so the likes of Kovacec, Park Chuyoung, and Yoon Seungwon who have had to make do with limited appearances thus far, could return to the fold. The latter two did just that and were involved against Gyeongnam on Wednesday. In these situations it can be interesting to see how members of a manager's backroom staff can have different opinions because should they become caretaker gaffer, team selection and tactics will be the most obvious way to tell.

Hwang departing will have given the fans a lift and helped lift the dark cloud that has been hanging over Sangam for nearly 18 months now. All of a sudden there's a new sense of hope and so the Super Match may have come at the right time.

SW: Seoul have struggled to score goals this term and only Daegu have scored less than them. What has been their problem in front of goal and do you think if they had the opportunity, would they take Dejan back?

PN: Seoul have struggled to find a system and there had been very little evidence that there was one up until Evandro came back from injury. After which, Seoul tried to get the ball into his feet in central areas or for the former Daegu forward to run on to. But, although Evandro has been very good since he came into the side, he is not what you would call an orthodox centre forward, a number nine if you will. .

As for Dejan, I am sure from a purely footballing perspective it would be a no brainer to have him donning the black and red again. Ironically, he is exactly the sort of striker that Seoul are lacking and you can see the qualities he brings for Suwon even when he doesn't score.

SW: Score Prediction?

PW: FC Seoul 1-1 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

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