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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Pohang Steelers

K League 1 Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Pohang Steelers

K League 1's seventh placed Pohang Steelers look to continue their rise up the table as they visit ninth placed Sangju Sangmu who can't be enjoying their current run of no wins in six. The army side have only scored once in those six and take on a Pohang who prior to their back-to-back victories had been in a very similar mid-season dip. So this weekend will see if Pohang can continue their push for the much sought-after fourth ACL place or if Sangju can emerge from their current malaise.
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 3-1 Jeonnam Dragons

Pohang came from behind to secure their first win at the Steelyard since April, some seven games ago. In fact it was only the second time in that run where they had actually found the back of the net, and to do so three times will undoubtedly be a major confidence boost heading into this weekend's fixture.

Jeonnam started the strongest and took the lead, much like they had done three days earlier away to Seoul before succumbing to defeat in similar fashion. This time it was young midfielder Han Chan-hee who struck into the bottom corner at the second time of asking in the ninth minute to give the visitors the quick start, and Han his first goal of the season. The impressive youngster created an excellent one-on-one chance, which Pohang keeper Kang did well to intercept, as Jeonnam continued to look dangerous on the break.

Both sides had to deal with first-half injuries to key players as Jeonnam's Heo Yong-joon and Pohang's Jung Won-jin were both forced off. But, as the half wore on the Steelers came more and more into the game with their own creative midfield youngster Lee Jin-Hyeon controlling the midfield and even testing the Jeonnam goalkeeper with an accurate direct free-kick. Jeonnam still held the lead up approaching half-time but when a set-piece delivery eventually found centre back Alemao; the big Brazilian headed home the equaliser and his first K League goal.

The second half arguably saw Pohang produce their best performance of the season, or at least in a long while. The confidence from the goal was clearly evident as the east coast side created numerous chances against an obviously tiring opponent. In the 56th minute, the home side's Lee Gwang-hyuk picked the ball up in space and threaded a precise through ball to Lee Geun-ho who neatly slotted past the onrushing Lee Ho-seung for his second goal of the season. Chances kept coming for Pohang but it wasn't until the 88th minute that the were able to seal the turnaround. That man Lee Jin-hyun popping up in the box and after a one-two in the box caressed the ball into the net from near the byline.

Highlights here.

Sangju Sangmu 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Sangju continued their usual mid-season malaise with a not unexpected defeat at home to runaway leaders Jeonbuk. Lining up in a 5-4-1 as opposed to their more standard 4-5-1, Sangju had hoped to put a stop to their post-World Cup run of four defeats on the trot by shutting out their opponents. This didn't look too unlikely as the opening 30 minutes passed by without major cause for concern. The home team's extra centre back was being deployed to crowd Kim Shin-wook out, pick up his dangerous knock downs and Jeonbuk were having to resort to mostly long-range efforts.

However, Jeonbuk got their almost customary first-half goal in the 36th minute as a result of a quick free-kick where the hosts switched off not only once to Lopes at the far post but twice when Han Kyo-won prevented the ball from going out to set up the 'wookie' to finish unorthodoxly with a flick of the leg.

Minutes later the K League frontrunners extended the lead with a remarkably similar goal. Jeonbuk spread the play from left to right, exploiting the space behind the three centre backs, to where Lee Yong had pushed on to then deliver a first-time ball across the face of goal for Han Kyo-won to tap in. The visitors had doubled their lead before half-time, and despite a spirited performance from Sangju in the second half, were able to take home the three points without really getting out of first gear.

Highlights here.

Previous Meetings

Pohang come out well on top in the previous meetings between the two; an impressive 24 wins to Sangju's six with five draws between them. The five most recent matches have shown complete symmetry with two away wins for Sangju and Pohang a piece and a solitary draw mixed in there for good measure. However, fresh in the mind of the Pohang team will be the 2-0 defeat they suffered earlier in the season at the Steelyard. When an excellent counter attacking performance resulted in a well deserved victory. So Pohang Steelers will be looking to overturn that result and continue the current theme of away day victories in this fixture.

Team News

Brazilian right-back Alemao going by Texieria, due to the popularity of the that name in the side, got his first start in the cup on Wednesday and so could be in line for a starting berth this Saturday. Jung Won-jin went off injured in the Jeonnam game and so is unlikely to feature in this one. With Lee Keun-ho getting on the scoresheet last week, he is likely to keep his place and so Gamalho should remain on the bench. International Hong Chul was absent against Jeonbuk and should return for Sangju.


Prediction

With both sides being dumped out of the FA Cup midweek, there will be added pressure to get back to winning ways this weekend and I think this should allow for an open game with plenty of goals, as recent games between the two have shown with 17 goals in the last five games. I think Sangju will score despite their current deficiencies in that area, but I think ultimately Pohang have turned their form around and will continue that with another three points here.

Predicted Score: Sangju Sangmu 1-2 Pohang Steelers

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