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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs. Ulsan Hyundai

K League 1 Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan Hyundai return to K League action this Sunday evening when they travel deep into North Gyeongsang to face the military men of Sangju Sangmu.  A new-look Horangi front line will be hoping to propel their team to victory, but Sangju have shown time and again this year they are no pushovers. Our Ulsan reporter Daniel Croydon previews this one for us. 
(image via kleague.com)



Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 0-0 Jeju United

Sangju played out a goalless draw with Jeju United in their last game before the international break.  It was a largely uneventful tie with a point apiece probably being the fairest result. Jeju did have the ball in the back of the net in the first half when Chung Woon controlled a lofted through ball and neatly slotted the ball under the onrushing keeper. However, the referee went to VAR and correctly ruled the goal out for a handball. That draw meant Sangju went into the World Cup unbeaten in seven and occupying a very impressive 5th spot on the K League 1 ladder.

Highlights here

Incheon United 1- 1 Ulsan Hyundai

A last-gasp equalizer for lowly Incheon in this game made what had already been a miserable week even worse for the Ulsan faithful.  Having shriveled under the pressure in their 3-0 ACL loss to Suwon Bluewings the Wednesday before, Ulsan needed some sort of positive result to take into the World Cup break. Things were looking good when their talismanic winger Mislav Oršić, with what would be his last goal in Ulsan colours, rifled in a free kick in the 75th minute. But when a poorly defended corner ball fell to the feet of Incheon defender Lim Eun-su in the 95th minute, the 22-year-old made no mistake as he drilled home his first ever K League goal.

Highlights here


Previous Meetings

Ulsan Hyundai have had by far the better of this fixture over the years with 26 wins in the 41 meetings, while Sangju have come out on top just 6 times.

However, one of those rare Sangju wins came earlier this season in Ulsan's first home game of the campaign. Sangju ran out comfortable 2-0 winners against a controversial second-string Horangi lineup. Kim Do-hoon elected to rest his first choice XI ahead of an ACL visit from Shanghai SIPG, but was left with egg on his face when his side lost to both Sangju and the Chinese outfit.

Both goals in that Sangju win were created by left-back Hong Chul, who is now garnering attention for his role in Korea dumping Germany out of the World Cup last month. K League observers will be hoping to see some more of Hong's cool, calm and creative play down the left flank this Sunday.

Team News

Sangju Sangmu  
   
The Tormenter of the Teutons (as no-one else is calling him), Hong Chul, is just one of the impressive players Sangju can call upon at the moment. Fellow World Cup squad member Kim Min-woo may not have received as many plaudits as Hong after he gave away the decisive penalty against Sweden, but he is an undoubted threat in the K League 1.

It seems crazy to think so many pundits predicted Sangju would struggle this season, myself included, when manager Kim Tae-wan can also call on the likes of Joo Min-kyu and Yoon Bitgaram - both of whom are proven K League 1 stars. Personally, I thought they would have a hard time defensively, but in fact only Jeonbuk have conceded fewer goals so far, meaning for me it is Sangju, not Gyeongnam, who have been the surprise package of the 2018 season.

Ulsan Hyundai

Any Ulsan fans traveling inland on Sunday night will be hoping to see the return of at least one of their team's three star 'Ho'-rangi (a not so clever play on the team's nickname 'Horangi', meaning tiger, and the last syllable of the players' names).  First up, striker Lee Jong-ho, who has been out for six months with a knee injury, may finally be back on the prowl. He'll be hoping to get straight back amongst the goals, and we'll be hoping he'll break out that celebration again.


Veteran frontman Lee Keun-ho is back at the team with whom he won the Asian Champions League and Asian Footballer of the Year in 2012. However, the 33-year-old is a doubt for Sunday as he continues to nurse the ligament damage that deprived him of a final World Cup campaign in Russia, as is fellow international Park Joo-ho, whose appearance on the world's biggest footballing stage was cut short when he pulled a hamstring in Korea's 1-0 loss to Sweden.

Elsewhere, Ulsan's top scorer this year, Brazilian striker Junior is likely to start upfront having overcome his injury problems. He will replace Japanese loanee Yohei Toyoda who returned to his parent club Sagan Tosu over the international break.

Prediction

It may be a different looking lineup for Ulsan in terms of personnel, but there are question marks over whether manager Kim Do-hoon will change anything tactically. The free-scoring football of Ulsan's early ACL fixtures was a false dawn, as Kim quickly reverted to his old conservative ways. Meanwhile, Sangju are a really solid outfit at the moment and don't give goals away cheaply. They will be fighting tooth and nail to continue their unbeaten run. So despite the feel-good signs from Ulsan over the last few weeks, I'll have to go for a low-scoring draw in this one.

Dan's Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai


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