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Preview: Incheon United vs Ulsan Hyundai

Preview: Incheon United vs Ulsan Hyundai K League 1
Bottom-of-the-league Incheon United host the leagues in-from side Ulsan Hyundai on Sunday evening. This seems like an away banker on paper, or could it be a turning point in these sides seasons.
(Image via K League)

Last Time Out

Jeju United 0-0 Incheon United

A dull and forgettable game played at a snails pace at times. Incheon arrived in Jeju later than expected due to the recent typhoon and played with a defensive mindset. While Jeju even though had the Wednesday off, they also seemed happy to take things easy and never really pushed the pace. There were a few half chances, but nothings that standouts in the memory.

Highlights: here

Ulsan Hyundai 4-1 FC Seoul

Ulsan Hyundai eased past a poor FC Seoul last weekend to record their eighth win in ten games and extend their unbeaten run to twelve. The game came to life late in the first half when Han Seung-gyu, Junior Negao and Mix Diskerud all scored in the space of seven minutes. Seoul improved slightly in the second half, but Junior Negao added a fourth to kill of the game after 58 minutes. Seoul got a consolation goal thanks to Lee Sang-ho, but finished the game with only ten. Whilst Ulsan looked impressive and altogether much improved compared to when last played then just before the World Cup break.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Incheon and Ulsan played each other twice so far this season with Ulsan claiming a narrow 2-1 win in the first game, thanks partly to some VAR fortune and an unlucky own goal. Whilst the second ended 1-1, Lim Eun-soo scoring a late equaliser for Incheon.

Over the years Incheon and Ulsan have played each other 44 times with Ulsan dominating the number of victories by twenty-one to twelve. Incheon last won at home against Ulsan back in 2014, winning 2-0 with Choi Jong-hwan scoring the winner. Ulsan won at the Sungui Arena Park last season 2-1.

Team News

Incheon United don't have any players suspended for Wednesday evening's game. However, a number of players are a booking away from a suspension including, Mugoša, Kang Ji-yong, Kim Dae-joong, Han Suk-jong, Appiah-Kubi, Lim Eun-soo and Go Seul-ki. Wing back Kim Jin-ya is still away with the South Korea Asian Games squad until next week. Forward Stefan Mugoša missed the trip to Jeju, but should be back in the squad on Sunday.

Ulsan Hyundai also don't have any players missing due to suspension, or any out at the Asian Games. They like Incheon have a number of players a booking away from a one game ban, but at this stage of the season that's true for everyone in the K League.

The Adversary

When Ulsan returned from their last trip to Incheon back at the end of May, things were looking less than rosy for Kim Do-hoon's side. Another last-gasp equalizer meant they had dropped two more points against bottom-half opposition. Moreover, that game came just days after the Horangi had limped out of the Champions League at Suwon. Kim was starting to feel the pressure.

Fast forward a few months and Ulsan look a completely different team, thanks to Kim Do-hoon's savvy summer acquisitions and a much-needed change in tactics. Mislav Oršić left during the World Cup break (that game in Incheon was his last for the club), taking with him the counter-attacking system Kim based around the pacy Croat. In came midfield metronome Mix Diskerud to help Ulsan switch focus to ball retention and tempo control. The US international has quickly proven to be an inspired signing. His skilful range of positive passing has played a big role in the Horangi suddenly becoming one of the best attacking teams in the league.

There is no doubt as well, that the timing of Kim's tactical switch has played a role in the change in fortunes too. The new possession-based style is much better suited to the hot and humid conditions of the Korean summer; its a lot more tiring chasing the ball than keeping it. So a lot of credit has to go to Kim and his backroom staff for their astute tactical adaptions.

Now, Ulsan are riding the crest of a blue wave. Kim's other summer signings, Lee Keun-ho and Sergio Escudero, have settled in just as quickly as pass-master Mix; Junior Negrao is in the best form of his K League career; and the likes of Kim Seung-jun and Kim In-sung, who had fallen out of favour, look to be enjoying themselves again. Which all means it should be an entertaining match on Sunday. Ulsan have scored an incredible 13 goals in their last 4 games, while Incheon have the leakiest defence in the league, so the neutral has every right to expect goals. But more than that, Kim Do-hoon' men have been a joy to watch over the last month, so it will be well worth tuning in to see if they can carry that form into the vital autumn months.
by Dan Croydon

Who To Watch

Incheon United have had three players called-up for international duty this week. Strangely abbreviated to MMA; Stefan Mugoša (Montenegro), Elias Aguilar (Costa Rica) & Moon Seon-min (South Korea). These three have been standout players so far the season, and a key reason why Incheon aren't further behind in the relegation battle.

Mugoša has twelve goals this season and is a powerful presence up front. Elias Aguilar is one of the leagues top assist makers, creating seven goals during this his debut season. Finally Moon Seon-nin is the top Korean goalscorer in the K League and the only domestic-based forward in the up-coming South Korea squad.

As for Ulsan Hyundai; on-loan American midfielder Mix Diskerud scored last weekend and seems to have settled into K League life quickly. Junior Negao is the obvious danger moving forward, with fifteen goals this season, the former Daegu forward needs to be kept under control.

Prediction

Incheon have picked up four points from their last couple of games, however Jørn Andersen's side are still bottom of the table and can't afford to lose anymore ground on their relegation rivals. Lessons have been learnt from the 7-0 hammering against Gangwon, but Ulsan will be a huge undertaking. Kim Do-hoon knows Incheon very well having spent a mixed 18 months in charge up on the North West Coast.

Incheon will need to play tight and controlled, looking to benefit from the smallest of opening against a confident and in-form Ulsan. Although the game could be close, Incheon aren't strong enough at the back to hold off Ulsan for the entire game and so  Ulsan winning, maybe via a late winner, is a likely scenario.

Predicted Score: Incheon United 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai

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