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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs FC Seoul

Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs FC Seoul K League 1
Ulsan Hyundai will be hoping to finish what has already been a fantastic August on a high when they host FC Seoul at Munsu this Saturday. The Horangi have taken thirteen of the fifteen points available to them this month, giving them an excellent chance of qualification for the Champions League next year.  If FC Seoul are to spoil the party they will have to find their shooting boots again - the capital club are without a goal since the Super Match.  Ulsan columnist Dan Croydon previews this one, with help from FC Seoul columnist Paul Neat.
(image via kleague.com)

Last Time Out

Ulsan Hyundai 4-1 Sangju Sangmu
Video highlights here
Ulsan finally put a team to the sword last Wednesday when they scored from three fantastic counter-attacking moves to pull away from Sangju in the second half.  Sergio Escudero bagged his first in Ulsan colours with a neat volleyed finish after Sangju failed to clear their lines.  However, it was all square before the half when lanky striker Lee Gwang-seon headed home brilliantly from a Yeo Reum cross.

But in the second half, Ulsan's excellent form in front of goal helped them to their fourth win in five.  First, Junior got on the scoresheet with a lovely flicked finish just after the hour-mark, before Escudero scored again with the pick of the bunch thanks to Hwang Il-soo, who ghosted past the Sangju midfielder Shin Sae-gae with a delicious nutmeg.

Finally on 80 minutes, some great interplay between Lee Keun-ho and Lee Myeong-jae set up Junior to head home his second on the night and fifteenth of the campaign.  Performances like this make it easy to see why the Horangi have lost just twice in twenty-seven games.  They looked comfortable in possession and deadly on the break.  It will take a very good team to beat Kim Do-hoon's side on current form.

FC Seoul 0-1 Pohang Steelers
Video highlights here
A Yang Hanbin own goal in a 1-0 loss to Pohang Steelers on Wednesday night condemned FC Seoul to back-to-back defeats. In what was a rather turgid performance under the lights at Sangam, FC Seoul struggled to impose themselves on the game and seldom looked like threatening Kang Hyunmoo in the Pohang goal. Pohang were resolute and hard to break down but that cannot excuse Lee Eulyong's men for, once again, showing a distinct lack of imagination. The deciding goal went in via Yang Hanbin's out-stretched arm after a deflection off of Park Dongjin's right foot caught the Seoul custodian off guard. The goal came in 14th minute yet in the remaining 75 minutes Seoul barely threatened and would register just one shot on target. Fortuitously, thanks to Gangwon's defeat away to Gyeongnam, the result leaves Seoul still within just one win of easing their way into the top half.

by Paul Neat

Previous Meetings

These two teams have remained very evenly matched over the years, with FC Seoul edging it ever so slightly with sixteen wins compared to Ulsan's fourteen. But, just like at a Bangkok airport, ties are the most common thing to see - there have been twenty-two of them to be exact.

Ulsan won the first meeting of 2018 with a 1-0 victory on a wet April afternoon. Junior got the only goal from the spot, meaning he had scored for the fouth K League game in a row. The Brazilian is on a similarly excellent run at the moment, as a goal on Saturday would make it six in four games for the ex-Daegu striker.

The return fixture in July ended all square with neither side playing particularly well on the night.  Han Seung-kyu gave Ulsan the lead after a well-worked one-two with Lee Young-jae, before Yun Suk-young leveled the tie with his first goal since returning to the K League. Interestingly this was the last game FC Seoul drew.  They have won four and lost four since.

Team News

Mix Diskerud is a doubt for this game after limping off against Sangju. His replacement in that match was Lee Young-jae, but the 24-year-old midfielder won't be available on Saturday after picking up his third yellow card of the season in the same match.  All this could see Richard Windbichler reprise his role as holding midfielder alongside Park Yong-woo, while Lim Jong-eun and Kang Min-su take on the central defensive duties.  Meanwhile, two-goal hero Sergio Escudero gave his best performance in an Ulsan shirt midweek and may well keep his place in the hole behind Junior for the visit of his former club.

For FC Seoul centre back Kim Wonkyun is due to be available again after serving a one-match ban. Defensive midfielder Hwang Kiwook made his return from a facial injury during the defeat to Pohang and may be reinstalled to the starting lineup, the youngster had been enjoying a run in the first team until the injury. Park Chuyoung remains a doubt, however. Cho Youngwook dropped to the bench on Wednesday but was introduced as a half time substitute and so may get the nod at the Munsu.

by Paul Neat

The Adversary

After getting themselves into a promising position, with the ACL places within their grasps, FC Seoul suffered back-to-back losses and lose ground in their pursuit of the top four. In over 180 minutes of football, Seoul mustered just three shots on target - two against Jeonbuk and one against Pohang. During the defeat to Jeonbuk, Lee Eulyong's side lacked penetration and guile, something that has been evident all too often this season. In the previous game Jeonbuk had shipped five to Pohang, a side who showed they were not afraid to have a go and scored some spectacular long-range strikes. Seoul failed to threaten and looked pedestrian throughout with the likes of Bojan Matic and Lee Sangho slowing the game down and lacking composure when it mattered.

The 4-1-2-3 formation which Lee Eulyong favours is not getting the best out of this team. Seoul have been guilty of overplaying and trying to walk the ball in from wide areas. Centrally, the capital club have lacked drive and penetration, and have struggled to break teams down. If FC Seoul are to get anything down at the Munsu on Saturday then they are going to have to find a way to make the best use of Anderson, Evandro, and Cho Youngwook and so Coach Lee may tweak things in that department.

by Paul Neat

Who To Watch

Junior Negrao and Evandro


Evandro (L) and Junior Negrao for Daegu in 2017 (image via K League)
These Brazilian strikers forged a very productive partnership at Daegu FC last season, scoring a combined 23 goals in all competitions. Together they were one of the main reasons Daegu were able to defy the pundits and finish well above the relegation zone. However, during the off-season, both Junior and Evandro went their separate ways - with varying results.

Evandro headed north to the capital and FC Seoul in the hope of filling some of the massive gap left by Dejan's shock departure to Suwon Bluewings.  However, it is fair to say the 30-year-old attacker has struggled to live up to expectations.  He has made 23 appearances for Seoul so far, half of which have come from the subs bench, and has amassed a measly three goals in that time.  His current stint in Seoul was summed up best last Wednesday night when he was given the nod to start up front against Pohang but ended up being hauled off at half-time having contributed little other than blocking a teammate's goalbound shot.

In stark contrast, Junior Negrao settled quickly at Ulsan Hyundai and, on current form he is one of the best out-and-out goalscorers in the K League.  With five goals in his last three appearances, Junior now has fifteen goals in all competitions this year.  Had it not been for an injury that sidelined him for much of May, the 31-year-old striker may even have been challenging Marcao and Deric for the Golden Boot. So, it will be interesting to see these two formers partners line up against each other again this Saturday.  Could Evandro get one over on his old teammate? Or will Junior continue to outshine his fellow countryman?

Prediction

Ulsan are full of confidence at the moment, with attacking players that are hitting their stride at exactly the right time of year.  However, the team continues to give away chances by allowing opposition wingers to much space to get their crosses in.  If Seoul can capitalise on this weakness and frustrate Ulsan in the midfield areas, then they are definitely capable of leaving with a point.  It's tough to ignore Ulsan's fine run in front of goal, but I'm predicting a draw.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 FC Seoul

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