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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Sangju Sangmu

The new manager bounce may be over for Gangwon, but Kim Byung-soo has had the international break to work with his players and will be looking to show that he has what it takes to coach at this level. Gangwon take on a Sangju Sangmu side decimated as half its squad finish their military duty and return to their parent sides. Can Gangwon take advantage of Sangju’s disarray? Steve Price with the preview 

Last Time Out

Free-scoring Gangwon have seen the goals dry up recently, scoring just once in three games since their 7-0 demolition of Incheon United. Last time out they played out a goalless draw with FC Seoul. It was Gangwon’s third 0-0 of the season, the other two both coming against Pohang. Maybe the red and black stripes distract Gangwon’s strikers. A more plausible explanation (especially as Seoul were playing in white) is that star-striker Uroš Ðerić started on the bench, with Jung Jo-gook starting in his place. Jung has struggled to recapture his 2016 form this season, and as the players all had the international break to recover from this match, it does seem an odd move not to start Ðerić. At the same time as Ðerić was subbed on for Jung Jo-gook, Diego was subbed off, meaning that him and Ðerić were unable to combine like they had on many occasions this season (including in the build up to Ðerić’s goal the last time they played Seoul).

As for the match itself, there were so few chances that Naver resorted to showing yellow cards and offside calls in the highlights. FC Seoul probably had the better of those few chances, and came close to scoring with a Go Yo-han header midway through the second half, which was kept out with an excellent save by Lee Beom-young diving low to his right. The result means Gangwon stay above Seoul in the table, holding onto their top-half spot by virtue of scoring more goals than seventh-placed Jeju United.

Sangju Sangmu’s last match was the six-pointer they couldn’t afford to lose. Unfortunately for the army boys, that’s exactly what they did, going down two-one at home to relegation rivals Jeonnam Dragons. Wanderson headed the Dragons into the lead midway through the first half before a Kim Min-woo own goal doubled the away side’s advantage. Shim Dong-woon pulled one back with a tap in from one yard out for Sangju but they were unable to find a late equalizer. That result leaves them just five points off the bottom of the table.

Previous Meetings

The Sangju Civil Stadium isn’t high up on many visiting fans’ top away trips, and the few Gangwon fans who made the journey down to Sangju back in May will be wishing they hadn’t bothered. Sangju won that match three-nil thanks to a Kim Do-hyung double and a goal by Shim Dong-woon. Gangwon would have felt that the scoreline didn’t reflect the run of play as they had plenty of chances but couldn’t find the back of the net. However, like in many games during the Song Kyung-seop era, defensive errors let Gangwon down.

Team News

New manager Kim Byung-soo would have certainly appreciated the extra time to work with his Gangwon team during the international break. The team will be bolstered by the return of Choi Jin-ho. A regular in the Gangwon side during their K League Challenge days, Choi only managed four league starts for Sangju Sangmu during his military service. The forward found the back of the net 13 times for Gangwon back in 2014.

Sangju Sangmu’s team news is that they’ve lost half a team. 17 players will return to their parent clubs after their military duty finished recently. Among them, forwards Kim Ho-nam, Joo Min-gyu, and Kim Do-hyung, and Suwon Bluewings defender Hong Chul. Sangju’s remaining players have scored a total of twelve goals between them so far this season. The loss of some of their better players, combined with the hit to team cohesion, often cause Sangju to struggle in the last few months of each season, and a new-look Sangju team will be desperate for points to prevent them from falling into a full-on relegation battle.

One To Watch


Uroš Ðerić may have started on the bench last time out but he is still Gangwon's, and the K League's, biggest goal threat. He scored four times against Incheon a few weeks ago and when Gangwon are struggling to break a team down, he is the player who can make a difference. Kim Byung-soo has had a look at Jung Jo-gook now, and surely must know that Ðerić is the man more likely to give Gangwon the win.

Prediction

The extra time off should have helped Kim Byung-soo make his mark on Gangwon, while Sangju’s player losses mean they’ll have to integrate a few new players into the side. If ever there’s a time to play against the army team, this is it.

Predicted Score: Gangwon 2-0 Sangju Sangmu

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