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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Ulsan Hyundai

A loss for Suwon on Wednesday, coupled with a win for Ulsan means the Bluewings now trail their 3rd placed rivals by a massive eight points. Although that gap might not be unassailable, a defeat for the home team in this one might just make it so. And with Pohang putting the pressure on Ulsan to claim the ACL qualification spot, the away team will be desperate to maintain the gap that they hold in 3rd place. 

Last Time Out

Suwon crashed to a devastating loss on Wednesday afternoon, losing 1-0 away to Gangwon FC. In a game of very few chances, it was the home team that created the best moments, and they got a deserved winner in stoppage time. Gangwon's Diego, skipped past a week challenge from Shin Se-gye, and squared the ball to Jung Jo-gook, who was given an eternity to control the ball, turn and pick his spot, handing Gangwon a win they thoroughly deserved.

Highlights can be found here. 

Meanwhile, Ulsan played out a thrilling 3-2 victory over Jeju United. Ulsan flew out of the blocks and took the lead in the 6th minute courtesy of a Juinor Negao strike. But Jeju hit back soon after, when their own Brazilian striker, Magno Cruz, converted a penalty in the 26th minute.

A couple of goals from Diskerud and Kim Seung-jun swung the game in Ulsan's favor, just before half time, and despite Tiago Marques pulling a goal back for Jeju, the home team were able to hold on to seal their 5th victory in their last 7 games.

Highlights can be found here. 

Previous Meetings

Suwon have had a dismal record against Ulsan for the last couple of years and that record has continued in fine form this season. In their two league games this season, Suwon are yet to register a single goal, with both teams playing out a 0-0 draw in their first encounter, and Ulsan winning 1-0 in the other match between them. Suwon did, however, salvage some pride when they overturned a 1-0 aggregate lead and sent Ulsan packing in the ACL back in May.

There have been 12 meetings between these two over the past three seasons, with Ulsan winning 6, Suwon winning 3 and 3 games ending as a draw.

Team News

With their loss at the weekend, Suwon's small glimmer of hope of finishing in the ACL qualification spots has all but vanished and their season entirely rests on their performance in the two cup competitions that they remain in (the ACL and the FA Cup). With their league season all but over, it will be difficult to  predict how they will focus their energies in their remaining league games.

Suwon desperately need to build up some sort of form going into those important cup games, but they will also be wary of over working their key players and the risk of injury that goes with playing regular football.

Lee Byeung-geun, since taking over the caretaker manager's job, has really struggled and he has won only one of his seven games as custodian of the team. Perhaps more worrying, is the fact that he has been unable to stick to just one formation or style of play. The former Gyeongnam coach has trialed a total of 3 formations in those seven games and is yet to play two games in a row using the same system. A major concern for Suwon is that the players seem confused as to what the manager actually wants and they are playing more disjointed football than when the much maligned, Seo Jung-won, was in charge.

It's going to take a lot for Suwon to overcome their deficiencies but a win in this game will be a step in the right direction.

The Adversary

The Horangi go into Saturday's game on the back of an important midweek victory over Jeju United. The Islanders may be in the middle of a nightmare run of their own, but they have been a bogey team for Kim Do-hoon since he took over at Ulsan, as his team had registered just one win in the last eight meetings with Jeju, before last Wednesday.  That win now means there is a gap of eight points back to Pohang in fourth. However, Ulsan still have plenty of work to do before they are guaranteed continental competition in the ACL next season, starting with a trip to rivals Suwon.

Park Joo-ho made his long-awaited return to first-team football on Wednesday after his injury in Korea's World Cup opener against Sweden. The 31-year-old slotted back into his preferred left-back spot before moving up into midfield when Ulsan changed to three at the back. Park may find himself on the bench for this game though, as Kim Do-hoon may not want to rush him back too quickly.  Otherwise, Kim will probably keep the same team that beat Jeju, with Sergio Escudero suspended and Lee Jong-ho still on the injury list.

Ulsan may be in a rich vein of form at home, recording six wins on the trot, but it has been a different story away from Munsu Stadium. Ulsan have been the away draw specialists, taking a single point on a league-high seven occasions. They have won just four times - only FC Seoul, Jeonnam and Incheon have won fewer - which may explain why they find themselves so far adrift of champions-elect Jeonbuk. But recent losses at bottom clubs Incheon and Jeonnam suggest that Kim Do-hoon has a bigger problem on the road. The 1-0 loss at Jeonnam was made all the more shocking by the fact that Ulsan failed to score for the first time in nine away games. All this makes it tricky to predict an Ulsan win on Saturday. Suwon may have one eye on their ACL semi-final next week, but they will still be a tough opponent for an Ulsan team with a distinctly average away record.

Prediction

Suwon will almost certainly have one eye on their upcoming tie against Kashima Antlers on Wednesday night and their performance will be effected because of that. However, they are now scoreless in their last five matches and cannot afford to go into that semi-final having not scored in six games. The Bluewings desperately need to find some attacking fluency and should approach this game with an intent to attack. However, Ulsan are one of the form teams in the league and have their own feared attack. Suwon will find this game difficult to win, but they should at least register a goal;  if they don't, that short journey to Japan will feel a little longer come next week.

Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai



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