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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Pohang Steelers

K League 1 East Coast Derby Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Pohang Steelers

It's the 159th East Coast Derby this Saturday, as Ulsan Hyundai face Pohang Steelers at Munsu Stadium.  The Horangi currently sit in third spot - two places, and nine points ahead of their rivals, and will be looking to make it five wins on the trot at home.  But while Pohang have been in mixed form of late, they'll make the short trip down the coast knowing anything is possible on derby day. Daniel Croydon and Ross Davies preview this one for us.    
(image via kleague.com)

Last Time Out

Incheon United 3-2 Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan's incredible post World Cup form was bound to come to an end at some point.  But few predicted it would happen against the K League's bottom club.  But in truth, Incheon were good value for their win as they took advantage of the chances that came their way.  Despite conceding early to a deflected shot from Escudero, Incheon rallied and took a 3-1 lead in the second half.  Ulsan applied relentless pressure but just couldn't find a way past the United backline.  An injury-time penalty from Junior meant his exceptional goalscoring run continued, but it turned out to be too little too late. In the end, all three points went to Incheon and Ulsan traveled home hoping that the loss would be nothing more than a blip in their journey to Champions League qualification.

Video highlights here

Pohang Steelers 2-2 Jeju United
Pohang showed a lot of character last time out coming from behind twice in the home fixture against Jeju United to earn a hard-fought point; a point that keeps them within three points of fourth position and perhaps more importantly, three points above the bottom half of the table. Having spent the last two seasons in the relegation side of the split, the Steelers will be eager to end that unwanted streak, but with six games remaining before it happens, they still have work to do.
- by Ross Davies

Video highlights here


Previous Meetings

While this is certainly Korean football's oldest derby, it may also be the most evenly matched. In the 51 meetings since the K League began back in 2003, both teams have identical records - Won 18, Drawn 15, Lost 18.  This trend has continued into this season; it's one win apiece in 2018 with the home side emerging victorious two goals to one on both occasions.

Pohang's win came back at the end of March when goals from Jung Won-jin and Kim Seung-dae were enough to see off a fumbling Ulsan who were rooted to the bottom of the table at the time.  Since that day though, Ulsan have lost just twice in 23 league games. Their victory over the Steelers in May came in the middle of a run of 11 games unbeaten.  The Horangi came from behind thanks to two goals in five minutes from winger Kim In-sung and Japanese loanee Yohei Toyoda.

Team News

Ulsan manager Kim Do-hoon has no fresh injury concerns ahead of this crucial match. Long-term absentees Lee Jong-ho and Park Joo-ho are still some distance away from a return to action though.  There are no suspensions for this game either, meaning Kim has the full complement of attacking options from which to pick.  Junior Negrao will almost certainly start as the target man, but the three players behind him have been hard to predict.  Sergio Escudero may keep his place after his goal against Incheon last time out, but Kim may choose U-23 player Han Seung-gyu in his place to give himself more options on the bench.

The Adversary

During the international break Pohang took advantage of the unique situation surrounding the end of forward Kim Do-Hyung’s military service with Sangju Sangmu. Kim was without a club following Chungju Hummel FC’s dissolution so Pohang picked up the 27-year-old who goes straight into the match squad for this weekend’s derby and will bolster the striking options at the club.

However, it would be unlikely for Kim to start upfront for this weekend’s fixture. Manager Choi Soon-ho will probably go with his standard 4-3-3 formation. Forwards Lee Keun-ho, who got his first K League goal in this fixture earlier in the season; Kim Seung-dae; and Kim Ji-min are all in good form and will probably lead the line with the new signing on the bench.

The team comes into this weekend’s fixture with no new suspensions or injuries. With Kang Sang-woo returning from injury in the last game and Lee Jin-Hyeon returning from the Asian Games Choi Soon-ho has a big selection headache and it will be interesting to see who makes the lineup from a fully fit squad.

Ross' Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Pohang Steelers


Who To Watch


Mix Diskerud has settled into the Ulsan first team impressively quickly. His range of passing and vision have played a big part in improving Ulsan's ball retention and goal threat. And of course, don't forget Brazilain marksman Junior Negrao, who has been on fire in recent weeks. The ex-Daegu striker has been on the scoresheet eight times in the last five games. His wife has also just given birth to the couple's second child this week, so expect an emotional celebration if Junior finds the back of the net on Saturday.

Prediction

Ulsan have been irresistible in front of goal for the last month or so.  Kim Do-hoon has managed to find the right blend of slow tempo build-up and fast-paced counterattacks.  With Lee Keun-ho, Sergio Escudero and Hwang Il-soo all in decent form, playing behind the remarkable Junior, the home side are bound to create Pohang all kinds of trouble. I'm going out on a limb and saying Ulsan will catch the Pohang defence on a bad day.

Dan's Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 4-2 Pohang Steelers

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