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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Pohang Steelers

5th placed Asian Champions League and FA Cup semi-finalists Suwon Bluewings play host to 4th placed Pohang Steelers this Saturday with just the one point separating the two. Crucially this fixture is sandwiched between Suwon's FA quarter final cup tie and continental 2nd leg showdown so the visiting east coast side may look to gain advantage over a distracted opponent in the race for next season's ACL places. Pohang Steelers columnist Ross Davis previews this weekend's final pre-split fixture of the season. 

Last Time Out

Gangwon F.C. 1-1 Pohang Steelers

An open and entertaining affair ended in the 3rd consecutive draw between the two sides. This was the first score draw amongst those and it was of little surprise as both sides created numerous opportunities and perhaps should have scored more than the one a piece.

It was Gangwon who opened the scoring on the 37th minute. The hosts had already produced several opportunities from crosses in the opening 30 minutes and it was another cross that saw Jung Suk-hwa stab home after Pohang's Kang Hyeon-mu had fumbled the ball in. Both sides continued to threaten and the visitors were unlucky not to have equalised on the stroke of half-time as Lee Seok-hyun twisted and turned in the box to force Lee Beom-young in the Gangwon goal in a good save low to his left.

The equaliser did arrive in the 58th minute with a goal that was synonymous with the end-to-end nature of the fixture with one of the best counter attacks you are likely to see this season. Kang gathered a scuffed shot from Jung Jo-gook and astutely threw the ball out for right-back Teixeira to collect on the half-way line. The Brazilian threaded a clever ball through to top scorer Kim Seung-dae to beautifully lift it over the onrushing Lee to make it 1-1 on the scoresheet. With neither side able to add to their openers the game finished that way.

Highlights here

FA Cup Quarter Final: Suwon Bluewings 2-2 (aet) Jeju United (Suwon win 2-1 on pens)

Suwon returned to action in the FA Cup this Wednesday and went the full distance against Islanders Jeju United. With the upcoming ACL semi-final return leg to come next Wednesday the method of victory wouldn't have been ideal but the strength of character and win will give the side a confidence boost heading into the all-important tie with Kashima Antlers.

The Bluewings might have thought they were in for a comfortable night when Dejan opened the scoring inside the opening five minutes when the striker made space in the box and fired into the bottom corner. Jeju came fighting back in the second half and found the equaliser in the 77th minute when substitute Kim Sung-joo leapt well in the box and headed past Suwon's Shin Hwa-yong who might have done better as the ball squirmed under his hands.

Both sides were able to add a goal a piece in extra time; Park Gi Dong for Suwon and Tiago in the 121st minute of the game for Jeju, and so to penalties. Suwon took an early lead in the penalties as Jeju missed their opening three spot kicks before Magno gave the visitors some hope. Up stepped Jeju goalie Lee Chang-guen to try to force sudden death and he duly struck the ball like a goal kick skying the ball somewhere between Incheon and Suwon station.

Previous Meetings

Pohang hold the historical edge over Suwon with a small margin of 20 victories to Suwon's 17 with 17 matches ending in a draw. Though, recently this has certainly not been the case as Pohang's last victory over Suwon was some 13 games ago in the opening fixture of the 2015 season.

More recently the meetings between the two sides have been difficult to separate as the last three fixtures have ended in 1-1 draws, two of which were this season. Both of these fixtures have been scoreless in the first halves and the last six fixtures have seen at least a goal in the last 15 minutes of the game.

Team News

Suwon's team selection will undoubtedly have their midweek ACL clash in mind so expect to see the main stars like Dejan rested. Midfielder Elvis Saric is also unlikely to feature having travelled to Europe during the international break. The Steelers have a fully fit team to choose from and their Korean national team contingent of Kim Seung-dae and Lee Ji-hyun didn't get any minutes and so should be fresh for the weekend's game. There are no suspensions for either side.

The Adversary

Pohang Steelers will line up in their typical 4-3-3, which the benefits of this system were beautifully highlighted by the K League coach this week. Coach Choi Soon-ho tends to go for a more defensive-minded team selection of the formation with the third attacker usually operating between the midfield and attack as in the last game when Lee Jin-hyun was chosen in this role. So expect to see something similar this weekend though there is also the possibility that Choi will go for the jugular if Suwon choose a heavily weakened side.

The team have been in good form recently and deserve their place in the top half of the table, but will look to kick on as they try to close the gap to 3rd placed rivals Ulsan Hyundai, which stands at six points. Top scorer Kim Seung-dae has eight goals this campaign and will be eager to at least equal his all-time best return for a season which was ten in 2014.

Prediction

With Suwon undoubtedly treading carefully in this fixture ahead of their all-important midweek 2nd leg clash with Kashima Antlers, the odds have to be in favour of an away team win. Certainly in terms of form as well Pohang have the advantage, but that 12-game winless run against their boogie team will have to be overcome to come out with the three points. So, with this mind a close margin of victory is most likely.

Suwon Bluewings 0-1 Pohang Steelers

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