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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Gangwon FC

K League 1 Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Gangwon FC

Ulsan Hyundai face Gangwon FC this Saturday afternoon in their last game before the K League splits in half for the final five rounds. Ulsan have been guaranteed a top-half finish for a while now, but seventh-placed Gangwon must get all three points if they are to stand any chance of leapfrogging Jeju and sneaking into the top six for the second season in a row. Daniel Croydon and Steve Price preview this one for us.
(image via kleague.com)


Last Time Out

Ulsan Hyundai 2-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
It was a beautiful Sunday evening game at Munsu that ultimately ended in glory for Jeonbuk, but all too familiar frustration for Ulsan.  For the second game in a row and the fifth time this season, the Horangi conceded an injury-time equaliser and threw away two precious points in their quest to keep pace with Gyeongnam.

Ricardo Lopes gave the away side the lead ten minutes into the second half, but Han Seung-kyu drew Ulsan level five minutes later after he latched onto a delicious layoff from Kim In-sung. The provider then turned goalscorer when Kim fired home after Junior's shot was parried to give the Horangi the lead with less than ten minutes to go. But then a moment of madness from captain Kang Min-soo gave Jeonbuk a late, late penalty.  Up stepped Lee Dong-gook to seal yet another K League title for Jeonbuk. The ref blew up almost immediately after the restart, leaving the majority of the 14,000-strong crowd shaking their heads at another disastrous final few minutes which undid much of Ulsan's good work in a hard-fought ninety.

Highlights here

Gangwon FC 1-1 Pohang Steelers
Gangwon dropped into the bottom half of the table after this result made it three games three draws for them against Pohang this season. Midfielder Jung Suk-hwa put the home side into the lead on 37 minutes when he pounced on a loose ball resulting from an awful piece of handling from Pohang's young 'keeper Kang Hyeon-mu.  But the Steeler's got back into the game just before the hour mark thanks to star striker Kim Seung-dae.  The pacy 27-year-old showed why he was recalled to the national squad with a lovely dinked finish over Gangwon's Lee Beom-young to guarantee a share of the spoils for the visitors.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Ulsan have had much the better of this fixture over the years with 13 wins in the 18 games the two have played.  Gangwon have never beaten the Horangi at home, but have managed two victories at Munsu, the last of which came way back in May 2012.

As for this season, Ulsan got their first win of the campaign in April by beating Gangwon 3-1 at home thanks to goals from Junior, Mislav Orsic (remember him?) and Kim In-sung. Then in July an embarrassingly small crowd of just 567 in Chuncheon witnessed one of the most incredible finishes to a K League match in recent years.  With the score at 0-0 going into the final ten minutes, both teams threw caution to the wind and let the goals flow.  After a frantic spell that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, the game ultimately finished 3-3.  With three goals in injury time alone, it seems needless to say, the highlights are well worth a watch.

Team News

Ulsan manager Kim Do-hoon has pretty much a full squad to choose from going into Saturday's match. Left-back Park Joo-ho is unlikely to feature after he started and scored in Korea's friendly against Panama last Tuesday, and Lee Jong-ho remains doubtful despite signs he is close to a return from the knee injury that has kept him out of action for much of this season.

Kim Do-hoon will almost certainly stick to the attacking 4-5-1 turned 4-3-3 formation that has brought Ulsan a lot of success since the World Cup break.  Young attacker Han Seung-kyu has flourished in the Number 10 role, grabbing three goals and an assist in the Horangi's last three league games.  Winger Kim In-sung is also in great form with a goal and three assists in that same spell.  So, expect those two players, along with the usual suspects, Junior and Lee Keun-ho, to cause Gangwon defenders all kinds of trouble.

Exciting youngster Han Seung-kyu is congratulated by teammate Park Yong-woo after his goal against Jeonbuk last weekend


The Adversary

 Gangwon could finish in the top half if they manage to beat Ulsan on Saturday. But with only one win in their last eight matches, that seems unlikely. Gangwon’s squad should, on paper, be challenging for the Asian Champions’ League places, but their poor form means they still aren’t quite safe from relegation and are only seven points clear of 11th placed Jeonnam Dragons after last week’s 1-1 draw with Pohang.

Top goalscorer Uros Derić may make a return to the starting eleven following his one-game suspension for picking up too many yellow cards. Unfortunately for Gangwon, Derić too seems to be in a bit of a slump, scoring just once in his last seven matches. Head coach Kim Byung-soo initially appeared to make an impact in solving some of Gangwon’s problems after he replaced Song Kyung-seop in the manager’s hot seat, but he needs a result quick if Gangwon are to stand any chance of avoiding the relegation half of the split.

Prediction

Despite yet another disappointing end to last weekend, Ulsan can take courage from the fact they outplayed the champions for much of the game. The Horangi looked comfortable in possession and fought back well after they had gone behind. They remain unbeaten in seven at home and continue to delight the home faithful with expansive, attacking football.

Meanwhile, Gangwon will have to go all out for the three points if they are to avoid being in the wrong half of the split, but the fact is their away form has been dreadful for a while now.  The Chuncheon team have won just one in ten on their travels and have the second worst away defensive record in the league.  In contrast, Ulsan have the second best scoring record at home, so I fully expect the home team to find the back of the net on multiple occasions in what should be a relatively comfortable home win.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 4-1 Gangwon FC

K League 1 R33 Preview here

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