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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Choi Yong-soo
FC Seoul make the long trip south to Gyeongsang Province needing at least a point from Saturday's hugely important clash with Sangju Sangmu. The hosts themselves still harbour hopes of avoiding the drop, despite currently occupying the relegation playoff place after a dismal run of just three wins in 19. A defeat for Choi Yongsoo's men and the three-times K League Champions could well be left needing to win the Promotion/Relegation Playoffs to avoid falling through the trap door for the first time in the club's history. 

Overview

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Relegation Round
via Soccerway
Heading into Saturday's crucial encounter, FC Seoul will be able to ensure that their destiny is in their own hands if the beleaguered capital club can pick up at least a point at Sangju Civic Stadium. Following the 3-2 win over Jeonnam two rounds previous, Seoul had the relative luxury of needing just a point from their final two matches: a home fixture with Incheon United for what was the fourth Gyeongin Derby of the season, and this Saturday's forthcoming away visit to Sangju. Defeat last time out rendered Seoul in need of a positive result against the army team. However, should Sangju win and Jeonnam Dragons beat Incheon United then Seoul's blushes will be spared as it will mean that Incheon would drop into eleventh place. 

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Relegation Round League Table Standings
K League 1 Relegation Round Table (via Soccerway)
Regarding Saturday's host, Sangju Sangmu, anything less than a win will result in the army side having to take part in the Promotion/Relegation Playoffs for the second year running. However, because both teams are level on goals-scored (the first tie breaker in K League), a win for Kim Taehwan's men would be enough for them to leapfrog Seoul. 

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 0-1 Gangwon FC

At a snow-covered Sangju Civic Stadium, the army surrendered to a 1-0 defeat at home to Gangwon FC. In the 31st minute, Jung Jogook's powerful effort from 20 yards out was parried by Sangju custodian Yoon Bosang. However, Kim Jihyeon was quickest to the ball and guided home the rebound, albeit via a couple of deflections. In fact, it was Kim who nodded the ball down and into the path for Jung to take aim. The win ensured Gangwon still had seventh spot to play for heading into the final round of the campaign.

Highlights: here

FC Seoul 0-1 Incheon United

In the fourth Gyeongin Derby of the season, the third to have been played at Seoul World Cup Stadium, FC Seoul fell to rivals Incheon United for the second time in three meetings. A Han Seokjong strike on eight minutes was enough for the Durumi to leave Sangam with all three points.

Moon Seonmin's corner form the left, won by Kim Boseop, was inadvertently guided on towards the back post by the head of Seoul striker Park Chuyoung. Hwang Kiwook was well-placed but his clearing header only made it was far as Han who, after taking a touch, found the bottom corner with aplomb. Despite several attack-minded tactical adjustments in the second half, Seoul were unable to find a response and were left with no more than they deserved after an uninspiring performance.

Match Report: here

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Seoul are unbeaten against Sangju this season with one win and two draws. The most recent meeting was at Sangam where the two sides played out a 2-2 draw. Seoul will look back at that game with a sense of regret having thrown away their lead not once but twice.

Park Heeseong netted his first goal in just under two years, and first FC Seoul goal in four years, with a powerful header inside eight minutes to get the hosts off to a perfect start. However, Park Yongji restored parity with an equaliser just two minutes after the restart. Undeterred, Seoul kept searching for that elusive second goal and, with just seven minutes of normal time remaining, got their just rewards. Centre half Kim Dongwoo sent the ball goal-bound with a thumping header from a corner with what looked to be the winner.

However, an absolute calamity from Seoul goalkeeper Yoo Sanghoon gifted Sangju a second. The former Sangju 'keeper, who was making his first appearance in an FC Seoul shirt since returning form military duty, collided with centre back Kim Namchoon.  The loose ball was mopped up by Park Yongji who, gratefully, prodded the goal home.

The last time Seoul made the long trip south, back in August, it was the capital club who emerged as the victors in a 2-1 win. Goals from Song Jinhyung and Shin Jinho gave Seoul a 2-0 lead inside the first four minutes of the second half before Shim Dongwoon pulled one back with four minutes of normal time remaining.

Overall, since the very first meeting in 2011, Sangju Sangmu and FC Seoul have clashed on 18 occasions. Sangju have four wins, Seoul eight and the remaining four encounters have finished as draws. In Sangju, there have been nine meetings, Seoul have five wins to Sangju's three and just one draw.

Team News

Sangju Sangmu will be without defensive duo Kim Youngbin and Baek Dongkyu; the pair are both suspended after picking up their third cautions of the campaign during the 1-0 loss to Gangwon last weekend.

FC Seoul won't have suspensions to worry about but manager Choi Yongsoo will still have certain decisions to make heading into such an important fixture. Serbian striker Bojan Matićc declared himself fit in the lead up to the Gyeongin Derby but was omitted from the matchday 18, as was Brazilian forward Anderson Lopes.

Anderson has been missing since the 1-0 away defeat to Jeju on 20th October whilst Matić hasn't been seen since the 2-2 draw with Sangju Sangmu at home on 30th September. It remains to be see as to whether the pair will be involved but it is looking increasingly likely that Anderson has played his last FC Seoul game and will return to his parent club Tombense of the Campeonato Brasileiro Série C.

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Seoul lineup
FC Seoul lineup vs Incheon  R37 (0-1) 


The Adversary

Sangju Sangmu, eleventh in K League 1, have the joint-worst attack in the League with a mere 40 goals form 37 matches, level with Seoul. Both Sangju and Seoul's top scorers this term have eight goals to their name, namely Sim Dongwoon and Go Yohan for Sangju and Seoul respectively. Whereas Seoul have managed eight cleansheets, Sangju have 10 but only two of those have come at home - a 0-0 draw with Jeju United and a 3-0 win over Gangwon, both in May.

Kim Taehwan's men will welcome the visit of Seoul on the back of just one win in nine and three in 19 and so, despite reiterating that the former Daejeon Citizen defender would rather not have to compete in the playoffs for the second year running, Saturday's match is last chance saloon.

Formation wise, little has change in that respect since the two teams met in September. Coach Kim Taehwan has largely stuck to his guns and fielded his team in a 4-5-1 formation.

Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Sangju lineup
Sangju lineup vs Gangwon R37 (0-1)

Who To Watch

Sangju Sangmu - Yoon Bitgaram
Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Go Yo-han Yoon Bit-garam
Yoon Bit-garam (r) returned to Korea last season with Jeju United before joining Sangju
No player in the Sangju squad has made more forward passed than Yoon Bitgaram. The central midfielder, who is in his first year of military service, is sixth overall in the relegation round of the split in terms of forward passes made. In the league as a whole, Yoon is fifth for long passes with 134. Pohang Steelers' Connor Chapman has made the most with 176 and only Ko Seulki from Incheon United has made more long passes amongst the bottom six teams. If Seoul are to get the result they desire on Saturday, then stopping the supply from Yoon Bitgaram will be seen as a must.

FC Seoul - Park Chuyoung
Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs FC Seoul K League 1 Park Chu-young

Park Chuyoung has this innate ability to be at the right place at the right time. Striker's instinct you could say, but the FC Seoul number 10 has fallen short of expectations over these last couple of seasons. The odd winning goal or 94th minute penalty has masked over that in some senses. Last year Park managed just three goals from open play, this year the 33 year-old has scored just three goals in total, one of which was a penalty.

But, cometh the hour cometh the 'Chu-man', as some sections of the FC Seoul fans refer to him. Choi Yongsoo has shown faith in hsi veteran striker after being cast to one side by former caretaker manager Lee Eulyong. After a couple of cameo appearances off the bench, which wielded two goals - one against Gangwon and one against Jeonnam, Park was restored to the starting lineup for the Gyeongin Derby.

It was a poor performance all round but, come Sunday, the performance does not matter for FC Seoul - just the result and Park Chuyoung, just like he did on the last game of the 2016 season, against Jeonbuk in the 2-1 win at Sangam last July, and just like he did against Gangwon and Jeonnam just a few weeks ago, Park can find himself in the right place at the right time. If selected, the pressure will be on.

Prediction

Saturday's match is going to be tense and extremely nervy. It's a pre-playoffs playoff game in a sense because, whichever team can pick up a positive result will end up avoid having to go into the relegation playoffs. Last Saturday, Seoul were distinctly uninspiring and rather wasteful in front of goal - just four from 14 shots found the target. Therefore, it may take a moment of individual brilliance or a penalty for Seoul to register. Sangju's run of form is even worse than Seoul's and have struggled at home having won just three times in front of their own supporters all season. Stalemate.

Predicted Score: Sangju Sangmu 0-0 FC Seoul

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