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Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Pohang Steelers

Preview: Suwon Bluewings vs Pohang Steelers K League 1
In a repeat of the final fixture of the regular season just two weeks ago, fourth placed Suwon Bluewings once again host fifth placed Pohang Steelers. Just two points separate the pair in the race for the all-important and coveted last ACL place, although this is dependent on an Ulsan Hyundai FA Cup victory. Ross Davis previews Pohang's trip to their K League bogey team who they haven't beaten since the opening game of the 2015 seasons some 14 meetings ago.
(image via K League)

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 1-2 Jeju United

Highlights here

Pohang started their first Championship Round campaign for three seasons with a disappointing defeat at home to islanders, Jeju United. A result which now sees the two sides level on 47 points a piece in fifth and sixth places. With Suwon's midweek defeat in the FA Cup, there remains the possibility of continental football for both sides next season.

The first half was a tightly contested affair where the best chances came from set pieces. Pohang started the brightest and a smartly worked short corner found Connor Chapman in the middle of the goal and only four yards out, but the Australian wasn't able to convert. Lee Seok-hyun was also guilty of missing from close range when his outstretched boot was unable to convert a free kick.

The second half saw Jeju turn up the heat on their opponents with no fewer than seven shots on target compared to their zero in the first half. Kang Hyeon-mu produced some expert stops to keep the score level including a top class save from a powerful Kim Seong-ju effort from outside the box. The resulting corner again ended up at the feet of Jeju's number eight, and with Pohang not heeding the warning the midfielder, produced another fierce shot that was too hot to handle on this occasion for Kang.

Pohang responded well and equalised just seven minutes later when Lee Jin-hyeon found some space in the box with his back to goal, expertly spun and placed the shot in the back of the net. Again, the opposition responded quickly to the goal with Jeju finding the winner in the 81st minute. With stakes so high at this part of the season, Pohang defender Ha Chang-rae will be disappointed not to have cleared his lines as a long punt somehow ended at the feet of Jeju substitute Lee Gwang-Seon to place home and give the Tangerine Army a crucial victory.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-0 Suwon Bluewings

Highlights here

A feisty encounter played out in horrendous weather conditions ultimately saw the newly crowned Champions Jeonbuk enact some measure of revenge on Suwon for the ACL quarter-final defeat last month.

The game will mostly be remembered for the tackles and seven yellows produced; the referee doing a good job to keep 22 men on the pitch. But in the end, Jeonbuk conquered with some typically late goals.

Kim Shin-wook got his 11th of the season in the 80th minute with a nicely taken, first time curled effort that nestled in the bottom corner of the Suwon goal. It was a well taken effort but one that was bettered just four minutes later when a surging run from Lopes resulted in a lovely reverse shot wrong-footing Suwon keeper Noh Dong-geon and hitting the inside of the post on its way in for a 2-0 lead for the champions. The game ended as it began with a bout of pushing and shoving involving both sides.

Previous Meetings

Suwon Bluewings are closing in on Pohang's historical advantage between the two sides. Pohang having not won in 14 games between the two still hold a 20 to 18 lead in terms of victories.

The last meeting, just two weeks ago, was a tight affair but Suwon converted their chances whereas Pohang missed a plethora of clear-cut chances making it seem that it is a mental block over difference in ability that has seen Suwon edge out Pohang in recent encounters.

Team News

Neither side have any suspensions heading in the second game of the Championship Round. For Suwon, Dejan completed 90 minutes in the midweek FA Cup game at Ulsan and has tended to have been rested the following the fixture and so may be on the bench come the weekend. Star signing this season Elvis Sarić was missing from the cup game through injury and remains a doubt for the visit of Pohang.

Pohang have no new injury worries but Brazilian right back Teixeira was absent from the match day squad for the Jeju game and it remains to be seen whether he will be fit to start Sunday's game.

The Adversary

Pohang Steelers have struggled this season when playing top six opponents, taking home just 16 points from a possible 45 and six of those points came from their impressive wins over champions Jeonbuk. This lack of success may come as a surprise given the measure of those winning margins over the champions and also the face that Pohang's main strength has been their counter attacking, which should be easier against the better sides.

What it most likely comes down to is the wastefulness in front of goal with no clear goalscorer throughout the team and the countless opportunities that, with more composure, would undoubtedly see Pohang higher up the table. A difficult thing to fix but perhaps Coach's Choi Soon-ho's constant rotation of the front three in their near standard 4-3-3 has prevented any of the forwards from creating a solid run of goal-scoring form. A fact illustrated by his decision to not play Brazilian striker Gamalho in the subsequent game after he ended his four-month dry spell in front of goal with the winner against Sangju in September.

Prediction

Given Suwon's obvious hold over Pohang of late, and the fact that they are now free of distraction from other competitions, it should see the hosts come out on top. Pohang have failed to score in around a third of their away games including the corresponding fixture just two weeks ago. Suwon have a strong defensive record at home having kept a clean sheet in just under half of their home games this season. With all that taken into account Suwon should continue their good run against Pohang this weekend.

Suwon Bluewings 1-0 Pohang Steelers



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