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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Jeju United

Ulsan Hyundai will bring their excellent home campaign to a close when they play host to Jeju United this Sunday afternoon.  Ulsan, who sit one point behind second-placed Gyeongnam with two games to go, will be hoping they can grab the runners-up spot in these final weeks.  And with the visitors having little to play for but pride, who would bet against Kim Do-hoon's men taking a step closer this weekend? Dan Croydon and Branko Belan preview this tie for us.

Match: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeju United
Venue: Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan
Kickoff: Sunday 25th November, 2018; 14:00 KST

Last Time Out

Suwon Bluewings 3-3 Ulsan Hyundai
This point was enough to guarantee the Horangi at least third place in the final league table, as well as a spot in the Asian Champions League next season.  Understandably though no one in an Ulsan shirt looked particularly happy as the final whistle went, as yet again they let a lead slip away from them on the road.

Lovely finishes from Hwang Il-soo and Park Yong-woo meant Ulsan were two goals to the good at halftime, but then a second-half collapse saw Dejan pull one back, before two goals in less than a minute put Suwon into the lead with quarter of an hour left on the clock.  Deep into injury time, Ulsan's top scorer, Junior rode to the rescue with his twenty-first goal of the campaign - a beautifully placed header from Lee Myeong-jae's laser accurate cross.

To some it seemed like sweet revenge for the last second equaliser Suwon scored when the sides met just a few weeks before, but frankly speaking, Ulsan were rightfully disappointed to register their third draw of the season at the Big Bird, when they should probably have won all three games.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Traditionally Jeju have fared better than most when traveling to Ulsan.  They have won six of the twenty games at Munsu, drawn six and lost eight.  This season has been evenly matched too, as the Islanders won the early season encounter by a goal to nil thanks to Ryu Seung-woo's injury-time strike. It was an afternoon to forget for Ulsan with both Kim Seung-jun and Richard Windbichler seeing red in what was Ulsan's third straight defeat at the start of the campaign.

Fast forward to the end of September and in the second matchup in Ulsan, the two teams were in polar opposite form. Ulsan were looking to continue their remarkable turn around with a sixth home win on the trot, while Jeju had slipped into the bottom half of the table without a win in eight. It was no surprise then when the hosts put them to the sword with an excellent attacking display. Although Jeju were able to claw back a couple of goals late on, Ulsan ran out comfortable 3-2 winners.

That fantastic form has continued for Ulsan as they come into this game with a record of eight wins in nine at home. Meanwhile, Jeju have won their last two matches on the road against Pohang and Gyeongnam, meaning both sides have reasons to be optimistic ahead of Sunday's match.

Team News

There was bad news for Ulsan fans this week as talismanic defender Richard Windbichler announced he would not be renewing his contract with the Horangi.  The 27-year-old Austrian, who has made 74 appearances in two seasons at the club, has said he is looking forward to a new challenge next year in either the MLS or A-League.  This will be his last league game in front of the Ulsan faithful, although there is still the small matter of the FA Cup Final first-leg on December the 5th.

Windbichler battles with Melbourne Victory's Bersat Berisha in the 6-2 ACL win earlier this season

Elsewhere, Park Joo-ho returns from international duty in Australia.  The ex-Dortmund fullback played 75 minutes in Korea's impressive 4-0 win over Uzbekistan on Tuesday evening. However, Park may lose out to Lee Myeong-jae in the left-back slot after the latter's five assists this season saw him nominated for the Defender of the Year title at the end of season K League Awards.  Other awards nominees, Junior, Windbichler, Han Seung-kyu, Kim In-sung, and Lim Jong-eun will all be looking to make a last good impression on K League watchers this Sunday afternoon.

The Adversary

What has largely been a disappointing season winds down to a close for Jeju United as they travel away for their final two matches, with the first trip coming Saturday to Ulsan.  The Islanders know that only a win will give them any chance at the top four, even if their chances are slim to none following a goalless draw against Jeonbuk on the island two weeks ago.  If Pohang manage a point against the league champions this weekend, they will get the nod and could find themselves in the ACL next season if the Horangi defend their FA Cup title.

Jeju’s dismal second half was finally brought to an end in late September, but it left them with too much ground to make up in the chase for continental football next season. However, despite news to the contrary that he would be replaced at the end of the season, the club just announced that Cho Sung-hwan will remain as head coach next year.  It seems the board is satisfied with finishing in the top half of the league. Now the question is what will be done to bolster the roster after a poor showing in both previous transfer windows.

One of the biggest concerns for the club heading into the winter break is how they will address the lack of goals which plagued the team this season.  Tiago Marques and Roberson arrived in January this year, with only the former having any sort of impact with the club, while the latter’s loan spell is up at the end of December, after which he will return to Brazil to rejoin his parent club Internacional.

In other team news, there are no suspensions to consider, and the team is healthy, so the expectation is that Jeju will field its strongest starting eleven in the interests of going out and getting a result.

(By Branko Belan)


Both teams will be fully rested after the international break, but with second place still a real possibility and an FA Cup title to defend, Ulsan should be the more focused side. In contrast, Jeju really have nothing left to play in these final two match weeks.  While the Islanders have shown they are no pushovers on the road lately, I fully expect Ulsan to score at least two goals and run out relatively comfortable winners, giving Windbichler the send off his swashbuckling displays for the Horangi deserve.

Dan's Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 Jeju United

K League 1 R37 Preview: here

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