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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan Hyundai return to K League action this weekend with a Sunday afternoon trip to Gangwon FC. The Horangi are looking to make it two from two in the league, while their hosts will want to bounce back from an opening day defeat at relegation-tipped Sangju Sangmu. History looks to be against Gangwon though, as they have never beaten Ulsan on their home turf. Our Ulsan columnist Dan Croydon previews this match for us. 

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 2-0 Gangwon FC
Many of us expect Gangwon to struggle this year, but if this performance is anything to go by, things may be worse than we thought. With last season's Golden Boot runner-up Uroš Đerić starting upfront, alongside experienced goalscorer Jeong Jo-guk, it looked like Gangwon were going to be a real threat to the Sangju defence. But the visitors just could not supply any quality balls into the final third in a frustrating first forty-five. After the break Sangju took control of the game and exposed Gangwon's lack of organisation at the back. Yoon Bit-garam, the best player on the pitch, broke the deadlock with a deflected shot ten minutes into the second half, before Park Yong-ji sealed the points with a cool header after good work from Song Si-woo. Sangju could have got more were it not for the performance of Gangwon goalkeeper Kim Ho-jun. It's early days of course, but these are worrying times for the East Coast club.

Highlights here

Sydney FC 0-0 Ulsan Hyundai (ACL Group Stage)
After Daegu's excellent win at Melbourne Victory the night before, expectations for another K League triumph Down Under were sky high. But, due to a cagey approach from manager Kim Do-hoon, and an incredibly strong wind blowing across the pitch, Ulsan were never able to get going against a hardworking Sydney FC side. The hosts had the lion's share of possession and created some decent chances, most of which fell to their English striker Adam Le Fondre. But with the wind playing havoc with any lofted pass, the second half descended into a war of attrition as both teams sought to cling on for a point. In the end, Ulsan will be happy with a draw and can start to look ahead to the home game against Shanghai next week.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Ulsan have a stellar record in this fixture, especially on the road. In fact, the Horangi have never lost at the K League's most northerly club, winning six and drawing three of their games in Gangwon.  You have to go back to May 2012 to find Gangwon's last win against the Tigers, a 2-1 win at Munsu.

The corresponding fixture last year saw one of the all-time craziest K League games play out in front of a minuscule crowd of just 569 hardy souls on a sweaty, suffocating night. The match ended 3-3 with all six goals in the space of the final seven minutes, although Gangwon's controversial VAR-awarded penalty came nine minutes into injury time. To try to describe all the action here would be almost impossible - just watch the highlights instead.

Team News

Gangwon FC 
Manager Kim Byung-soo may ring the changes after last weekend's disappointing loss in Sangju. New striker Nemanja Bilbija could make his full debut out wide as a remedy to their lack of pace last time out. Experienced holding midfielder Lee Jae-won, a winter signing from Busan I-Park, may also make his first appearance in orange to stop the likes of Shin Jin-ho and Mix Diskerud from over-running the middle of the park.

Ulsan Hyundai
The games are coming thick and fast for the Horangi. Kim Do-hoon's side return from their goalless draw in Sydney undoubtedly frustrated, and probably tired. The manager made just one change to his starting eleven for that match so he may need to rest some key individuals this weekend ahead of the ACL clash with Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday. That could mean a return to action for defenders Kang Min-soo and Park Joo-ho. It may also mean debuts for new recruits Park Ha-bin and Joo Min-kyu in attack.


Who To Watch

Kim In-sung (Ulsan Hyundai)



Kim has been given an unexpected run in the team ever since first choice winger Hwang Il-soo picked up an achilles injury just minutes into the ACL Playoff game against Perak. However, his performances have been rather patchy. On the positive side of things, the pacy winger netted the decisive goal against Suwon Bluewings. Kim has been wasteful at times, missing several more clear cut chances in that match; and anonymous at others, as was the case at Syndey on Wednesday night. While his speed and trickery often worries the opposition, a total of just five goals in nearly seventy appearances for Ulsan shows he often lacks an end product. But with players like Lee Keun-ho and Joo Min-kyu waiting in the wings, the 29-year-old ex-CSKA Moscow player needs a good performance on Sunday if he is to keep his place.

Prediction

If Ulsan are truly going to challenge Jeonbuk this season, this is the kind of game they have to win.  Too many times last season Kim Do-hoon's men needlessly dropped points away from home. Meanwhile, Gangwon have to bounce back from what was an awful performance at Sangju last week. If they can play with more intensity and get more quality balls into Đerić, they will cause trouble for the Ulsan backline. But, given Ulsan's quality and the depth of their squad, I think they will have enough to take three points again - but only just.

Dan's Prediction: Gangwon FC 0-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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