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Preview: Incheon United vs Ulsan Hyundai

It's a classic bottom vs. top clash on Sunday afternoon when Incheon United host Ulsan Hyundai in Round 7 of the K League 1. On paper the visitors look like obvious favorites, however Incheon are well-known giant killers so this could be closer than it looks.

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai 2 - 0 Incheon United

Incheon suffered their fourth straight defeat and this one felt like it was a forgone conclusion. The first half started positively for Incheon who created most of the early chances. However, that changed in the seventeenth minute when former Incheon man Moon Seon-min slotted home the opening goal. The rest of the first half was pretty dull as Jeonbuk forced a slow pace.

In the second half Jeonbuk sealed the three points early on when Kim Shin-wook steered home a Lee Seung-ki cross. Incheon looked defeated and devoid of ideas from this point, obviously lacking attacking options.

Highlights: here

Sangju Sangmu 0 - 1 Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan Hyundai narrowly beat Sangju Sangmu to retain top spot. Ulsan rang the changes ahead of their Champions League game in the week and it told. They struggled to create meaningful chances for most of the ninety minutes. However, defensively they once again looked strong. The only goal of the game came in the second half when former Seoul E-Land and Sangju Sangmu forward Joo Min-Kyu scored his first for his new club.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Incheon United and Ulsan Hyundai played each other three times during the 2018 season, with Incheon United winning once, one game ending in a 1-1 draw and the other was won 2-1 by Ulsan.

Incheon last beat Ulsan at home just last season winning 3-2. Youngster Kim Bo-seob was the hero that day scoring a brace, with Stefan Mugosa scoring the other. Ulsan last beat Incheon away almost two years ago, winning 2-1. Kim In-Sung scored the winner that Sunday.

Over the years Incheon and Ulsan have played each other 45 times with the victories dominated by Ulsan. They've won twenty-one times vs Incheon's thirteen. The other eleven games have ended in draws.

Team News

Manager Jørn Andersen will mostly likely be without Captain Nam Jun-jae and star striker Stefan Mugosa, who are both still injured. Defender Kim Dong-min will be available following his one game suspension. No Incheon players are suspended for this game, however Lim Eun-soo is a booking away from a ban.

Adversary

The Horangi’s excellent start to the campaign can be put down to a tried and tested game plan that is yet to be sussed out by their opposition. Building on their new rock solid centre-back partnership, Kim Do-hoon’s side employ a patient, conservative style that soaks up pressure before releasing the ball early and wide to their potent three pronged attack. It doesn’t make for much spectacle or big score lines – in fact Ulsan are yet to score more than two goals in a K League game. But it has proven very effective at neutralising the opposition attack; the Horangi have not conceded first in any of their ten games this year,  in all competitions.

It will be interesting to see what happens then against an Incheon team that is shipping goals at the moment. Will Kim Do-hoon abandon his patient approach in favour of an all-out assault in the hope of settling the tie early? It’s difficult to say. Equally tricky to predict is the starting line-up. After the dramatic late ACL win over Kawasaki Frontale midweek, Kim will probably need to make use of his squad again, although with an FA Cup match against Daejeon Korail of the National League this upcoming Wednesday night, he might wait until then to rest his biggest stars.

Midfielder Kim Sung-jun, who made his full debut against Frontale, is the most likely to drop to the bench to make way for an U22 player. Kim Do-hoon has also regularly swapped out his full-backs, so expect the return of Park Joo-ho to the captaincy. Elsewhere, Junior could make way for Joo Min-kyu again, who scored his first goal for the Horangi and what proved to be the winner against Sangju last weekend. Long-term absentees Lee Keun-ho and Hwang Il-soo will sit this one out, although there are signs that both players are getting closer to a return.

- Dan Croydon

Who To Watch

For Incheon United, with Stefan Mugoša absent it will be up to young Korean U22 star Kim Bo-seob to fill the void moving forward, along with Vietnamese national hero Nguyễn Công Phượng. Phượng looked more comfortable during the first half against Jeonbuk last weekend but tired during the second half.

Moving into the midfield, Heo Yong-joon hasn't exactly shown the same scoring form he had with Jeonnam Dragons last season, but he does at least like to take a pop at goal. Also watch out for the flair of Swedish-Iraqi center midfielder Jiloan Hamad.

Finally, at the back Gordan Bunoza has been commanding in defense so far this season, but sadly that hasn't helped Incheon stop conceding. He did however help Incheon hold on for the win in the closing stages against Gyeongnam a few weeks ago.

For Ulsan. former Heerenveen defender Davy Bulthuis has adapted to playing in the K League and Asian Champions League very quickly since joining in pre-season. Whilst moving forward Junior Negao has scored three in the league so far this season, as well as two in the ACL. Both will be key for Ulsan on Sunday afternoon.

Prediction

Incheon and Ulsan have had contrasting starts to their respective K League seasons. Incheon are currently bottom of the league having lost four games in a row, and have conceded ten in those past four games, scoring just once. Ulsan on the other hand are currently top of the table and undefeated in all competitions. They've won their last three straight in the league, but always by only a single goal margin.

Incheon manager Jørn Andersen will be forced to change things up once again on Sunday following the disappointing defeats to both Daegu and Jeonbuk. However the 4-5-1 formation should be retained.

Overall, sadly I can't see Incheon pulling off a shock win on Sunday afternoon but they might at least give the home fans something to cheer about scoring at least once. But in the end Ulsan will have enough to take home the three points and stay top of the league.

Predicted Score: Incheon United 1 - 2 Ulsan Hyundai

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