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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Seongnam FC

Top-of-the-table Ulsan Hyundai will look to continue their unbeaten start to the K League season this Saturday evening when they host a Seongnam FC side struggling for consistency. The Horangi will have to bounce back from a shock midweek loss as they crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of National League outfit Daejeon Korail, while Seongnam are still searching for their first away win since returning to Korea's top flight. 

Last Time Out

FA Cup 4th Round
Daejeon Korail 2-0 Ulsan Hyundai

Third-tier club Daejeon Korail pulled off an improbable but fully deserved victory against a strong-looking Ulsan team last Wednesday night. Kim Do-hoon made several changes to the team that beat Incheon, but apart from debutant Park Jae-min, all of them had made first-team appearances this season.

The hosts broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when ex-Gyeongnam midfielder Lee Gwan-pyo curled a delightful freekick around a suspect Ulsan wall. Korail then doubled their lead just two minutes later as former Augsburg youngster Kim Jin-su capitalised on some uncharacteristically hesitant Horangi defending to volley home from close range.

Ulsan manager Kim Do-hoon sent on Diskerud, Kim In-sung, and Junior to try to salvage the game, but it was to no avail; Daejeon held on in relative comfort to take a famous win. For Ulsan, you get the feeling they have bigger fish to fry, but considering they have not been knocked out before the semi-finals for five years now, this was the biggest upset on a night many K League 1 clubs struggled.

FA Cup 4th Round
Sangju Sangmu 0-0 Seongnam FC (Sangju win 10-9 on penalties)

In the third all K1 matchup of the night, neither side could muster a goal in the first two hours of football. It was Sangju who held their nerve in the shootout to set up a fifth-round tie with Jeju United next month. Defeat for Seongnam meant they bow out at this stage for the second year running. 

Previous Meetings

Seongnam have been something of a bogey team for Ulsan in recent years, especially when the two sides met at Munsu. The Horangi have lost four of the last six games they've hosted, winning just one and drawing the other. In fact, wherever the sides meet - be it Munsu or Moran - whoever is away has the better record. Still, with Ulsan winning six in a row at home, and Seongnam without a top-flight away win since July 2016, it would be a surprise to see the Magpies come away with the three points this Saturday.

Team News

With a vital Asian Champions League game at Kawasaki Frontale of Japan coming up next Tuesday, expect Kim Do-hoon to rotate his team again. That could mean another game for Joo Min-kyu upfront. One player certain to miss out on Saturday is midfielder Shin Jin-ho after he earned a red card against Incheon last weekend, meaning Park Yong-woo could make his third start of the season. Right winger Kim Tae-hwan is an injury concern as he limped off the field at Daejeon midweek, while Dave Bulthuis and Kim Bo-kyung could return after sitting that game out. 

The Adversary

Seongnam entered this season ready to prove that they belong in the top flight and so far the results have been a bit of a mixed bag. However, recent success show signs of hope for the Magpies who are currently sitting at seventh in the table with seven points.

They are coming off of an impressive 2-0 victory against the Steelers last week where the team’s attack finally seemed to come together. Seongnam’s defence has been its strong point this season and they’ve had to be with the attack averaging just about one goal per match. However, there has been some life since manager Nam Ki-il switched to the 3-5-2 formation, especially with attacking midfielder Kim Min Hyeok supporting what will likely be Eder up front. The two of them have contributed half of the team’s goals this season.

But it is important to consider that Seongnam had an FA cup match this week that ended in exhausting and dramatic fashion. Seongnam did not get the benefit of playing against a lower division side and lost after 12 rounds of penalty kicks. With a hot Ulsan team to contend with this weekend, it is important that they recover and forget about that match

- Giovanni Pieve

Prediction

It is difficult to say what effect the loss to Daejeon Korail will have on Kim Do-hoon's side. Had the team been made up of fringe players and youngsters, it may not have been of much concern. But Ulsan basically had a first choice team on the field for the last half an hour, minus Bulthuis and Kim Bo-kyung. Seongnam have certainly not been in spectacular form, but they are proving difficult to beat of late, losing just once in their last five league games. If the Magpies score first, Ulsan fans may be in for a frustrating evening.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Seongnam FC



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