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Preview: Busan IPark vs Seoul E-Land

The K League 2's best attack and worst defence face off on Saturday evening, with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats. Second place Busan IPark will be desperate to get their promotion challenge back on track after a poor performance against Asan Mugunghwa last weekend. Their visitors to the Gudeok Stadium this Saturday are bottom club Seoul E-Land, who come into this game looking to end a run of seven straight defeats.

Match Overview


Last Time Out

Busan IPark 2-4 Asan Mugunghwa

Busan IPark put in one of their worst performances of the season last weekend against a composed and clinical Asan Mugunghwa side. Busan went flying out of the blocks and scored in the second minute when Park Jong-woo sliced open the Asan defence and Lee Dong-joon cut back for Soma Novothny to sweep home. Asan were awarded a penalty on the half hour mark, however, when Aleksandar Susnjar tripped Ahn Hyun-beom and former Busan playmaker Joo Se-jong converted from the spot.

Asan took control of the game in the second half as Busan struggled to find any rhythm in their play, and the military team took the lead when keeper Kim Hyung-geun punched a corner straight to Yang Tae-ryul. The Asan man gratefully stroked the ball home with the aid of a deflection off Lee Dong-joon. Kim’s frailty in the air was exposed again in the 58th minute when he flapped at another corner and didn’t get down quickly enough to keep out Kim Reo’s fierce drive. Busan did pull a goal back through Lee Jeong-hyeop but Asan made sure of the game after a slick move that was finished by Yang. Asan would have scored more but for some fine saves by Kim, and the 4-2 victory was no more than they deserved.

Highlights: here

Ansan Greeners 1-0 Seoul E-Land

Seoul E-Land slipped to their seventh consecutive defeat last weekend away to Ansan Greeners. The only goal of the game came in the eighth minute, when Jang Hyuk-jin's inswinging corner was headed into his own net by E-Land's Lee Byung-wook. Ansan had the lion's share of chances throughout the game and had a combination of Kim Young-Kwang's goalkeeping and poor finishing to thank for keeping the score down. E-Land went closest through Douglas Coutinho, but the Brazilian's header was well saved by Hwang In-jae.

Highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Busan IPark have won seven of the previous 13 meetings between these teams, with E-Land only recording three victories. Busan have scored almost twice as many goals as the capital team in those encounters, hitting the net 28 times compared to E-Land's 15.

The sides last met in Gameweek 9 at the start of May, and Seoul E-Land will probably wish to forget that visit to the Gudeok. Busan ran out 4-1 winners, with goals from Kim Myung-joon (2), Han Ji-ho, and Soma Novothny enough to make Douglas Coutinho's goal a mere consolation.

Team News

Busan will be without veteran left-back Kim Chi-woo and winger Han Ji-ho for the visit of E-Land as both picked up their third yellow cards of the season last weekend. Kim Moon-hwan missed the defeat to Asan and he could fill in on the left side of defence with Park Joon-gang continuing at right-back. Kwon Yong-hyun, more frequently utilised as an impact substitute, is likely to start on the left wing in place of captain Han. Elsewhere, Kim Myung-joon will return to the centre of defence in place of Hwang Joon-ho after serving a one game suspension last Sunday.

Coach Jo Deok-jae must also decide whether to keep faith with goalkeeper Kim Hyung-geun after his costly mistakes against Asan. Kim made some outstanding stops in that game, but his lack of conviction in the air led directly to two of Asan’s goals. Last season’s regular keeper Koo Sang-min recently left the club for his mandatory military service, so Jo could decide to give a debut to Choi Pil-soo, who signed from FC Anyang at the end of last month.

The Adversary

Seoul E-Land's form guide doesn't make happy reading for the club's supporters. Seven defeats on the trot, no win in the last eleven league games, and no goals in three of the last four. They have the league's leakiest defence, the worst goal difference, and they currently sit five points adrift at the foot of the table. In short, it can't get much worse.

This isn't a hopeless squad, however. Brazilians Wesley Alex and Douglas Coutinho are genuine goal threats, and veteran Kim "Glory" Young-Kwang is one of Korea's most experienced and reliable goalkeepers. They also have in their ranks two former Busan players who impressed while at the club. Centre-back Lee Kyung-ryul is a former Busan captain with almost 200 career league games under his belt, and left-footed midfielder Heo Beom-san is a composed playmaker.

Seoul E-Land's fortunes aren't going to change overnight, but if they can put in a hardworking and steely performance against the league's top scorers this weekend, it could give them a platform to build on. E-Land supporters and neutrals alike are hoping Saturday's game will be a step in the right direction.

What To Watch

Can Jo Deok-jae Arrest the Midseason Slump?

This game comes at something of a crossroads for Busan IPark’s season. Having recovered from a humbling opening day defeat to FC Anyang, Busan looked like they would challenge Gwangju FC for the K League 2 title after putting in some scintillating attacking performances and grinding out results from difficult games. Their performances have dipped in recent weeks, however, culminating in the sluggish showing last weekend that has left the club seven points adrift of the league leaders. Although there is still half a season still to play, it is looking increasingly likely that Gwangju will run away with the title and Busan will be left fighting for the playoff scraps, as was the case in each of the past three seasons.

Although many will point the finger at the error-prone Kim Hyung-geun for last weekend's result, the most worrying aspect about Sunday’s performance was that even Busan’s usually reliable performers were under-par. Simple passes were frequently over or under-hit, misunderstandings between players resulted in loss of possession and, in stark contrast to the last time Busan played Asan, the military men bossed the midfield. Park Jong-woo, apart from one exquisite pass that created the first goal, was nowhere near his best, and midfield partner Romulo, so influential last season, failed to make any sort of impact on the game.

Against an underwhelming Seoul E-Land team in the midst of a horrible string of results, Busan supporters will demand a reaction. An ugly win is unlikely to stoke the fires and get Busan's season back on course; coach Jo Deok-jae needs to orchestrate a return to the fluid attacking football that illuminated so many matches earlier this year. With fringe players like Choi Seung-in, Han Sang-woon, Seo Yong-deok, and Jung Sung-min returning to the matchday squad in recent weeks, Jo must decide whether to reshuffle his pack and inject some new energy into a side in danger of entering a slump. If he decides to stick with the tried and tested, he must find a way to motivate and reenergize his troops.

A win against the league's bottom club won't define Busan's season, but the nature of the performance may set the tone for the months to come. How Jo reacts to last week's damaging defeat could be the biggest test of his Busan reign so far.

Prediction

Seoul E-Land are in horrible form and although it's arguably the best possible time to play Busan, it's still hard to see the capital club going back home with any points. Even an off-colour IPark team knows how to score goals, and E-Land haven't recorded a clean sheet in the league since Gameweek 3. I expect something of a reaction from Busan this weekend, and although it may not be pretty, they should do enough to see off the visitors.

Predicted Score: Busan IPark 2-1 Seoul E-Land



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