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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Gangwon FC

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In the first match in a run of three at home for Kim Do-hoon's men, Ulsan Hyundai take on in-form Gangwon FC at Ulsan Sports Complex this Sunday evening.  The Horangi desperately need a win to keep the pressure on Jeonbuk at the top of the league, but their visitors have not lost away from home on the last seven occasions.  Can Gangwon become just the third team to take points away from a trip to Ulsan this season?

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-1 Ulsan Hyundai
The second Hyundai Derby of the year ended all square with neither side able to take the initiative in this year's title race.  Jeonbuk started the brighter and earned a penalty early on when Mix Diskerud mistimed a challenge on the prickly Moon Seon-min.  Veteran striker Lee Dong-gook stepped up to calmly slot home his sixth of the season.

Ulsan could have been level just seconds after the restart when Joo Min-kyu, who was again preferred to Junior upfront, found himself in front of goal with just the keeper to beat, but his scuffed effort was barely tipped wide by Song Bum-keun.  Joo made amends for this miss just after the half-hour mark though, when he rose highest to nod home a Kim Bo-kyung corner.

It finished honours even in last weekend's top-of-the-table clash 
Both teams had chances to win in the second half - Ricardo Lopes and Moon Seon-min drew several saves from Ulsan keeper Oh Seung-hoon, while at the other end Junior created problems for the Jeonbuk defense after his introduction on sixty minutes, but in truth, neither side really dominated and a draw seemed a fair result in the end. The two teams remain separated by a single point, although Jeonbuk have played a game more.

Highlights here 

Gangwon FC 2-1 Gyeongnam FC
The hosts kept hold of fourth spot in the K League 1 table with another comeback win, this time over lowly Gyeongnam FC.  The Reds took the lead after thirty minutes when a lapse in concentration in the Gangwon defense left Kim Jong-jin in acres of space to roll in his first goal of the campaign.

Gangwon forced the Gyeongnam defense deeper and deeper as they searched for an equalizer, but it was the visitors who should have doubled their lead on the hour when Luc Castaignos was sent through one-on-one with the Gangwon keeper.  However, when his eventual shot flashed wide, it marked a turning point in the game. Wave after wave of Gangwon attacks finally led to an equalizer from June's Player of the Month, Cho Jae-wan. Then the comeback was completed just minutes later courtesy of a first senior goal for 22-year-old  midfielder Park Chang-jun.

Highlights here    

Previous Meetings

Ulsan are on an unbeaten run of eleven games against Gangwon, dating all the way back to March 2012. In fact, Gangwon have taken just two points against the Horangi in the eight meetings since Gangwon returned to the top flight in 2017. One of those points came in the second match of this season when Junior missed an early penalty in a nil-nil tie in Chuncheon.  Interestingly, there has never been a draw in the ten games these two have played in Ulsan.

Team News

Ulsan fans finally got the news they had been waiting for this week when it was announced that midfield maestro Mix Diskerud had signed an extension to his loan deal until the end of this season. It is a massive boost to the club's title chances, as Mix has really cemented his position as one of the league's most cultured playmakers.

USA International Mix Diskerud extended his loan from Manchester City this week 
Elsewhere, the battle to see who leads the Horangi attack continues, with Joo Min-kyu starting and scoring in Jeonju last weekend.  However, Junior Negrao has grabbed two in his last three appearances, including the first goal at Ulsan's temporary home stadium against Incheon a couple of weeks ago.  Whomever Kim Do-hoon chooses to lead the line on Sunday night, it is almost certain we will see both Junior and Joo take the field at some point.

Finally, Kim has a choice to make in defense too; both Park Joo-ho and Kim Tae-hwan are suspended for this match, meaning there may be a debut for recent signing Jason Davidson at left back, while either Jeong Dong-ho or Lee Chang-soo will fill in on the right.  Dave Bulthuis remains doubtful too, so expect Kang Min-soo to line up alongside Yun Young-sun in the back line.

The Adversary

Despite their poor record against Ulsan, Gangwon will travel south full of confidence.  The Chuncheon-based club are unbeaten in seven in the league, winning five of their last four matches and scoring 15 goals in the process.  They currently sit in fourth place and have every right to be thinking about challenging for an ACL spot.

Gangwon's Cho Jae-wan was nominated Player of the Month for June after his hattrick against Pohang
The central figure in this fantastic run of form has been the younger winger, Cho Jae-wan.  Signed from Seoul E-Land in the winter, Cho has taken the move up to the top tier in his stride.  He now has six goals in his last six games, including a hattrick in that incredible 5-4 comeback against Pohang last month.  Gangwon may have said goodbye to their top scorer from last season, Uros Deric, who signed for Gyeongnam this week, but with exciting young goalscorers like Cho Jae-wan and Kim Jin-hyun, it is unlikely Gangwon will miss the Serbian all that much.

Prediction

With this being the first of three home games in a row for Ulsan, and Jeonbuk and Seoul facing each other this weekend, this should be the perfect chance for the Horangi to take control of the title race. However, Kim Do-hoon's side looked nervy in their first game at the Ulsan Sports Complex a couple of weeks ago.  They really struggled to break down bottom-of-the-league Incheon's defence and were a little lucky to get away with a 1-0 win.

Meanwhile, Gangwon are playing like a side that have nothing to lose.  They remain eight points adrift of Seoul in thrid place, so they won't be feeling any pressure going into what is, on paper, their toughest match of the season so far.

As mentioned earlier, the scores have never finished level between these two teams in Ulsan.  However, with rain likely, and with Ulsan still getting used to their new surroundings, I think there is a good chance that might change this weekend.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 2-2 Gangwon FC

K League 1 Round 22 Preview: here

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