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Preview: FC Seoul vs Sangju Sangmu

Preview: FC Seoul vs Sangmu Sangmi K League 1 Round 32
FC Seoul's last home fixture before the split sees the visit of FA Cup semifinalists Sangju Sangmu. In K League 1 Round 32, Sangju will make the trip to the capital looking for some momentum heading into the semifinal second leg on Wednesday. For FC Seoul, a win could help with some momentum of their own as Choi Yongsoo's side look to seal third place and qualify for the AFC Champions League.

Overview

via Soccerway

Last Time Out

FC Seoul 1-1 Gyeongnam FC

FC Seoul will consider Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Gyeongnam as two points dropped as, despite dominating the first half, Choi Yongsoo's side went in at half time with a slender 1-0 lead. Gyeongnam, on the other hand, who capitalised on a profligate FC Seoul, will certainly see the point as well earned. FC Seoul took the lead in the 18th minute when a teasing cross from Aleksandar Pešić was nodded home by centre back Hwang Hyunsoo. The assists seemed to come as a huge confidence boost as the Serbian striker looked to end his seven match barren spell.

A goal from Pešić never came, however - nor did a second from FC Seoul. Instead, substitute Bae Kijong found a leveller for the Reds. The veteran striker turned Kim Hangil, 12 years his junior, inside out before finding the bottom corner of Yang Hanbin's goal. Kim Jongboo's side battled hard in the second half, got men behind the ball and made it difficult for FC Seoul who had to resort to speculative crosses into a crowded penalty area. With Gangwon losing to Seongnam, the Sangam faithful will see this as a chance missed to strengthen their hold on third.

Highlights




Sangju Sangmu 2-3 Incheon United

Incheon United picked up a vital win away to Sangju Sangmu on Wednesday, one which was enough to move them up into 11th place and level on points with Gyeongnam in 10th. Stefan Mugoša fired in a brace in the space of just three minutes; the Montenegrin international's first came via the penalty spot, VAR spotting a handball which referee Ko Hyungjin originally didn't, the second a well-taken, typical strike of Incheon's talisman.

Lee Woohyeok made it 3-0 on 14 minutes, firing in a rebounded shot from outside the area to give the Durumi wind beneath their wings. However, in the second period, Kim Gunhee threatened to ensure that the spoils were shared with a brace of his own. The on-loan Suwon Bluewings man found the bottom corner with a well-taken strike in the 49th minute before firing in a spot kick just past the hour mark. However, Yoo Sangchul's Incheon side held on to claim the lion's share of the spoils.

Highlights



Previous Meetings

Last season's 1-0 away defeat to Sangju Sangmu on December 1st in Round 38 condemned FC Seoul to the relegation playoff places. FC Seoul needed just a point to move above Sangju and into 10th on goal difference as Sangju and Seoul had both scored 40. However, Park Yongji's 64th minute strike was enough to ensure that the army side stayed above Seoul on goals scored. Seoul then, will have been hell bent on revenge when Kim Taehwan's side visited the capital for the first meeting since that cold afternoon in North Gyeongsang.

A comical Kim Kyungjae own goal just before half time and a Jung Wonjin strike in the 81st sealed a 2-0 win for FC Seoul to end end Sangju's four-game unbeaten streak at the start of the 2019 campaign. After which, when Seoul made the trip to Sangju in May, Choi Yongsoo's side ran out comfortable 3-1 winners, thanks to a brace from Aleksandar Pešić and a 42nd minute strike from Ikromjon Alibaev. Park Yongji had levelled for Sangju, continuing his incredible scoring form against FC Seoul.


Team News

On Wednesday night FC Seoul gaffer Choi Yongsoo made a couple of changes to the lineup which faced Incheon United. Goalkeeper Yang Hanbin was recalled to make his first start since July, preferred to Yoo Sanghoon. Osmar returned from suspension and slotted in on the left-hand side of the back three, Hwang Hyunsoo shifting to the right with Lee Woonghee missing out.

Elsewhere, Kim Hangil got a rare start to deputise for Ko Kwangmin. FC Seoul will welcome back Ko Kwangmin from suspension this weekend however and is expected to go straight into the side. Yang Hanbin made a good account of himself between the sticks for Seoul on Wednesday evening, making some crucial interventions in the second half in particular and is likely to keep his place for the visit of Sangju.

FC Seoul starting lineup versus Gyeongnam FC, K League 1 Round 31.


The Adversary

The Sangju side which will face FC Seoul on Sunday will have a very different look to that which lost 3-1 to the capital club in May. Kim Youngbin, Lee Taehee, Kim Minwoo, Yoon Bitgaram, and Sim Dongwoon all featured in that match but have since returned to their parent clubs following the completion of the mandatory military service. Stepping in to fill the void left my first team regulars such as the aforementioned is the likes of Bae Jaewoo, Kim Gunhee, Jin Sungwook, Kim Jinhyeok, and Ryu Seungwoo who had all found playing time limited up until a couple of weeks ago.

Reaching an FA Cup semifinal is quite an achievement for Sangju and, just a few days after Sunday's trip to Sangam, the army side will host the second leg against National League side Daejeon Korail. Ryu Seungwoo's 76th minute strike looked to be enough to give Sangju a slender aggregate lead to take back home with them. However, in the 93rd minute, after Korail had gone full steam ahead in the second period, Lee Geunwon nodded in a dramatic equaliser to ensure that the tie is on even more of a knife edge. In that match Sangju gaffer Kim Taewhan started leading scorer Park Yongji up front along side Song Siwoo in a 4-1-3-2. Kim Minhyeok replaced Yoon Bitgaram on the left side of the three, whilst Kang Sangwoo came in for Kim Minwoo at left back against Korail and Incheon, Kim Kyungjoong was preferred against Suwon Bluewings, arguably Sangju's two best players.

Since the draw with Daejeon Korail, Kim Taehwan has rotated his squad a little bit. The former Daejeon Citizen midfielder made five personnel changes to the team which faced Suwon Bluewings, as well as three examples of players shifting to another position such as Kim Kyungjae dropping from defensive midfield into central defence. Then, for the defeat to Incheon, Coach Kim made five more changes, seemingly to keep his key players injury free for the all-important FA Cup semifinal second leg. 

Prior to the midweek round of fixtures, Kim Kyungjae, Park Yongji, and Kim Kyungjoong were all walking a suspension tightrope, needing just one booking to miss Sangju's next match but will all be available for selection on Sunday. Park Yongji is especially important to Sangju; in 2018 the on-loan Incheon man scored just four goals but three of which came against FC Seoul. This term, the 26 year-old has 10 goals, a career best, with one of those being against Seoul.


Eulji Lewis

What To Watch


Just three days after Sangju's visit to the capital, the army side take on Daejeon Korail in the second leg of the FA Cup semifinal. Sangju have made it to the last four just once, in 2014, but will seldom have a better chance of securing a first piece of silverware. The outcome, then, with such a busy schedule, will be what sort of team manager Kim Taehwan selects. Kim Gunhee, on loan from Suwon Bluewings, has come into the team and has four goals in three appearances. Park Yongji and Song Siwoo have good goal-scoring records against FC Seoul but Kim Taehwan may look to rest them.

The pressure, then, will be on those selected up front to score as Sangju attempt to finish in the top half of the table for only the second time in their history. Conversely, should the likes of Park Yongji, former Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Ryu Seungwoo, and Kim Gunhee get the nod, the thought of missing an FA Cup semifinal through injury could be something that festers in the back of their minds.

For FC Seoul, if the hosts do take the lead, it will be imperative for them to improve in the final third to enable them to kill the game off. Seoul have had a tendency to let leads slip or fail to capitalise on spells of sustained of pressure, as was the case in midweek against Gyeongnam.

Prediction

Seoul's indifferent run of form means that qualification for the AFC Champions League isn't the foregone conclusion that it seemed a few months ago. Five points separate Seoul with Daegu in fourth, and six from Gangwon in fifth who have a game in hand. The five point cushion isn't as comfortable as it may seem as Choi Yongsoo's men have just four wins since the last Super Match in June.

Once it had appeared as though Seoul had got themselves back on track, as per the away win over Incheon in July, disappointing results tended to have followed as was the case with the 4-2 home defeat to Jeonbuk and away loss to Ulsan. Another example of this was the home stalemate to Gangwon and loss to Seongnam after beating Daegu at home two rounds before. Seoul are struggling foconsistency but at this stage of the season, they just need results. Anything less than a win against Sangju will be unacceptable. Seoul should win this one, though, but not by much - 1-0, or 2-1.

[READ: K League 1 Round 32 Preview.]

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