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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Seongnam FC

Ulsan Hyundai finally return to their Sports Complex home this Saturday afternoon to take on a Seongnam FC side who have renewed aspirations of a top-half finish.  With just a single goal separating Ulsan from Jeonbuk at the top of the K League standings, Kim Do-hoon's men know that nothing but three points wil do. But can Junior Negrao et al. find a way past Seongnam's notoriously stingy defence? Daniel Croydon previews this one for us.  

Match: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Seongnam FC
Venue: Ulsan Sports Complex
Kickoff: Saturday, September 28th, 2019; 14:00 KST

Last Time Out

Suwon Samsung Bluewings 0-2 Ulsan Hyundai
The Horangi took all three points on the road at the fourth time of asking when they put hapless Suwon to the sword at the Big Bird last Wednesday evening.  Kim Do-hoon was not able to celebrate with his players at the final whistle, as he served the last of his five-match touchline ban, but cameras did show the Ulsan manager puff his cheeks with relief as his side moved level on points with Jeonbuk at the top of the K League.

Ulsan were good value for their win, although they were never really pushed out of second gear.  It took them until the second half to break the deadlock—Kim In-sung stealing in ahead of his marker to poke home a wicked Kim Tae-hwan cross.  Suwon huffed and puffed, but not even the introduction of the fit Adam Taggart on the hour could give the home fans much to cheer about.

Suwon's performance was summed up best by the goal that sealed the tie for Ulsan; all three Bluewings defenders stopped as they appealed for first, an offside, then a goalkick, neither of which were correct, allowing Junior the easiest of finishes for his fifth goal in three outings.  It was the kind of lapse in professionalism that usually has managers tearing their hair out—but Lee Lim-saeng seemingly struggled to muster the energy even for that.

Video highlights: here

Seongnam FC 1-0 Gangwon FC
Seongnam put an end to a winless run of four games with a credible win over ACL qualification hopefuls Gangwon FC. In a game of few clear cut chances, the Magpies managed to edge ahead on 36 minutes when defender Lee Chang-yong pounced on a loose ball after a fumble from Gangwon keeper Kim Ho-jun.  This was Lee's first goal of the season, his last coming in Ulsan's final day derby win over Pohang last December. The win took Seongnam within four points of the top half, while Gangwon slipped into fifth spot, although they do have a game in hand over Daegu who are just a point above them.

Video highlights: here

Previous Meetings

Both times these two teams have met this season it has been the away side that has come out on top.  Seongnam were able to inflict Ulsan's only home loss of the season so far — a 0-1 win at Munsu back in April with attacker Gong Min-hyun getting the winner that day.  Ulsan then returned the favour with a 1-4 victory at the Tancheon a month later. Seongnam took an early lead, but the Horangi ran out comfortable winners in the second half thanks to goals from Junior, Lee Keun-ho, Diskerud, and Kim Bo-kyung.

Historically, Seongnam have an impressive record in Ulsan, winning nine times and losing on just four occasions overall.  Their switch to a citizen club hasn't made much of a difference either, with the Magpies winning four of the six trips to South East since Ilhwa Ltd. sold the club in 2013.

Team News

The big news for Ulsan is the welcome return of manager Kim Do-hoon to pitch level. The Horangi clearly struggled without their gaffer directing them from the touchline, dropping points late on against both Incheon and Gyeongnam.

Manager Kim Do-hoon is back from a five-game touchline ban. The Horangi dropped seven points during his absence.
Kim has no suspensions to worry about ahead of this match and has a relatively injury-free squad to pick from. Dave Bulthuis has indicated on social media that he is close to a return to action, but is unlikely to take the field on Saturday, as is fellow defender Jason Davidson.

Ulsan's top-scorer Junior has hit a rich vein of form again and is likely to keep Joo Min-kyu out of the starting lineup, although with the visit of Gangwon coming up on Wednesday, Kim Do-hoon may opt to rotate his midfield five; Hwang Il-soo, Lee Keun-ho, and Park Yong-woo may all return to the first XI.

The Adversary

Seongnam are one of only two teams to stop Ulsan scoring at home this season. In fact, the Magpies' miserly defence has been the biggest factor in keeping the club out of the relegation dogfight for much of the season; they have conceded the least goals of any team outside the top four.

Seongnam striker Mathias Coureur has scored only twice in his seventeen appearances this season 
Manager Nam Ki-il has preferred a 3-4-3 formation for much of the campaign, with Martinique striker Mathias Coureur leading the line.  They have struggled for goals all season, but especially since their Brazilian winger Eder picked up an injury back at the start of August.  In the seven matches since Eder's last appearance, a 0-1 win at Incheon United, Seongnam have scored just three goals and have not won on the road in their last four attempts. Nam Ki-il will have to rely on his sturdy backline then if they are to get anything from this Saturday afternoon's match.

Prediction

Ulsan won a huge mental victory last Wednesday night when three points at Suwon put an end to a sticky patch of form.  With just a single goal separating them from Jeonbuk in the table, the Horangi will be going all out for a big victory this Saturday.

Seongnam are solid enough defensively, but without a real goal threat amongst their squad, it is unlikely they can match Ulsan where it matters.  I predict a fairly comfortable afternoon for Kim Do-hoon's side.

Dan's Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Seongnam FC 

[READ: K League 1 Round 32 Preview.]

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