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Preview: Daegu FC vs Ulsan Hyundai

After the international break, Daegu FC will be in action against Ulsan Hyundai for the first game of Final Round A in the pursuit of an ACL Spot, while K League leaders Ulsan are looking to take one step closer to the winning the title. K League United's Daegu FC columnist Muyeol Jung previews this clash.

Last Time Out

Seongnam FC 1-2 Daegu FC

With a spot in the Championship Round in Daegu's hand, Daegu FC made the long trip to Seongnam in pursuit of an ACL spot. In the first half, the Magpies and the Sky Blues attempted to open the scoring, but neither were effective at all in creating a goal scoring opportunities due a defensive approach from both managers.

However, the second half was very different to the first. One of the League's standout attackers Cesinha made a shot on target from a free kick, saved by Seongnam's shot stopper Kim Dongjun. A few minutes later, the home side took the lead via a spot kick taken by Seo Bomin on 49 mins. The metropolitan team didn't let the Magpies take the control of the game. Only four minutes later, Jung Seungwon looked for former Brazil U20 team forward Edgar on the move whose header made a beautiful trajectory into the net. Afterwards, Andre's side fiercely went for the winner when Daegu's workhorse wing-back Hwang Soonmin hit the foot of the post six minutes after the scorer's powerful shot inside the box was denied by the goalkeeper.

The game looked on the way to end in a 1-1 tie but Daegu's constant effort finally paid off when substitute Shin Changmoo scored the winner in stoppage time when the Cesinha's freekick to the top corner was palmed away by Seongnam Kim Dongjoon.


Pohang Steelers 2-1 Ulsan Hyundai

Prior to the international break, the 163rd East Coast Derby was played at the Steel Yard. Both teams were in desperate need of win; Pohang needed a win for a place in Final Round A, whilst Ulsan could put daylight between themselves and title contenders Jeonbuk who were set to play bogey team Incheon.

With the hosts' dominance, Ulsan had a goal scoring chance on 29 mins when pacey wing-back Kim Taewhan hit a shot along the ground after nearly 40 metres of dribbling. Other than that, the hosts clearly took the control of the game and attempted to destroy the Horangi's defence, but the game entered the break as a goalless draw.

The flow of the second half wasn't much different, but unfortunately, the visitors were more clinical and at the right time. Only six minutes into the second half, Kim Taewhan put the ball away into the empty net after Pohang goalkeeper's save fell to his feet. After the hosts were 1-0 down, they kept on pushing for a goal, but Ulsan's defence remained well organised until five minutes before time when Pohang earned a penalty which was converted by Paločević. Next, local boy Lee Kwanghyuk stepped up and curled the ball into the right to the Korea's first choice goalkeeper Kim Seungkyu. Thanks to the winner, Pohang dramatically made it to the top six after a dramatic 2-1 win over their arch rivals.


Previous Meetings

Head to head, Daegu FC have been always underdogs against Ulsan Hyundai with only six wins compared to 23 wins to the Horangi from 40 meetings. After the citizen club made it back to K League 1, Daegu's previous two years' results in the league are absolutely humiliating; six losses in a row.

However, the biggest upset Daegu FC pulled off was in FA Cup Final against Ulsan in which Andre's side hammered Kim Dohoon's side 5-1 on aggregate. After which, things started to change slightly. This season, the two have taken on each other three times and neither side claimed a victory; 1-1 in March, 0-0 in May, and 1-1 in August.

Team News

Fourth placed Daegu FC's unbeaten run has continued for two months since August, significantly boosted by the addition of Kim Sunmin, Kim Dongjin, and Shin Changmoo who went away for their military duties.

During the international break, four Daegu players went away to represent the nation; Jo Hyeonwoo for World Cup Qualifiers at senior level, Kim Daewon, Jung Seungwon, and Jeong Taewook for Korea U22 National Team for two friendlies against Uzbekistan. First of all, Jo started against Sri Lanka in Hwaseong before the team traveled to North Korea for the third game of World Cup Qualifiers. Meanwhile, three youngsters Kim Daewon, Jung Seungwon, and Jeong Taewook travelled to Hwaseong for the first friendly before the second one in Cheonan. During the two games, the trio were tested in preparation for AFC Championship finals next year and they earned a fairly even amount of minutes from the two matches; Kim Daewon for 80 minutes, Jung Seungwon for 90 minutes and Jeong Taewook for 100 minutes.

Daegu FC manager André Gaspar(L) poses for a picture along with Jung Seungwon(R)
In a K League press conference held this Wednesday, the Sky Blues manager Andre spoke of Daegu's target to bag at least nine points in Final Round A including the must-win match with Seoul to secure an ACL spot for next season.

Regarding the team selection, since mid August when Kim Sunmin and Kim Dongjin returned from military service, the gaffer have been quite conservative with mainly the odd forced change, except on one occasion when Daegu faced off Jeonbuk on the road and pulled off a 3-1 win. By then, the gaffer rested a few key players Cesinha, Edgar, and Hwang Soonmin on the bench for tactical reasons and capitalised on a tired defence in the second half by bringing them on. As a result, there's also a slim chance that we may see this happen against Ulsan.

Other than that, the majority of players will be available for selection without any suspension, but summer signing Rildo still remains uncertain after he sustained a thigh injury.

The Adversary

K League leaders Ulsan are only one point ahead of title contender Jeonbuk Hyundai, and every game in Final Round A is crucial for the Horangi. Ahead of a trip to Daegu, Ulsan will perhaps be more worried and under pressure to get a result because Daegu are the only team that Ulsan haven't beaten this season, having difficulties in finding a way to break down Daegu's stifling defence.

During the international breaks, two Ulsan players went away to represent the Korean National Team; Kim Seungkyu and Lee Dongkyung. Korea's first choice goalkeeper Kim Seungkyu started the historic inter-Korean game in Pyongyang while youngster Lee Dongkyung only got 15 minutes against Sri Lanka.

Ulsan Hyundai manager Kim Dohoon (L) poses with K League 1 trophy along with title contender Jeonbuk Hyundai manager José Morais
In the K League Final Round Media Day press conference, manager Kim Dohoon acknowledges the importance of every match for the title and emphasises strong mentality from the players which will likely decide the results in addition to reducing the defensive errors. He also adds that "Ulsan will continuously focus on our games for the title rather than wishing for Jeonbuk's slip". For a trip to Daegu, Kim Dohoon will have the healthiest squad including speedy winger Kim Insung who has just returned from a suspension.

What To Watch

Two Korea international goalkeepers Jo Hyeonwoo and Kim Seungkyu will shortly meet again this weekend right after the national team were action for the World Cup Qualifiers. In a Korea shirt, Ulsan's Kim Seungkyu is the preferred choice to Paulo Bento rather than Daegu's Jo Hyeonwoo.

However, Daegu shot stopper is having a great season with a great record in K League this season. Jo tops the division in cleansheet with 13 clean sheets from 33 appearances, while Ulsan's Kim Seungkyu has only one clean sheet from seven games since this summer when the former Vissel Kobe player returned to his childhood club.


It will be a massive game for both sides as Ulsan are hoping to put daylight between themselves and title contenders Jeonbuk, while Daegu also are looking to keep their ACL hopes alive until they will host FC Seoul for the last game of the season with the ACL spot at stake.

Objectively, it is true that Ulsan have much more quality in their squad, but considering the recent form, Daegu won't let Ulsan take the three points away easily and the game is most likely to end in a draw.

[READ: Patreon Exclusive - Predicted K League 1 Final Standings.]

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