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Preview: Gwangju FC vs Seongnam FC

On their return to KLeague 1, Gwangju FC host Seongnam FC in a clash of two teams expected to flirt with relegation this season. Eager to announce their arrival in style, Park Jin-seop's Yellows must overcome an experienced Seongnam side put together by new manager Kim Nam-il.

Last Time Out

Daejeon Hana Citizen 3-1 Gwangju FC and Pre-Season

To end a fantastic season as champions, Park Jin-seop took his jubilant Yellows up the Honam road to Daejeon having already secured the league title. Cho Joo-young took advantage of Felipe's absence to score his first goal since signing for the club from the penalty spot. After conceding the spot kick, Daejeon's Rafael Ramazotti redeemed himself nodding down for Kim Seung-sub to equalise before youngsters Kim Chan and Yoon Sung-han consigned Gwangju to their second consecutive defeat.

There's little information to be found in terms of pre-season fixtures for Gwangju. After their pre-season tour of Thailand in mid February, no results of preparation games have been published.

Seongnam FC 3-1 Jeju United and Pre-Season

Consigning already relegated Jeju to another defeat, Seongnam ensured they finished the season on a respectable 45 points by virtue of two first-half goals from Lee Chang-yong and Lee Jae-won. Ahn Hyun-beom gave the visitors some hope in the second half but Lee Jae-won scored his second late on to seal the win. The brace represented Lee's first goals for the forward in his 16 appearances last season. 

Seongnam enjoyed three pre-season victories and a draw in February including two comfortable wins over Sungkyun Kwan University. Tomislav Kis bagged an impressive four in one game while Hong Si-hoo netted against both Sungkyun and in the 3-2 defeat of Gyeongju FC. They did meet one KLeague 2 side on their pre-season Jeju tournament in Suwon, who they failed to overcome in a 0-0 stalemate.

Previous Meetings

In their 18 previous meetings Gwangju and Seongnam have been evenly matched. The Magpies have edged it historically with seven wins compared to Gwangju's five. Their last meeting came in the second division in 2018 with a frantic four-goal first half resulting in a 2-2 draw. Na Sang-ho scored twice that season before his move to FC Tokyo as the Yellows took five points off eventual promoted side Seongnam. The last meeting in the top tier came in 2016 as both sides once again shared the spoils with two draws and a victory each. Current Gwangju captain Yeo Reum earned his side a draw at home while Hwang Ui-jo netted in a comfortable May win that year for Seongnam.

                                [LISTEN: Transfer Window Recap Pod]

Team News

Having played (and been sent off) in competitive football as recently as late February, latest signing Marcos Urena has at least played football this calendar year in his bid to be match fit. At 30-years-old, the Costa Rican international represents an impressive coup for Gwangju and should take some weight off Willyan and Om Won-sang in terms of midfield dynamism. Saturday's game also marks Gwangju's first of their 10th anniversary season since formation. A decision that few will argue with, Yeo Reum slotted into midfield as the club ran a competition to name the decade's best 11. He is expected to lead the team out as captain in the centre of midfield, which could be a weak spot for the Yellows.

Looking through Seongnam's pre-season line-ups it seems that new signing Jamshid Iskanderov it a cert to make his debut with Ma Sang-hoon and Lee Tae-hee regulars at the back. Park Tae-jun and Park Soo-il have also featured regularly while the good form of Tomislav Kis is likely to push him towards being first choice up top.

The Adversary

Taking over from Jeju United-bound Nam Ki-il, Kim Nam-il adopts a side who comfortably avoided relegation last term. Finishing 12 points above 11th-placed Incheon United, Seongnam's winter transfer window saw a lot of changes to a squad who face relegation favourites Gwangju and Incheon in their first two games this season. The recognisable face of Kim Young-kwang is in contention for a start between the sticks having halted his five-year stint at Seoul E-Land, while Kwon Soon-hyung arrives from Jeju as another player well into his thirties. Experience was certainly the order of the day in terms of recruitment. Park Soo-il joins after two seasons as a regular in Daejeon Hana Citizen's defence, while Jamshid Iskanderov has plenty of international caps for Uzbekistan. A lot of Seongnam's play this season is expected to flow through the Uzbek number 10, who has Croatian striker Tomislav Kis, scorer of 27 goals in Lithuania last year, to work with up front.

Seongnam do boast some young talents in an ageing squad with Park Tae-jun expected to feature prominently this season thanks to the league's U-22 player rule, while Kim Dong-hyun earned plaudits for his assured performances in January's AFC U-23 tournament. If new boss Kim can encourage more freedom in front of goal away from home, he could be onto a special formula. Seongnam boasted the league's fourth-best defence in 2019 but that came at a cost in terms of goals scored and entertainment value. Their defensive prowess was further bolstered late last term with the return of Lee Tae-hee from military duty at Sangju Sangmu.

What To Watch - Felipe's K1 bow

This will be Gwangju talisman Felipe's first opportunity to showcase his talent at Korea's top level. There's a lot of expectation around the Brazilian striker this year and a good season for the Yellows could see him earn a big move elsewhere by establishing himself as one of the KLeague's top talents. Speaking to Gwangju FC's website Felipe spoke of the attention focused on him. He said: "There's a lot of pressure on me but I'm confident because I've worked hard. Everyone points towards my performances but for me the team comes first".

Coming up against better defenders it will be interesting to see whether his powerful style will be as effective. One thing that will be in his favour is sides underestimating his ability with his feet in the opening stages. Far more than a blundering targetman, Felipe dropped back into a number 10 position to get on the ball and fashion opportunities for others on occasions last term.


Prediction - Gwangju 1-1 Seongnam

While a disappointment for Gwangju fans not to witness their return to the top flight in person, the Yellows will still be adamant on announcing their arrival in style. Felipe has a point to prove and Seongnam should have a storm to weather in the opening exchanges. I feel that Seongnam's experienced squad may be more adept at dealing with the rigours of what will be an odd occasion to play in and both sides may peter out towards the end and take a point a piece. Expect both teams to finish the season in similar positions, flirting with relegation but ultimately securing their K1 status.

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