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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs Gwangju FC

Gwangju FC must act quickly to evade a nightmare start on their return to K League 1 as they travel to face a rejuvenated Sangju Sangmu. Park Jin-seop's Yellows hold an unenviable record to their name with no points or goals to speak of.

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 2-0 Gangwon FC

After a heavy opening day defeat at Ulsan Hyundai, Sangju enjoyed home comforts with a two-goal victory over much-fancied Gangwon. Counteracting "Byung-soo Ball" with their own counter-attacking style the military side rode their luck at times but took the lead in the 20th-minute after Lim Chai-min brought down Kang Sang-woo clumsily in the box. Kang picked himself up to stroke home the penalty down the middle. 

Gangwon struck the woodwork twice but the introduction of former Jeonbuk Hyundai winger Moon Seon-min proved vital. Breaking from a Gangwon corner, Moon picked the ball up 60 yards from goal and evaded a last-ditch Cho Jae-won slide tackle to calmly finish a one-on-one. Sangju held the ball for just 22 minutes in the match but earned 15 free kicks to retain possession when needed.

                                                           [READ: Full match recap]

FC Seoul 1-0 Gwangju FC

Suffering a second consecutive loss in the top division, Gwangju fell to a second-half 1-0 defeat thanks to Han Chan-hee's venomous strike from 25 yards. Park Jin-seop made numerous changes following the opening day disappointment at home to Seongnam FC with Kim Ju-gong, Park Jeong-soo, Hong Joon-ho and goalkeeper Lee Jin-hyung all drafted into the starting 11. There was also a change in shape with Park reverting to last season's preferred three in central midfield but in a 3-5-2 formation instead of 4-5-1. 

The Yellows have a lot to work on mustering just one shot on target. Looking at the stats, Gwangju actually made more forward passes than Seoul, suggesting that they at least attempted to play in an attacking manner. Problems arise when looking at the Yellows passing statistics, with just one cross into the box and three key passes accumulated in 90 minutes.

                                                             [READ: Full match recap]

Previous Meetings

The pair last met in the 2017 K League 1 season with a lot of goal scorers playing against their current clubs. Sangju enjoyed the better of the fixture earning nine points by three victories by one-goal margins. An odd day for current Gwangju legend Yeo Reum, the midfielder scored for Sangju at the Guus Hiddink Stadium while fulfilling his military service before Joo Min-kyu grabbed the winner.

Joo scored twice more in a memorable return fixture at Sangju in September which saw three goals in second-half stoppage time. Cho Ju-young thought he'd grabbed a 94th-minute equaliser for the Yellows only for another midfielder with Gwangju connections Kim Ho-nam to strike just one minute later. Kim Hak-beom did enjoy some success that year thanks to current Sangju player Song Seung-min's winner. Gwangju fans will also remember Song scoring the first goal in a 4-0 win at Sangju in 2016.

Team News

Sangju's under-22 players including first-choice striker Oh Se-hun are still doubts following their pre-season car accident on April 29. While no players were reportedly injured in the collision, they were unavailable for selection in both opening games. Subsequently, Kim Tae-wan has been restricted to a limited bench and only permitted to use two substitutes. Other doubts include Jeon Se-jin and defender Lee Sang-gi.

While lamenting his side's decision making post-game at Seoul, Park Jin-seop confirmed injuries to both first team wingers Eom Won-sang and Willyan. There was no hint at an imminent return as Park pointed towards further work on the training pitch to work around their absence, also suggesting that Marcos Urena will get some more minutes this week.

The Adversary

After just two games Sangju have already been through the mill. The 4-0 embarrassment at Ulsan pointed towards a season of unfulfilled potential fueled by being consigned to a certain relegation. Kim Tae-wan was never going to allow his new recruits to meander through the season unchallenged despite their lack of an incentive. The 48-year-old has worked wonders in the past forging a side capable of competing at K League 1 level despite perennial and unavoidable number of changes in the dressing room.

While victory against Gangwon was hardly the complete performance, they upset the apple cart in defeating a side so impressing on match day one. Sangju made less than half the amount of passes as their opponent while also choosing their time to spring attacks carefully with just 39 'offensive passes' compared to Gangwon's 127. They certainly showed a renewed fight for the cause, making four times as many blocks as their opponent. Difficulty may arise this weekend playing against a Gwangju side happy to watch them have the ball and try to break them down.

What To Watch - Park Jeong-soo

The 33-year-old's career has taken a tumultuous path in finding its return to K League 1 this year. Via spells in Japan and Thailand, Park went through a spell in Korea's non-professional leagues before working his way back to the now defunct Goyang Zaicro in 2015. Enjoying regular game time under Kim Byung-soo at Gangwon in 2018, the veteran midfielder stepped down to Gwangju last season to become a mainstay alongside Yeo Reum.

Yellows boss Park Jin-seop may regret dropping Park to the bench for the defeat to Seongnam, especially considering Gwangju's apparent lack of composure in midfield. The number six helped his side retain more possession in last weekend's loss at Seoul but is not the type of player to drive his team forward and set up attacks. To do that, Gwangju need their ever-present hero Yeo Reum to step up in the coming weeks.

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Prediction - Sangju Sangmu 2-1 Gwangju FC

Gwangju certainly have to come out in a more attacking mindset. Welcoming Ulsan next weekend they are in real danger of no points in four should they fail to get anything here. In K League 2 last season the Yellows came up against plenty of teams looking to hit them on the counter attack so they should be better prepared. However, few if any of those possessed the quality of Moon Seon-min and Song Seung-min. 

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