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Preview: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs. Ulsan Hyundai

Suwon Samsung Bluewings continue their tough start to the 2020 K League 1 when they host Ulsan Hyundai at the Big Bird this Sunday afternoon.  Ulsan will be brimming with confidence after thrashing Sangju Sangmu in the opening round, while Suwon will need improve on last Friday's lacklustre display at Jeonbuk if they are to get anything from this one.


Match: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs. Ulsan Hyundai
Venue: Suwon World Cup Stadium 
Kickoff: Sunday, May 17th, 2020; 16:30 KST

Last Time Out

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 1-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Millions of football-starved fans around the world tuned in to watch the opening fixture of the K League 2020, hoping to get a glimpse of what the global game looks like in the age of COVID-19.  It was perhaps too much to ask that the match itself would live up to the occasion, as both teams were understandably sluggish in the first half on a rainy night in North Jeolla province.

The game finally came to life after half time when Jeonbuk moved up a gear, forcing an overwhelmed Suwon deeper and deeper. A straight red card for Terry Antonis with quarter of an hour to go put pay to any attacking ambitions from the Bluewings. Despite the efforts of the impressive Doneil Henry, Suwon's defensive wall eventually crumbled, as Jeonbuk's 41-year-old striker, Lee Dong-gook, headed in the winning goal on 84 minutes having lost his marker on a near-post corner.




Ulsan Hyundai 4-0 Sangju Sangmu
Ulsan clearly put the extra weeks of pre-season training to go use, as it took them just seven minutes to pull apart Sangju Sangmu with a wonderfully crafted team move. Some nice touches from Lee Sang-heon in midfield gave fullback Kim Tae-hwan space to storm down the right wing before finding Junior with a delightful through-ball. The Brazilian duly slotted home between keeper and defender before wheeling away to reveal a message of support for his home country.

Sangju fought hard to get a foothold in the game, but hopes of a result took another hammer blow just before halftime when Bae Jae-woo dragged down Kim In-sung in the box and Junior bagged his second of the game from the spot. Midfield starlet Lee Sang-heon added a third after the break, before Yoon Bit-garam walloped in a debut strike to cap off a perfect afternoon for the Horangi.



Previous Meetings

Despite the status and history of these two mainstays of Korean topflight football, this fixture has become somewhat one-sided in recent years. Ulsan dominated all three games last season, winning 0-2 and 1-3 away and 2-1 at home, and are undefeated in their last seven league games with the Bluewings.  These are usually fairly open games with both teams scoring on five out of the last six occasions.

Team News

Suwon manager Lee Lim-saeng will be without Terry Antonis this weekend, as the Australian midfielder received a two-match suspension for his red card against Jeonbuk.  Veteran midfielder Yeom Ki-hun, who joined Suwon from Ulsan back in 2010, is likely to drop back to take his place in a four-man midfield.

Terry Antonis saw red for his dangerous tackle on Jeonbuk's Son Jun-ho last Friday
This would leave space in Suwon's three-pronged attack for a debut appearance from winter signing Sulejman Krpic. The Bosnian striker looks to be a real physical presence, who may be able to take the Ulsan defenders' attention away from last year's golden boot winner Adam Taggart.

The Adversary

Ulsan will have caught the eye of many a K League newcomer thanks to their comprehensive defeat of Sangju Sangmu last weekend.  Manager Kim Do-hoon will be happy with the way his team handled the eerie atmosphere of playing behind closed doors. And while a lot of other teams seemed to struggle to switch from a practice match to gameday mentality, Ulsan were one of the few to hit the ground running.

So it seems unlikely that Kim Do-hoon will make many changes to his starting XI for this match, although there is a slight injury concern over U-22 player Lee Sang-heon; fellow youngster Park Jeong-in would be a like-for-like replacement should Lee have to sit this match out.

Who To Watch

Junior Negao
Last weekend the 33-year-old Brazilian striker showed yet again why he is considered amongst the top strikers in this league. His two goals against Sangju took him past fifty in all competitions for the Horangi, a feat he has achieved in 84 appearances.

Junior made headlines in Brazil with his message of support for care workers in his native country
Junior has that uncanny ability to appear at just the right place at the right time. He also has a knack for making good decisions in and around the box, as he showed with his assist for Ulsan's third goal last Saturday. Having scored ten braces but still no hat tricks for the Horangi, he could have been forgiven for taking a shot, but instead he squared the ball to Lee Sang-heon for an easy finish.  This weekend the smiling Brazilian goes up against a tough opponent in Suwon's Doneil Henry in what is sure to be one of the standout match-ups of the round. 

Prediction

Playing behind closed doors would usually be seen as a lost advantage for the home team. But while Suwon fans are probably the most vocal in the K League, their team's home record has been abysmal for a while now. Lee Lim-saeng's men have won just six of their last 25 games at the Big Bird, and took 22 of the 57 points on offer at home in 2019. There is a chance then that the lack of fans in the stadium will work in Suwon's favour.

However, taking into account Ulsan's recent record at Suwon, and the difference in their displays last weekend, the visitors have to be favourites here.  Suwon may put up a decent fight, but with quality players like Lee Chung-yong, Kim In-sung, and Yoon Bit-garam in midfield, Ulsan should be able to prise their hosts apart and run out comfortable winners.

Prediction: Suwon Samsung Bluewings 1-3 Ulsan Hyundai


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