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Preview: Busan IPark vs Sangju Sangmu FC


After starting their season with two sobering defeats, Busan IPark enter Game Week 5 on the back of two consecutive draws as they continue to acclimatize to the K League 1. Their visitors to the Gudeok Stadium on Saturday evening are Sangju Sangmu, whose season is shaping up nicely after collecting seven points from the past three games. Can the military team continue their impressive start to the year, or will Busan get their season up and running with a home win?

Overview

Image via Soccerway

Last Time Out

Busan IPark 0-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Busan IPark were held to a goalless draw by Suwon Bluewings last Saturday evening at the Gudeok. Although Busan had some promising moments involving Lee Jeong-hyeop and Kim Moon-hwan, the Royals were largely on the back foot for most of the match. Suwon monopolised possession and should have won the game, but Adam Taggart and Lim Sang-hyub missed gilt-edged chances in a dominant second half performance.

The draw saw Busan record their first clean sheet of the season, but leaves them winless and with only two goals scored after four games.



Daegu FC 1-1 Sangju Sangmu FC

Sangju were last in action against Daegu FC last Friday evening. Daegu took the lead on 51 minutes with one of the goals of the season so far, Cesinha meeting Jung Seung-won's cross with an audacious flick. The home side didn’t have everything their own way, however, and Sangju fought back to equalise ten minutes later through Song Seung-min, the winger heading home from Kang Sang-woo’s cross.

Full Match Recap: Daegu FC 1-1 Sangju Sangmu.


Previous Meetings

Busan IPark and Sangju Sangmu last met in November 2017 in a crucial two-legged promotion-relegation playoff final. Busan had navigated the K League 2 playoffs after a successful season in the K League 2, while Sangju were fighting to hold onto their top tier status after finishing second bottom of the K League 1.

Sangju won the first leg in Busan, an early Yeo Reum goal enough to separate the sides, but Busan restored parity in the second leg through Rômulo’s penalty. The game went all the way to a penalty shootout, in which Sangju scored all five of their spot-kicks and Ko Kyung-min’s miss proved decisive as Sangju cemented another year in the top flight.

These sides last met in the league in 2014. In the four meetings that season, Busan and Sangju won one game apiece, with the other matches ending in stalemates.

Team News

Busan coach Cho Deok-jae has no new injury concerns and will surely be relieved to have seemingly found a solution to his U22 player problem. Goalkeeper Kim Jeong-ho has started the last two games and performed admirably, so he will be favourite to keep his place between the sticks and allow Cho to field his strongest possible outfield team.

After a solid defensive performance against Suwon, Cho is likely to keep faith with the same back four that recorded a shutout last weekend. He could, however, be tempted to make changes in midfield. The trio of Lee Gyu-seong, Rômulo, and Park Jong-woo excelled in the hard-fought draw against Ulsan Hyundai two weeks ago, but they failed to provide any creative spark last weekend, leaving the front three starved of service.

Kim Jin-gyu is likely to be recalled to inject some pace and dynamism in the centre, with one of Lee, Rômulo, or Park making way. Lee Dong-joon and Kim Byung-oh should keep their places either side of striker Lee Jeong-hyeop, who is the only Busan player to have scored from open play so far this season.




The Adversary

Busan will be wary of Sangju's Moon Seon-min, who is already off the mark for his new club.
Sangju Sangmu began the season with a humbling 4-0 loss to title-chasing Ulsan Hyundai, but since then they have recorded two wins and a draw, conceding only once in three games. Kim Tae-wan’s team are famously well-organised and hardworking, and they will look to frustrate Busan in the middle of the park with extensive pressing and harrying.

Although Sangju impressed last season in a 5-3-2 formation, Kim has changed tack this year by switching to a 4-3-3, mirroring Busan’s set-up. Sangju’s midfield trio will keep things tight and simple in possession, rarely venturing deep into the opposition half. Left winger Kang Sang-woo has been the team’s key creative force so far this season, with two goals and an assist in the first four games, while the jet-heeled Moon Seon-min seems to be carving out a role as an impact substitute.

Kim Tae-wan had previously been limited to naming five substitutes on the bench, having been deprived of his under-22 players due to a car accident last month. However, he was able to name a full roster last weekend after the return of Kim Bo-sub, Lee Keun-ho, and Jeon Se-jin. All three will hope to be involved for the trip to Busan as Sangju seek to extend their unbeaten run.



What To Watch

Can Busan Rediscover their Goalscoring Touch?

After averaging two goals per game last year, Busan have only scored twice in four games so far this season. 2019’s K League 2 MVP, Lee Dong-joon, has shown flashes of his undoubted potential, but he will naturally take time to adjust to the quality of the K League 1. Playmaker Rômulo, meanwhile, has so far struggled to replicate the form that made him Busan’s key creative force in previous seasons. The step up in pace from the second division to the top tier has limited the Brazilian’s ability to influence games, and in last week’s draw with Suwon he was largely anonymous before being subbed off on 57 minutes.

Right winger Lee Dong-joon is yet to score a goal in the top division.

It was sensible and necessary for Cho Deok-jae to prioritise defensive stability against the likes of Jeonbuk and Ulsan, and the resulting performances justified his approach. Against mid-table teams, however, and especially at home, Busan need to show more ambition than they did against Suwon. Rômulo and his fellow midfielders must provide more support to the front three, who in turn need to work in closer proximity in order to engage in the kind of neat interplay that was at the heart of Busan’s best play last season.

Cho needs to recapture the magic that made Busan one of Korea's most entertaining and attacking sides in Korea last season, or else goals will continue to elude them and Busan will struggle to keep their place in the top division. Whether they can reignite that fire at home to Sangju will be a telling indicator of Busan’s ability to produce in the K1.

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Prediction

Busan IPark have settled fairly well in the top division after a tough run of fixtures, but they have yet to show that they have the attacking nous to win games against the teams around them. Sangju are a well-drilled outfit and they know how to frustrate opponents and pick up points, so it’s difficult to see Busan getting their first win this weekend. This should be a tight game and clear-cut chances could be at a premium, so a low-scoring draw wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Predicted Score:
Busan IPark 1-1 Sangju Sangmu



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