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Preview: FC Seoul vs Ulsan Hyundai

Preview: FC Seoul vs Ulsan Hyundai K League 1 Round 7
Equaling a club-record four defeats on the spin in midweek, FC Seoul look to get back on track when title contenders Ulsan Hyundai visit Sangam in K League 1 Round 8 this Saturday. The Horangi are the league's top scorers and so, with Choi Yong-soo's men boasting the unwanted record of having the league's leakiest defense, Saturday's match is as tough as it gets for Seoul.


via Soccerway

Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 1-0 FC Seoul

Seoul fell to their fourth defeat on the trot with a 1-0 loss away to Sangju Sangmu on Wednesday night. Kim Jin-hyuk scored the game's only goal on 59 minutes, heading home Kang Sang-woo's cross. Ahead of the trip to North Gyeongsang, FC Seoul manager made a handful of changes: Park Chu-young dropped to the bench with Go Yo-han chosen to play off Cho Young-wook in attack. At the other end of the pitch, Yang Han-bin was given a first start of the season in goal, and Kim Han-gil was preferred to Kim Jin-ya at left wing-back.

Seoul looked pedestrian in the first half but had a decent go of things in the second. Cho Young-wook's pace in the channels was stretching Sangju but the final ball was often lacking. Yun Ju-tae was introduced as a second-half substitute and had a decent chance to level things up but a solid save from Lee Chang-geun kept the visitors at bay. Sangju thought they had scored a second but Bae Jae-woo's solo effort was ruled out for offside. The defeat sees Seoul slip to 10th.


Gangwon FC 0-3 Ulsan Hyundai 

Whereas FC Seoul struggled to yet another defeat, the Horangi were in cruise control in midweek, despite a barren first half. Kim Do-hoon's Ulsan side ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in the end thanks to goals from Yoon Bit-garam, Júnior Negrão, and a first in K League for Bjørn Johnsen in the second half.

Former Jeju United midfielder Yoon Bit-garam got the Horangi up and running on 72 minutes, a close range effort on the counter attack from Kim In-sung's cross. The second came just four minutes later, a Kim Kee-hee header was touched in on the goal line by Júnior for his eighth of the season. The win was capped off by Bjørn Johnsen firing in a late penalty for what was his first in K League after Chae Kwang-jae was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area. Ulsan stay second but remain as the league's top scorers.


Previous Meetings

FC Seoul have endured something of a torrid time against their South Gyeongsang counterparts in recent years. Seoul's last win over Ulsan dates back to October 2017, eight meetings ago. With FC Seoul still chasing ACL qualification under Hwang Sun-hong, a comprehensive win over the soon-to-be FA Cup winners was sealed thanks to goals from Lee Myoung-joo, Osmar and Dejan.

Overall, including the LG era, these two sides have met 145 times with Ulsan picking up 57 wins to Seoul's 47 and 46 draws. Since 2004, there have been 53 meetings in all competitions. Seoul have picked up 15 wins over Ulsan but the Horangi have 16 with 22 draws. Last season, from the four encounters, Ulsan earned themselves three wins and a draw.

Eulji Lewis

Team News

For FC Seoul, influential central midfielder Osmar remains a doubt through injury. Centre back Hwang Hyun-soo has missed Seoul's last two matches through injury also and so is a slight doubt. A mistake by Yang Han-bin for Sangju's match-winner may be something for Coach Choi to think about. Yang was largely untested for most of the night and was unfortunate with the way the ball bounced back after making the initial save so may keep his place. Elsewhere, Adriano could come into the squad whilst Park Chu-young will be hoping that he can force his way back into the team after being dropped on Wednesday.

With Jeonbuk coming up next week, Kim Do-hoon may want to use the trip to the capital as a way to iron out any kinks and so a full strength Ulsan is perhaps expected to take to the field at Sangam. Lee Chung-yong is a minor doubt but could return to the bench to face his old club for the first time. Park Joo-ho was preferred at left back over Jason Davidson and is expected to keep his place. 

There is, however, the question of whether Kim Do-hoon starts Seol Yong-woo as the U22 player at fullback, or Lee Sang-heon in the number 10 spot. Meanwhile, Lee Keun-ho made his comeback from injury with a late cameo appearance in Gangneung giving Coach Kim a relatively full squad to choose from.

The Adversary

Still unbeaten this season, Ulsan sit second in K League 1 as the league's sharp shooters. The Horangi have scored 17 goals already this term, Brazilian star Júnior Negrão with eight alone. It took Ulsan 72 minutes to find a breakthrough against Gangwon but manager Kim Do-hoon stuck to his guns with the 4-2-3-1. This formation is the former striker's preferred shape having used it 43% of the time this year. The pace of Kim In-sung and with the winger's tendency to find the corners will cause problems for a Seoul backline that has looked out of sorts this term. Pulling Seoul's "three-back" out of position will create space for Júnior to find the target.

Only Jo Hyeon-woo, Kim Tae-hwan, Kim In-sung and Júnior have started all seven league games thus far. Kim has used 22 different players in the league and has the luxury of being able to rotate without the first XI becoming weaker. Away to Gangwon, former Korean international centre back Kim Kee-hee started the game, preferred to Dave Bulthuis. In midfield, Yoon Bit-garam and Won Du-jae were given the nod as the two holding midfielders, keeping former FC Seoul man Shin Jin-ho on the bench.

Ulsan excel at getting balls into the box and rank first with 124 crossed. This has allowed them to have the second-most touches in the box in K League 1 with 143. At the other end of the field, Ulsan's xGA is 5.38 but have only conceded four. The Horangi are outperforming the xG too with 17 goals compared to an expected 10.83.

What To Watch

The league's leakiest back-line versus the fiercest attack. FC Seoul's xGA is 11.56, and is the third-highest in K League 1 behind Busan and Incheon. Seoul are, for want of a better phrase, out-performing this with 16 goals conceded, an average of 2.3 goals per match. The average is skewed by the 6-0 defeat to Daegu two rounds ago, but it's clear as to what Seoul's main issues are.

The back three was better against Sangju on Wednesday night, Kim Nam-chun again proving that he is un-droppable, but question remarks remain. The sooner Yun Young-sun's loan from Ulsan is sealed the better, likewise the sooner Osmar is back from injury Seoul will look much more composed. Out of possession a 3-5-2 will become a 5-3-2 for large parts of this game.

Choi's choice of wing-backs will be key meaning he may go for experience in Ko Kwang-min and Go Yo-han. But with few options in the final third, Go might he asked to play as a shadow striker or central midfielder instead.

Speaking post-Sangju, a defiant Choi Yong-soo said:

"I feel really sorry towards the fans and players. The players did their best tonight, the losing streak we have fallen into is because of my shortfalls. We need to straighten things out quickly.

"In the Pohang game as well we deployed Go Yo-han in a front two. The feeling now compared to that game is completely different. Go Yo-han helped create some good situations as we thought about chance-creation as a shadow striker but we failed in that respect. We have to overcome this mentally as our utmost priority.

"We conceded but not being able to score is becoming something of a burden on players. We are trying, but there are some subtle issues and we aren't being bold enough. I don't want to believe that this is how we are as a team. With difficult fixtures coming up, improving the atmosphere is our number one priority

"It's important to break this losing streak. But instead of thinking about Ulsan, we need to restore our confidence for a change of atmosphere. Ulsan are a tough opponent and this is a difficult situation. I am sorry to the players. The first thing to do is to bounce back."


Seoul are in a bit of a mes whilst Ulsan are playing with a sense of freedom brought through confidence. This will be a very tough match for Choi Yong-soo and his men and will really test his tactical nous. Ulsan will be heavy favourites for this one.

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