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Preview: Seongnam FC vs. Daegu FC


Seongnam FC, who are enjoying a successful unbeaten start to the season, host a winless Daegu FC this weekend. Although the current form of both teams seems to favor a Seongnam win, last season's match records against each other (a draw and a win for Daegu) warns us to be careful with predicting the winner too soon. Will Seongnam's Kim Nam-il be able to maintain his side's undefeated record?

Last Time Out

FC Seoul 0-1 Seongnam FC

Seongnam visited the Seoul World Cup Stadium in the last round to face FC Seoul, who were on a winning streak after achieving victory over Gwangju FC and Pohang Steelers. Both teams started the match with a three-center back formation with the Magpies focusing on build-up plays, while the capital club focused on putting harsh pressure on Seongnam's defenders to counterattack. Seoul's pressure was very effective for the first 40 minutes of the match, as the home team made five shots but the away team were unable make a single one. To change the flow, Kim Nam-il quickly substituted in Yang Dong-hyun in the 33rd minute with a hope that Yang would ease the pressure by actively participating in the build-up. The decision was successful, and Seongnam made two shots before the end of the first half.

Both teams had more of an equal number of chances in the second half compared to the first half which was very shifted towards the home side. The stamina of Seoul's players quickly drained as Choi Yong-soo kept ordering harsh pressure, and the cracks in the pressure let Seongnam try more adventurous pass plays. Kim Nam-il did not miss the opportunity and made more offensive substitutions such as replacing full-back Choi Oh-baek with center-forward Tomislav Kiš. This substitution was the game-changer, as Kiš scored a winning goal in the 89th minute showing his great dedication and focus on the penalty box.


Daegu FC 1-1 Sangju Sangmu 

Daegu faced Sangju at home last round, with a hope to reverse the negative atmosphere caused by their 2-0 loss to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Daegu started the match with a 3-4-3 formation, operating their famous forward trio: Kim Dae-won, Cesinha, and Edgar Bruno da Silva. Sangju began the match with 4-3-3 formation, with Moon Seon-min starting on the bench.

Daegu focused on putting pressure on Sangju's midfield, stealing the ball, and transitioning to counterattack with Jeong Seung-won's active contribution on the right side of the field. Sangju concentrated on using the sides to attack, and the main route of attacks was through the left side of the field for the Soldiers. Two teams had a similar number of opportunities in the first half as they both made four shots but in the second half, the flow of the match changed greatly. The Skyblues made ten shots in the second half, while Sangju could only make four. In the 50th minute, Cesinha scored his first goal of the season with a fantastic heel kick that reminds of Cho Jae-wan's unbelievable goal against FC Seoul earlier this season. Sangju, however, managed to get back on track by scoring a goal in the 61st minute with Song Seung-min's header. The match then encountered an intense flow as Daegu made five and Sangju made three additional shots, but none of them was enough to create another goal and the match ended 1-1.


Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Daegu have faced each other 37 times in total, and Seongnam have won 19 matches and lost eight. However, this data does not mean much as two teams have not played against each other from 2014 - 2018. The only data that is relevant to this season's match would be the result of the last season's home matchups between the two, and they were one draw and one victory for Daegu. But it's hard to say that Daegu dominated over Seongnam, as both matches were very close games. Even the score of the winning game for the Sky Blues was 2-1, so predicting this match's result based on the previous results wouldn't be a very accurate method to use.

There are many changes for both teams compared to the last season. For example, both teams replaced their managers, which is going to cause a big difference in the specifics of the game. Also, the core players of the two teams have changed as well. Seongnam brought in Kim Young-kwang and Yang Dong-hyun as the new members of their starting eleven and let Mun Ji-hwan go to Incheon United, while Daegu brought in striker Dejan Damjanović and let goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo go to Ulsan Hyundai. These major changes for both teams make their first matchup of the season even more interesting.

Team News

Seongnam will not have an issue with calling upon any player of the team, as no one has been sent off or severely injured. Daegu will be experiencing a tremendous loss as team captain Hong Jeong-woon got injured in the game against Sangju. Since the injury was on the posterior cruciate ligament, Hong is expected to be off the pitch for several months. The Sky Blues showed lower concentration in defense after Hong came off the field during the match against Sangju, so maintaining hardness in the defense will be crucial to Daegu's plays.



This match is going to be Kim Young-kwang's 500th match of his career. After his time at Jeonnam Dragons, Ulsan Hyundai, Gyeongnam FC, and Seoul E-Land FC, the FIFA World Cup-experienced 36-year-old goalkeeper is playing his 500th league match as a Magpie. Kim will be entering the stadium with the number 500 on his uniform, and the players of both teams will form the guard of honor to celebrate Kim's historic achievement.




The success of Seongnam's early season is not only achieved by the veteran Yang Dong-hyun's experienced plays or rookie Hong Si-hoo's unexpected powerful performance, but also by the concrete defense managed by Kim Nam-il and the vice-captain Yeon Je-woon. Although Yeon is the vice-captain of the team, since captain Seo Bo-min has been unavailable due to injury, Yeon has taken the role of captain from round one of this season and successfully led the team to finish four matches without a single loss. 

The reason why Seongnam's performance is so praised by the fans is that Seongnam have only allowed one goal so far this season. Except for that one goal given to Gangwon FC, the Magpies finished the other three matches with a clean sheet. Those matches even included the one against FC Seoul, a strong contender for the league title. Yeon, as the commanding center back of Seongnam's three-center back system, administered the overall defensive instructions. Yeon also has shown fabulous skills in long passes from the defensive third, and the highlight that best demonstrate Yeon's passing abilities is the when he delivered a direct pass to Hong Si-hoo during the match against Gangwon, which eventually led to a goal.

However, Yeon's performance against fast-paced players such as Kim Seung-dae and Ko Kwang-min was not as good as his usual stable performance, and Yeon has also been traditionally showing weakness in winning the ball in the air. Since Daegu have players that are fast, such as Cesinha, and tall, including Edgar, how Yeon will defend against them and quickly send long passes to the midfielders or forwards will be critical to the result of the match.

Pressure

Kim Nam-il's philosophy of football is the build-up plays consisting of many passes and rapid systematic movements. The two players that show this philosophy the best are Hong Si-hoo and Yang Dong-hyun. Yang takes care of link-up plays in the attacking third, and Hong concentrates on making a crack in the opponent's defensive line using his fast pace. In order to make these build-up plays happen, stable and accurate passes should be made in the defensive third and midfield. However, in the game against FC Seoul, Seongnam's defenders and midfielders showed how vulnerable they are to the opponent's harsh pressure. Until Seoul's players drained their stamina in the late first half, Seongnam gave so many chances to the home team, and it was very fortunate for the Magpies that the opponents failed to score a goal. Since Daegu usually concentrate heavily on putting pressure on the opponents' midfielders, Seongnam will have difficulties with continuing their build-up plays.

Low Shot Accuracy

Except for the win against Gwangju FC, which ended 2-0, Seongnam have been showing low shot accuracy. From Round Two to Round Four, Seongnam made 16 shots on target and only scored two goals. If I convert these statistics to a percentage, the rate of goals per shots on target for Seongnam is 12.5%. For Pohang Steelers, who are placed fourth right now and chasing after Seongnam, this rate is 31.6% (six goals and 19 shots on target). Although Seongnam are known for their strong defense, in order to keep the no-loss streak going, better shot accuracy will be essential.

Absence

However, I still do not believe that Daegu will win this match. The current form of Daegu's attackers have been worse than what is expected, and their defense hasn't been very concrete either. In the last three matches, Daegu gave at least one goal to the opponent every match, and they even lost Hong Jeong-woon due to injury. Because of this absence, Seongnam's quality attackers such as Yang Dong-hyun will be able to find some chances to score at least a goal.



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Prediction

Seongnam FC 1-1 Daegu FC

While Seongnam are currently on the best form and morale in the entire league, Daegu are going through a much more difficult early phase of the season than what the fans expected with a severe injury of their captain. However, I believe that this match will not end in a win for Seongnam.




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