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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Seongnam FC


Ulsan Hyundai have the chance to go back to the top of the table if they can continue their unbeaten start to the season against Seongnam FC this weekend. The Magpies are currently up in fourth place, but they face their toughest challenge so far this season against Kim Do-hoon's rampant Horangi. 

Last Time Out

Pohang Steelers 0-4 Ulsan Hyundai
Ulsan went into last weekend's East Coast Derby promising revenge for the final day catastrophe that saw Pohang swipe last year's title out from under their noses--and they certainly delivered on that promise, registering their biggest ever derby win.

A brace from Lee Chung-yong, his first goals since returning to the K League, put Ulsan in charge at the break. Then second half goals from Kim In-sung and Junior (his sixth in five games) capped off a memorable night for everyone connected with the Horangi.  




Seongnam FC 1-2 Daegu FC
The Magpies went into this match on a high having made an unbeaten start to the campaign, but failed to perform as Daegu ran out deserved winners at Tancheon Sports Complex.

Seongnam did take the lead early in the second half against the run of play, Yang Dong-hyeon smashing a penalty into the roof of the net after Lee Tae-hwi was fouled just inside the area. But Daegu finally made their chances pay as headed goals from Edgar and Jeong Tae-wook saw them take all three 
points.


Previous Meetings

It is safe to say that Seongnam are something of a bogey team for Ulsan. The Magpies have one of the better records when it comes to playing Ulsan at Munsu Stadium: 19 wins, 15 draws and 19 losses over the years--that's more than Jeonbuk. 

Since they became a citizen club in 2014, Seongnam have taken maximum points from four out of seven trips to Munsu Stadium - one of which came last season when the Magpies were one of only two teams to defeat the Horangi in Ulsan all season.

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Team News

Kim Do-hoon surprised everyone last weekend when he handed a professional debut to U-22 left back Seol Yong-woo, and the latest product of Ulsan's prolific high school and university youth system may well have done enough to keep his place this weekend.

Elsewhere, there was also an injury scare for Lee Chung-yong at Pohang, although scans of the former Bolton Wanderer's knee and ankle showed no ligament damage. Lee is still expected to be rested this weekend, with Lee Dong-gyeong his likely replacement on the right of midfield. 

Lee Chung-yong clutches his knee after a collision at Pohang last weekend

In better news, winter signing Bjorn Johnsen returned to the bench last weekend after missing the trip to Gwangju with a knee issue.  As long as Junior Negrao remains in goal-scoring form, it is unlikely we will see the Norwegian international step up to the starting lineup just yet, but he is a great option off the bench should Kim Do-hoon need someone to break down Seongnam's miserly back line.  

The Adversary

Seongnam have surprised quite a few K League observers as the team currently sit just outside the ACL spots in fourth place thanks to handy early season wins over Gwangju and FC Seoul. However, as they showed in last Sunday's defeat at home to Daegu, their lack of firepower upfront means a lot rides on their defensive display.

Manager of the Month Kim Nam-il will have been disappointed by the two headed goals they conceded to Daegu and may choose to ring the changes at the back--former Ulsan man Lee Chang-yong the most likely defender to be recalled to the starting lineup.

Yang Dong-hyeon (L) grabbed his third goal of the season against Daegu

Another player returning to face his former club is Seongnam's current top scorer, Yang Dong-hyeon. The 34-year-old striker started his career with Ulsan in 2005 before returning for a second spell in 2014. Another goal for Yang this weekend would see the Magpie striker emerge as a surprise rival for Junior Negrao in the Golden Boot race. 

What To Watch

This match up pits two contrasting tactical styles against each other: Seongnam's highly effective, possession-based 5-3-2 versus Ulsan's fast and fluid 4-1-4-1.  While Ulsan haven't lacked for goals--they've bagged thirteen in five matches---they have struggled to break down deep-lying defences, the frustrating second half at Gwangju being the prime example. Meanwhile, Kim Nam-il's Seongnam have the joint best defence in the league having only conceded three.

 There is a clear path to victory for Seongnam, if they can nick the first goal and rely on their defensive quality to see the game out. Ulsan will have to disrupt that game plan as quickly as possible, so expect both teams to go at it straight from kick off.  

Prediction

Seongnam have had a knack for upsetting Ulsan in recent years, but should the Horangi get that opening goal it would be hard to see a way back into the tie for Kim Nam-il's side. As long as they concentrate from the kick off, the Horangi have to be favourites to take the three points and to go top of the table, at least until Jeonbuk play in the evening.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Seongnam 


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