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FA Cup Preview: Gwangju FC vs Gangwon FC


After losing to Kim Byung-soo's side as recently as Sunday, Gwangju FC face Gangwon FC once more in the FA Cup 4th round. The Yellows may find solace in the competition after some terrible league form of late. Gwangju columnist Peter Hampshire previews this one. 

Last Time Out

Gangwon FC 4-1 Gwangju FC

Park Jin-seop set up more in a more defensive manner than usual with Lee Han-do coming in to marshal the defence. Cho Jae-wan's clever back-post finish opened the scoring on 11 minutes as Gwangju struggled to contain a similarly out-of-form Gangwon side. Even on off days, the Yellows do boast Felipe whose 41st-minute strike was too hot for Lee Bum-soo to handle. However, parity only lasted a matter of minutes with Lee Jae-kwon adding to his earlier assist with a goal of his own to make it 2-1 at the break.

The second half laid Gwangju's vulnerabilities bare. Too reliant on balls up to Felipe to win free kicks around the box, Park needs to sign more competition for central midfield in the remainder of the transfer window. Gangwon overran their opponents despite Park making reactive changes. Kim Ji-hyun's second of the season was all too easy, an unchallenged, cushioned strike from the edge of the box before Cho Jae-wan added a fourth from Kim Kyung-joong's pull back in the final ten minutes.


Previous Meetings

Prior to Sunday's defeat, Gwangju held quite an impressive record against their K League 1 counterparts, unbeaten in seven fixtures against them. Usually impressive on trips north to play in one of Gangwon's numerous home venues, matches at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium tend to be tighter affairs. The pair last met in Jeollanamdo in 2017 with two 1-1 draws. Han Kook-young scored in his last visit and while dropped for Gangwon's 3rd round success against Gangneung, he is expected to be involved against tougher opposition.

Han Kook-young closes down Na Sang-ho in Gwangju in 2017

Team News

Park Jin-seop's star man hobbled off late on at the weekend, appearing to be holding a tight hamstring. With Gwangju's rapidly declining league form, it may be wise to rest him for a key upcoming fixture at Busan IPark. Gwangju made wholesale changes for their eventual third round victory over Gimpo Citizen, which saw fringe players such as Lee Soon-min, Lee Hee-gyun and youth prospect Heo Yool a chance to shine. You would expect a stronger line-up to face a fellow K League 1 side, with Yeo Bong-hun and Lee Min-ki certainly set to start considering they are suspended for Busan away.

Kim Byung-soo also made a raft of changes as his side played a home fixture of sorts against third-tier Gangneung in Gangneung. Edging past them in extra time, first teamers such as Kim Ji-hyun, Choi Gwang-hoon and Lee Gwang-yeon featured from the start alongside youngsters Lee Byung-wook and Ji Ui-soo. With a huge task of travelling to Ulsan on the horizon, manager Kim must consider his desire to lift silverware at Gangwon very carefully. Lee Gwang-yeon is expected to take back spot between the sticks, while big hitters such as Lee Young-jae and Kim Seung-dae may take a place on the bench ready to make an impact.

What To Watch

Are Gwangju's second string up to scratch?

Recent performances from those on the perimeter of Gwangju's starting eleven have not been good enough. Park Jin-seop really needs players such as Marcos Urena, Doo Hyeon-seok and Park Jun-hui to step it up a notch and fulfill their potential. Without these players making an impact when given opportunities, Gwangju have little options during league games to make meaningful substitutions. Other K League teams have already reshuffled their pack a bit in terms of signings and you have to consider at what stage Gwangju cut their losses with Urena and fellow winter signing Kim Hyo-gi. Perhaps the injury doubt to Felipe gives one of them the chance to shine.

Gwangju winter signings hoping for more action.

Continental football on the horizon for Gangwon?

Either through finishing in the top three or winning this competition, Gangwon could be set for entry into the Asian Champions League next season. Jury is out as to whether 'Byung-soo Ball' is sustainable in K League 1 or whether other teams have worked it out following four straight league defeats. Should they defeat Gwangju on Wednesday, Gangwon will be just three victories away from making history. While lots of top division sides remain in their way in this competition, Gangwon have shown they can beat anyone on their day defeating champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors back in May.

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Prediction - Gwangju 1-2 Gangwon (AET) 

I feel this will be a much closer encounter than Sunday's miserable defeat for Gwangju. However, sometimes Gwangju can be too one-dimensional, always looking to play the ball down the wings as they have good quality out wide. This played into Gangwon's hands at the weekend, although we may see different personnel for the Cup. Gangwon have more strength in depth to edge out the win through quality on the bench.

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