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Preview: Busan IPark vs. Ulsan Hyundai

Busan IPark, Ulsan Hyundai
Now free to concentrate on their K League 1 campaign after an FA Cup exit in midweek, top of the table Ulsan Hyundai presents the first challenge in a very difficult run of fixtures for Busan IPark. Todd Wilde previews this K League 1 matchup.

Last Time Out

Busan IPark coach Cho Duk-jae elected to make 10 changes for their FA Cup clash against Jeonbuk, giving his second string a run out despite being only three wins away from silverware. This decision backfired spectacularly, as a strong Jeonbuk Hyundai side ruthlessly took the Royals apart in an excellent second half performance. Busan incredibly took the lead off their first attack, as Lee Sang-jun - who worked tirelessly and was a rare positive in the IPark side - drove in a whipped ball for Gustavo Vintecinco to head home. Joenbuk fought back, and after Murilo had found the woodwork, Cho Gue-sung levelled the scores with a clinical finish before half time.

Recognising Jeonbuk's threat in the final third, Cho Duk-jae backpedalled on his weak team selection, bringing on Lee Dong-jun, Park Jong-woo and new signing Kim Hyun when the game was still a competitive contest, yet somehow Busan got much worse with their star names on the pitch, as Busan imploded in the second half. Han Kyo-won gave Jeonbuk the lead with a simple tap in after Kim Myong-jun failed to deal with corner, before substitute Gustavo was fully deserving of his second half hat trick, as the Brazilian took advantage of poor defensive positioning and goalkeeping to put away three simple chances.

Match Highlights:

Busan were convincingly beaten 3-0 by an impressive Daegu FC side in their last K League match, as the Royals failed to offer a cutting edge in the final third. Cesinha's fantastic chested touch and curled finish split two headed goals through Dejan and Ryu Jae-moo, as Daegu opened up a significant gap on the league's mid table sides.

Match Highlights:

Ulsan Hyundai coach Kim Do-hoon sprung a surprise as he unexpectedly put out a full strength first eleven against Gangwon FC, as the Horangi put the provinical side to the sword. Yun Bitgaram's brace headlined a 3-0 victory, with Lee Chung-yong grabbing the side's third goal at the end of a beautiful late counter attacking move.

Match Highlights:

Ulsan have now won 10 of their last 11 games in all competitions, with their last league win coming against high flying Sangju Sangmu. Ulsan thrashed the military side 5-1, with goals coming through Kim In-sung, Lee Dong-gyeong, Junior Negrao (2) and a Kim Jin-hyuk own goal.

Match Highlights:

Previous Meetings

The two teams shared an engrossing encounter in the third week of the season, as Busan claimed their first K League 1 point for four years in a 1-1 draw at the Munsu Stadium. Lee Jeong-hyeop struck an excellent left footed drive past Jo Hyeon-woo to put IPark ahead, before Junior Negao's levelled the scores. Ulsan had two excellent chances to claim all three points at the death, but Busan held on to claim the point their performance deserved.

Busan versus Ulsan is one of the league's classic matchups, with the fixture played 152 times. Amazingly, the two teams historically are evenly matched with 53 wins apiece, Ulsan scoring just two more goals with 170 to 168. Ulsan are however unbeaten in their last six fixtures, with the Royals needing to look back to 3rd June 2015 for their last victory against the Horangi.

Team News

Cho Duk-jae elected to make 10 changes for their FA Cup clash against Jeonbuk, giving his second string a run out despite being only three wins away from silverware. Busan should revert back to their strongest possible line up against Ulsan, with the likes of Romulo, Lee Jeong-hyeop and Lee Dong-jun all set to start. There is a debate over whether Park Jong-woo or Lee Gyu-seong will start in midfield, whilst Kim Byong-oh will compete with Kim Seung-jun to start on the left wing.

There is a minor injury crisis for the side at the left back position, as Yun Suk-young and Lee Ji-min are both unavailable for selection. With Park Jung-gang suspended, expect Kim Moon-hwan to line up at LB, with youngster Lee Sang-jun starting at RB. Choi Pil-soo should continue in goal ahead of Kim Ho-jun.

Coach Kim Do-hoon will not want to disrupt his side's rhythm too greatly, and should give most of his players two starts in five days after an almost full strength first eleven lined up on Wednesday. Some members of the side are likely to be rotated, with Korean international LB Hong Chul and U22 winger Seol Young-woo set to start. Lee Chung-yong should also start from the first whistle after he was brought out as a substitute in midweek, whilst Jung Seung-hyun is in competition with Kim Kee-hee to start at CB.

What To Watch

Busan's season appears to have taken a turn for the worst after two difficult results against Daegu and Jeonbuk. I have discussed some issues facing the club - both on and off the pitch - in this article, including those that could be pointed at coach Cho Duk-jae.

Whilst Busan's season reaches a crossroads, Ulsan appear to be in unstoppable form. Kim Do-hoon, much maligned for failing to win a title with Ulsan last season, has his side playing flowing, fearless attacking football with aplomb. With Jeonbuk facing Pohang this weekend, there is a possibility of Ulsan opening up a five point cushion over the sides with a win.

Daegu were aggressive in pressing far up the pitch last Saturday, preventing Busan from settling into a passing rhythm and controlling central areas. Ulsan used similar tactics last weekend against Sangju, forcing mistakes before unleashing rapid passing moves designed to cut through back lines with perfectly timed runs. Whilst Busan will be aware of the attacking threat having been burned by a similarly capable attack last weekend, the presence of Junior up front is perhaps one that the likes of Kim Dong-woo will struggle to control this weekend.
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Even though the Busan side that takes on Ulsan is arguably a better team than the one the Horangi drew against in Gameweek 3, form will play its part this Sunday. Ulsan have developed into a fluid, fearless and well oiled machine, where each player knows his role and the role of others, with every individual capable of making their own imprint on the game. On the other hand, IPark are still unsure of their best eleven more than half way into the season, and the difference in preparation between the two managers will be laid bare this Sunday.

Busan IPark 0-4 Ulsan Hyundai

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