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Preview: Gyeongnam FC vs Seoul E-Land

Preview: Gyeognam FC v Seoul E-Land
Gyeongnam FC plays host to Seoul E-Land on Saturday evening, with both teams looking to arrest a sudden downturn in results.  The Changwon based side, tipped as promotion candidates before the campaign started, have failed to live up to expectations thus far and will be looking to get their stuttering season back on track.  Seoul travel south with the hope of knowing that they are more than capable of bringing all three points back to the capital.  K League United's Gyeongnam columnist James Edrupt previews the clash.

Match: Gyeongnam FC vs Seoul E-Land.
Venue: Changwon Football Center.  Changwon.
Kick Off: Saturday, July 11th, 2020; 19:00 (KST)

Last Time Out

Chungnam Asan 2-1 Gyeongnam FC

It was an evening to forget for The Reds against lowly Asan in the Yi Sun-sin Stadium last Sunday evening.  Manager Seol Ki-hyeon rang the changes, he gave full league debuts to recent loan signings Choi Jun and Han Ji-ho and he dropped towering center-half Lee Kwang-seon, replaced in the starting eleven by Australian Nick Ansell.  It was the home side who came out of the blocks quickest and quickly had Gyeongnam on the back foot.  The host's pressure was to be rewarded when Swedish striker Philip Hellquist opened his account for the season from the spot on 40 minutes.  A misplaced pass out of defense was pounced upon by Hellquist and he exchanged passes with Austrian striking partner Amim Mujakic before his strike on goal was handled by Ansell.

It was to get worse for the visitors just nine minutes after the interval when a straight forward defensive clearance was miscued and fell to the feet of the unmarked attacking midfielder Lee Jae-keun. He had all the time in the world to pick his spot and fire the ball into the net past the hapless Son Jung-hyun in the Gyeongnam goal.  The Gyeongsangnam-do outfit piled on the pressure and set up a grandstand finish when winger Baek Sung-dong scored with a rare header on 67 minutes after a lovely floated pass into the box was met by Baek leaving the Asan keeper Lee Ki-hyun grasping at fresh air.  Chungnam Asan was able to hold on to their slender advantage and pick up their first-ever win in their history.  A win that moves them off the foot of the table and up two spots to eighth on seven points.  The defeat for Gyeongnam was only their second of their league campaign however they remain in seventh place on eleven points.

Seoul E-Land 0-3 Suwon FC

The capital-based side came into the game high on confidence after beating title contenders Bucheon FC 1995 away from home in the league last time out.  Suwon FC, also in fine form, quickly knocked the stuffing out of them running out easy 3-0 victors at Seoul Olympic Stadium.  The hosts were dealt an early blow with key player Leandro ruled out of the clash with an injury.  In an eventful first half with both teams having lots of possession, neither side was clinical enough to find the opening goal.

It took the league-leaders just fifty seconds after the re-start to open the scoring and it came from the man of the moment An Byong-jun whose precise finish into the top corner took his tally to eight goals from nine games played.  It was to get worse for the hosts just nine minutes later when a vicious in-swinging free-kick from former FC Seoul full-back Park Min-gyu was put into his own net by defender Kim Sung-hyun.  The contest was wrapped up when Japanese import Masatoshi Ishida was first to react to the loose ball two yards out and was given the simple task of putting the ball into an empty net to make it three.  The win for Suwon FC after round nine fixtures means they will remain on top of K League 2 on eighteen points.  Seoul E-Land remains in sixth place on twelve points.

Previous Meetings

The games between these two teams are on the whole fairly evenly contested.  They have faced each other 13 times, with E-Land having a slight advantage winning five.  Gyeongnam has won four, with four ending in draws.  They clashed earlier this season in Round 2, in what was a great advert for K League football with the game ending in a thrilling 2-2 draw.  The Reds came from behind to take a 2-1 lead going into the final embers of the game, however, captain Kim Min-kyun rescued a point for the Leopards smashing home from close range for a share of the spoils. 

Team News

Gyeongnam have sorely missed Hwang Il-soo in recent weeks

The Reds go into Saturday's game hoping to have key winger/forward Hwang Il-soo back fit after he has missed the previous three weeks with a knock picked up in training.  He has been badly missed for the Changwon based side.  His willingness to run at defenders and his experience is key to how Gyeongnam had been operating.  Long term absentee Negueba has been put back into the fold in spits and spurts.  The club can't rush the Brazilian back too soon after a serious ACL injury meant he had spent over a year on the sidelines.  The attacking winger has made three recent appearances all from the bench and has looked very promising when on the pitch.  It will be interesting to see with what line up manager Seol Ki-hyeon goes with as he has been tinkering with the starting line-up in near enough every game over the last month striving to find his best eleven.

Seol took full responsibility for the team's defeat last time out to Chungnam Asan.  He said  "It was an important game for us but Asan was very tactically and mentally prepared.  I feel the professional world of coaching is very difficult.  I feel my players are of the best in K League 2.  Nevertheless, I would like to say sorry to those who love and support Gyeongnam FC.  I will, however, stick to my style of coaching and the type of football I like my team to play.  I will keep pushing my players looking for the right answers." 

Key figure Leandro (c) has been absent the past few games and his fitness is unknown for the clash

Seoul E-Land goes into the game sweating on the fitness of key playmaker Leandro who, although scoring the winner a few weeks away against Bucheon FC 1995, picked up a knock in the clash.  He has since missed the Leopards last two competitive fixtures, both of which they have lost.  The Brazilian is a real threat in front of goal scoring four times this campaign in eight appearances.  It isn't all bad news for the Seoul based side. Won Ki-jong is back after missing the past few fixtures and will likely have to settle for a place on the bench.  Main marksman Richard Sukuta-Pasu will be hoping to add to his tally as the hosts' defense is anything but watertight at the back conceding 14 goals so far this campaign, the third-worst in K League 2.

The Adversary

Center-back Lee Sang-min marshaling his back four.

Manager Chung Jung-yong will see this as a game they can take all three points from.  The Leopards tend to play their best football away from home and are a very free-scoring outfit, only failing to score in four games so far this campaign.  The former Under-20 national team manager has attracted some good young players to the capital and they can be a threat in the final third for the hosts.  Key youngster and Korea Under- 23 star Lee Sang-min has shown what huge potential he has by putting in some eye-catching displays in the center of defense.  He is showing some signs of tiredness of late as he has played in every game this season.  Suwon FC, in particular, exposed this last time out in their 3-0 victory.  Seoul won't have much of the ball on Saturday so the Leopards will have to play on the counter.  Towering German center forward Sukuta-Pasu will be the main focal point with more nimble runners working off around the striker.  The fight for a playoff position or even promotion is still well within both these sides' reach.  So three points for either this weekend will help a long way to achieve that goal.

Who To Watch

Korean U23 international full-back Choi Jun joined the Reds on loan from Ulsan Hyundai a fortnight ago.  He made his full league debut against Chungnam Asan FC last time out.  He was a rare bright spark in an otherwise lackluster performance by Gyeongnam.  He was over-lapping down the right-hand side at will and got to the byline on several occasions.  The intent to help out in the attacking third was for all to see.  He showed maturity beyond his years on Sunday night.  He has been impressing his team-mates in training and he should be a regular fixture in the side if he continues to develop at the rate he is at present.  He stood up to the physical side of the game as well, throwing himself into tackles and not being afraid to stand shoulder to shoulder with the more physical players in the division.

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This game is very difficult to predict as both teams have a habit of letting in goals recently at an alarming rate.  Gyeongnam has let in six goals in the last two games and so have Seoul E-Land.  I think this clash won't be one that defenses come out on top.  If I were a neutral I would be tuning in for this one.  The opening game between these two sides was full of thrills and spills and I don't see this encounter being any different.

Prediction: Gyeongnam FC 3-2 Seoul ELand  

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