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Preview: Seongnam FC vs FC Seoul

K League 1 Preview: Seongnam FC vs FC Seoul

Seongnam FC and FC Seoul, the teams that are currently in the opposite atmospheres, are facing each other at Tancheon Sports Complex this Saturday for a K League fixture. The home team are going through the best period after a glorious May, as they haven't lost a single game in the last five league and FA Cup matches. The Magpies even reached the Semi-final for the FA Cup after winning against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Seoul, however, are keep sinking into a pit as they have lost three consecutive matches in the league and got eliminated from the FA Cup after losing to Pohang Steelers with a shocking score, 5-1. Will the Magpies succeed in maintaining the good form? Or, are Seoul going to end the poor performance and make this match a turning point?

Last Time Out

Seongnam FC 1-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

Seongnam faced Suwon at home for the FA Cup Quarter-final. The Magpies were on a good form after not losing three league matches straight. Suwon also won against Gwangju in league, so both teams' morale was pretty good. Seongnam brought a 3-2-4-1 formation again, with Tomislav Kiš as the center forward. Suwon brought a 4-1-4-1 formation that won them the victory in the league.

Both teams approached the game very carefully, as there was no shot on target until the 73rd minute. In the 73rd minute, Kiš made a senseful touch in the penalty box on the cross from Lee Tae-hee, and the ball went right into the goal. This goal was the one and only shot on target throughout the whole match. Due to the pouring rain, Seongnam's forwards could not show the systematic pass plays, and Suwon concentrated on range shots outside the penalty box. Without any other meaningful chance, the fixture ended 1-0 for the home team. The Magpies will face Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the Semi-final.

FC Seoul 1-5 Pohang Steelers

Seoul, the team that are going through one of the worse periods of the season, faced Pohang at home for the FA Cup Quarter-final fixture. The home team used a 3-5-2 formation with the back three Hwang Hyun-soo, Jung Hyun-chul, and Kim Ju-sung. The away team brought a 4-3-3 formation that they are used to, with both Stanislav Iljutcenko and Song Min-kyu on the pitch.

Pohang absolutely dominated over Seoul. It only took 13 minutes for one of the league's most anticipated prospects, Song Min-kyu to score the goal. Then, in the 32nd minute, Kim Gwang-seok put in another goal for the team from the confusion in the penalty box. Seoul's Jung Hyun-chul scored a header in the 34th minute, but that was the only bright moment for the home team. In the second half, Stanislav Iljutcenko scored one and Sim Dong-woon scored two more goals for Pohang, and the game ended 5-1 for the away team. It's the biggest loss Seoul had after a 6-0 loss to Daegu on June 14th, and the capital-based team's defense has conceded 11 goals in the last three matches.

Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Seoul have faced each other 121 times in total in K League, with Seongnam winning 43 matches and losing 38. 

The last match they faced each other in was the K League 1 Round 4 fixture that took place on May 31st, 2020. 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. The stamina of Seoul's players quickly drained in the second half 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. This victory ended Seongnam's May a defeat-less month and Kim Nam-il could win the Manager of the Month award, which makes the game a special memory for the team.

Team News

In terms of suspensions, Seongnam will not have an issue with calling upon anyone that played against Gangwon in K League last Saturday, and Suwon in FA Cup on Wednesday. Seoul also do not have anyone on suspension and will be able to call upon anyone that played the last match against Jeonbuk.

Han Chan-hee, one of Seoul's playmakers that showed great performance in the last match against Seongnam, got injured in the FA Cup Quarter-final against Pohang and is expected to be out of the squad for this weekend's fixture. This is weakening the depth of Choi Yong-soo's team that's already very thin. The capital-based team will be waiting for Ki Sung-yeung to join the squad as soon as possible, but Choi expects that to happen during mid-August.

K League is now ready for the entry of fans to the stadiums. Starting in Round 14, all the K League teams are allowed to let in 10% of the seating capacity, which is the first step to return to the pre-COVID-19 era.

Kim Nam-il's blue track jacket is actually becoming a sign of luck. After changing his outfit from black suit to the blue Umbro track jacket, he has won all four matches (versus Chungnam Asan, Daegu, and Suwon twice in the league and FA Cup) that he participated in with the blue track jacket on. Will he continue this winning streak powered by the sacred blue track jacket? Find it out in the game against Seoul.

(Updated: July 30th, 7:50 PM)
Choi Yong-soo, after working for Seoul eight seasons in total, stepped down as the manager on July 30th due to the team's recent performances. Coach Kim Ho-young will be managing the team from now on, and the match against Seongnam will be the first game Kim is going to be the manager in.

Who To Watch

Lee Tae-hee
The biggest problem Seoul have is the defense. Currently, Seoul are the team with the most conceded goals in the league as they have conceded 29 goals so far. The second most goal concession is 20 by Gangwon, which is a lot fewer than the capital-based team's record. Seoul's center backs are definitely big contributors, but another position that's responsible is the left wing back. Recently, Ko Kwang-min has been the one playing as the left wing back and his performance is not up there yet. For example, in the last match against Jeonbuk, Ko was responsible for both the first goal by Han Kyo-won and the second goal by Lee Seung-gi due to his loose man-marking.

That is the reason why Lee Tae-hee is the key player in the game. Lee, who has the longest playtime in the league for Seongnam so far alongside Yeon Je-woon (1,238 minutes), is the right wing back of the home team that contributes to the offense greatly. He has made 8 key passes in the league so far, which is the third-best record in the team. Lee also has made 98 successful passes in the attacking third, which is the best record in the team. The 28-year-old wing back even assisted Kiš's goal against Suwon in the FA Cup. Since Seongnam's defense is not a major concern, how effectively Lee can play against Ko and bring dominance in the attacking third to the team will be one of the key points to the match.

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Seongnam FC 1-1 FC Seoul

This matchup is the battle between the blunt spear and fragile shield. Seongnam have scored only nine goals in the league so far, which is the second-worst record. Seoul have conceded 29 goals, the worst record in the league. Therefore, both teams won't be able to score many goals, but I expect the capital-based team to score at least one from the header as Seoul have the center backs that are taller than Seongnam's, and the Magpies have been continuously showing vulnerability to tall players. I also expect the home team to score one as well, possibly from the link-up play by Lee Tae-hee and Na Sang-ho.

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