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Preview: Seongnam FC vs Gangwon FC

After the miserable 4-0 loss to Pohang Steelers, Seongnam FC started to get back on track through a draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and two victories over Daegu FC and Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The recent satisfactory result brought the Magpies up to eighth place from eleventh in the league table, and they are now facing Gangwon FC at home with a hope to join the top half of the league. Will the home team be able to extend their winning streak and recapture their May performance?

Last Time Out

Suwon Samsung Bluewings 0-1 Seongnam FC

Seongnam earned an unexpected draw with Jeonbuk in the league and a surprising victory over Daegu in the FA Cup. Their next target were Suwon, who were going through the manager change as Lee Lim-saeng stepped down on July 16th. Ju Seung-jin of Suwon started the match with a 3-5-2 formation, which was very similar to the lineup they used in the FA Cup fixture against Jeju United. The away team brought a 3-2-4-1 formation, which brought them a greatly valued draw against Jeonbuk.

Seongnam had dominance over Suwon in the first half. While the Magpies tried seven shots, the Bluewings only had three for the first 45 minutes. Kim Nam-il ordered active overlaps/underlaps to the full-backs, and this enabled the away team to have more players in the attacking third and make systematic attacks. Na Sang-ho's performance was impressive as well, which implied that he is becoming more and more familiar with his new team's style. Suwon substituted in Yeom Ki-hun as soon as the second half started, hoping to change the flow of the match to be more favorable for them, but the overall initiative was still the Magpies'. Seongnam kept creating effective chances, and in the 69th minute, Jamshid Iskanderov scored a goal inside the penalty box which was assisted by Yu In-soo's header. However, the referee later decided no goal after the VAR check, and the score remained 0-0. The play that finally put an end to the goal-less match was made in the 81st minute, and it started from Iskanderov's foot again. The 26-year-old Uzbekistani took a corner kick, and the sharp cross went right to Lee Chang-yong's forehead then put into the goal. Adam Taggart and Kim Min-woo made some good chances for the home team during the last ten minutes but no definitive one was created, and the match ended 1-0. It's the first league win since May 31st for Seongnam, making the day even more special to them.

Ulsan Hyundai 1-0 Gangwon FC

Ulsan, the team that recently achieved the top of the league position, faced Gangwon at home on July 19th. The home team began the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation that they have been using for the whole season, and the away team brought a 4-4-2 formation. Ulsan's tactics emphasis was on the team plays on the right side of the field, utilizing the abilities of Lee Chung-yong, Yoon Bit-garam, Shin Jin-ho, and Kim Tae-hwan. The Bears concentrated on maximizing Kim Seung-dae, Cho Jae-wan, and Ko Moo-yeol's offensive talents.

The home team absolutely dominated over the away team in the first half. The statistic that best proves this is the number of shots taken, as Ulsan took nine shots while Gangwon only took two. Junior Negrao's calm touch and team play in the opponent's penalty box let Ulsan's attackers freely penetrate the away side's defensive line, and this made a result in the 26th minute as Park Joo-ho and Junior's pass play created a penalty kick for the Tigers. Junior took the penalty kick and scored his 15th goal of the season. After finishing the first half 1-0, Gangwon pushed the lines up and aggressively looked for goal opportunities, but Ulsan's talented defenders and the Korea national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo protected their goal safely. The superb defense of the home side did not concede a single goal, and the match ended 1-0 to Ulsan.

Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Pohang have faced each other 21 times in total, with Seongnam winning ten matches and losing seven. 

Two teams played against each other three times last season, and the results were the Magpies winning one and the Bears winning two. The very latest matchup was in Seongnam on September 25th, 2019 and the home team won 1-0. Lee Chang-yong, who just scored a goal against Suwon last week, scored a goal for Seongnam on this day as well and resulted in the team's victory.

However, last season's result does not seem to be a useful guide to predict this match's result, as both teams have changed a lot compared to the last season. Among the players that formed Seongnam's squad for the last match against Gangwon, only Lee Chang-yong, Lee Jae-won, Lee Tae-hee, and Yeon Je-woon are still in the club and actively playing. The Bears' squad is very different from last year's too, as only Cho Jae-wan, Han Kook-young, and Shin Gwang-hoon started against the Magpies in the last matchup and are still on the team, actively playing.

Team News

In terms of suspensions, Seongnam will not have an issue with calling upon anyone that played against Suwon. However, one of the core defenders Ahn Young-kyu got injured in the game against Jeonbuk, and is not expected to play this match either. Considering this injury and Ma Sang-hoon's recent dissatisfactory performances, the members of the back-three system are expected to be Yeon Je-woon, Lim Seung-gyeom, and Lee Chang-yong. Gangwon do not have anyone on suspension either, and are expected to be able to call upon anyone that played the last match against Ulsan.

During the Summer Transfer Window, Gangwon acquired two defenders, Ka Sol-hyun and Kim Su-beom. While Ka made his debut in the FA Cup fixture, both players still haven't played the league match yet. Ka, a 29-year-old center back with 192cm height, is well-known for his strength and header skills, and Kim, a 29-year-old full back, has decent lob passing skills that would be greatly beneficial to the Bears' forwards such as Kim Seung-dae and Cho Jae-wan.

Who To Watch

Jamshid Iskanderov

Although Iskanderov joined the Magpies this season, he's already become the irreplaceable player. The team's main engine role cannot be given to any other player but the 26-year-old Uzbekistani. In the matches he started, such as the games against Busan IPark, Sangju Sangmu, and Jeonbuk Hyundai, the team performed much better than when he did not. The only matches that Iskanderov did not start were the matches against Pohang and Suwon, and the former ended 4-0 loss, and the latter ended 1-0 victory as the goal was scored after Iskanderov was substituted in right after the second half began. His biggest strength is without a doubt the passes. So far in the league, Iskanderov made ten key passes, 502 successful passes, and nine successful crosses, which are all the best record in the team. The Uzbekistani also tried shots often, as he has taken 12 shots and had four of them on target. This is the best record out of the midfielders of Seongnam, which strengthens his place on the starting XI.

Gangwon usually push the lines up and actively put pressure on the opponents' defenders and midfielders, and this will require Seongnam to provide the ball to the top as fast as possible, while not giving up on the accuracy either. The player with direct passing ability will be very highly valued in matches like this, making Iskanderov the player to watch for the game. After the satisfactory results from the fixtures against Jeonbuk and Suwon, Kim Nam-il is very likely to continue using the 3-2-4-1 formation. In this strategy, Iskanderov is expected to start as one of the defensive midfielders and support attackers such as Lee Jae-won, Na Sang-ho, and Hong Si-hoo up top. How effectively he can transition from defense to offense will be the key to the game's result.

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Seongnam FC 1-1 Gangwon FC

In the match against Suwon, Seongnam showed the solutions to their problems in the earlier fixtures. To overcome the vulnerability to the opponent's fast counterattack, the Magpies started to put a halt to it by smartly committing fouls in the midfield. To overcome the lack of the attackers in the attacking third, full-backs Lee Tae-hee and Yu In-soo started to overlap more and enabled the systematic plays to happen. To increase the explosiveness of the offense, Kim Nam-il put in Lee Jae-won and Na Sang-ho together who are both skilled in ball keeping and penetration plays. This makes me excited about Seongnam's offense, but the defense against Gangwon's strong forwards such as Cho Jae-wan Kim Seung-dae is the part that worries me. It's hard for me to anticipate the Magpies to perfectly defend against the Bears, and that's why I expect the 1-1 draw.

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