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FA Cup Preview: Seongnam FC vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings

The teams that faced each other only about a week ago in the league are clashing again for the FA Cup Quarter-final fixture. Seongnam FC and Suwon Samsung Bluewings, one of the biggest rivalries in K League, are both having quite a roller coaster ride this season. The Magpies faced hardships after a blissful May, but they started to get back on track after the draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The beginning of the season has been harsh on the Bluewings which led to replacing their manager in July, and Suwon are now aiming higher after the league win against Gwangju FC on July 25th. Which team will best utilize their high morale and get to the FA Cup Semi-final?

Last Time Out

Seongnam FC 0-0 Gangwon FC

Seongnam, who were on a good form after winning against Daegu in the FA Cup and Suwon in the league, faced Gangwon at home. The Magpies started the match with a 3-2-4-1 formation that they've been using since the match against Jeonbuk. Gangwon brought a 4-3-3 formation that focused on harsh pressure and fast attack progression, with Kim Seung-dae on the bench.

The home team had dominance over the away team in the first half. Seongnam tried six shots during the first 45 minutes, while Gangwon could only take one. The impressive part was the pressure in the midfield that the Magpies were putting on the Bears, as an insufficient amount of pressure in the midfield has been the Gyeonggi-based team's weakness this season. In the second half, Gangwon played more offensively and made five shots, but they weren't not very meaningful ones as none of those were on target. Both teams seemed to be participating in the match carefully as they have the FA Cup fixture next week, and the game ended 0-0.

Gwangju FC 0-1 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

After Lee Lim-saeng stepped down as a manager, Suwon lost the K League Round 12 fixture against Seongnam which was the first game managed by Ju Seung-jin. In order to end the no-victory-streak for five matches, the win against Gwangju was necessary to the Bluewings. A surprising change to the starting XI of the away team was that Ju used a back four system, which was almost never used by the former manager Lee. Gwangju began the match with a 4-3-3 formation that's been used many times this season.

Both teams did not manage to create effective chances in the first half. Each team had only two shots taken during the first 45 minutes, and they were outside of the penalty box. The flow became more exciting in the second half. In the 49th minute, Park Sang-hyeok of Suwon scored a fantastic ranged shot, giving the away team the 1-0 lead. Gwangju quickly started concentrating on utilizing the physical strength and height of the forwards such as Felipe de Sousa Silva, through lob passes and set pieces. However, the home team failed to generate definitive chances, and the game ended 1-0 for Suwon. The game was the first-ever match played in the newly-built Gwangju Football Stadium, and the historic matchup favored the away team ironically.

Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Pohang have faced each other 78 times in total in K League, with Seongnam winning 24 matches and losing 28. 

The last match they faced each other in was the K League 1 Round 12 fixture that took place on July 19th, 2020. Seongnam had dominance over Suwon in the first half. 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. 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 81st minute, Jamshid Iskanderov took a corner kick, and the sharp cross went right to Lee Chang-yong's forehead then put into the goal. The match ended 1-0, and it was a special win for Seongnam as it was their first league win since May 31st.

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. Suwon also do not have anyone on suspension and will be able to call upon anyone that played the last match against Gwangju.

K League is getting 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. This raised the expectations of the fans entering the stadiums for the FA Cup Quarter-final fixtures as well, but the entry will become available only for the Semi-finals and the Final, and the match between Seongnam and Suwon will be conducted without the spectators again.

Believe it or not, there's a rumor that Kim Nam-il's track jacket is the sign of luck for the Magpies. One of Kim's characteristics as a manager was that black suit he used to wear for every match, but after going through a disappointing June, Kim changed his outfit to the blue track jacket and surprisingly, he has won all three matches (versus Chungnam Asan, Daegu, and Suwon) that he participated in with the blue track jacket on. Watching if he wears the track jacket again or not will be another fun point of the game.

Who To Watch

Na Sang-ho

The matches against Suwon and Gangwon in K League fixtures were enough to boost the Magpies fans' excitement toward Na Sang-ho, the South Korea National Team forward who's currently on loan to Seongnam from FC Tokyo. Although Na showed disappointing performances in the matches against Busan and Pohang, which were his first and second matches as a Magpie, he quickly brought the form up and started showing his class. The strategic change that favored Na the most was Kim Nam-il's choice to change the formation to a 3-4-2-1. Kim started to push the position of wing backs such as Yu In-soo and Lee Tae-hee up so the attack progression through the sides of the field could work better.

Yu In-soo's placement in the match against Suwon, Round 12. (Source: K League YouTube Channel)
Yu In-soo's placement in the match against Busan, Round 9. (Source: K League YouTube Channel)

As we can see from the pictures above, the left wing back Yu In-soo's position became much higher in the later rounds as Yu is acting as one of the highest placed forwards when the team are counterattacking, compared to him being a side midfielder in the same situation.

The reason we have to focus on the positioning of the wing-backs is that Na enjoys link-up plays with the wing backs on the sides, usually with the partner Yu. As Kim's 3-4-2-1 formation has brought four matches without a loss to Seongnam, we can expect Kim to use the same strategy for the FA Cup match against Suwon as well, and this might be the game where Na scores his first goal for the Magpies.

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Seongnam FC 1-0 Suwon Samsung Bluewings

In the K League matches against Suwon and Gangwon, Seongnam did not let the opponents make even a single shot on target. Their defense has approached a level where the fans don't have to worry about it anymore, and the issue has been the offense most of the time. Fortunately for the Magpies, their offense is getting better and better, and Suwon currently do not seem to be able to crush the home team's concrete defense and score a goal.

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