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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Incheon United

The first match of the weekend sees Ulsan Hyundai face off against struggling Incheon United at Munsu Stadium. Kim Do-hoon's Horangi team need to get back to winning ways quickly if they are to close the gap on Jeonbuk at the top of the table, while managerless Incheon desperately need a result to prevent themselves being cut further adrift at the bottom.   

Last Time Out

Ulsan Hyundai 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Bad luck and an individual mistake condemned Ulsan to their first defeat of the season last Saturday. First, Ulsan's captain Shin Jin-ho dropped out during the warm up after feeling faint, meaning the veteran winger, Lee Geun-ho, was a last minute starter. Then, just before the half-hour mark, Ulsan were down to ten men: Kim Ki-hee's awfully mistimed lunge hit Kim Bo-kyung's ankle, sidelining last season's MVP for six weeks.   

The game itself was lacklustre from then out; Jeonbuk pressed their man advntage and took the lead through Han Gyo-won late in the first half. Then after the break they set about smothering the hosts. Ulsan were woken up by the introduction of Bjorn Johnsen on the hour, but Kim In-sung and Seol Young-woo were unable to convert key chances late on.

Jeonbuk sealed the tie deep into injury time: Kunimoto, who has been largely anonymous all season, was given the freedom to waltz through the tired Ulsan defence and slot in his first K League goal for over a year.


Suwon FC 2-2 Incheon United (Suwon win 5-4 on pens)
Korean FA Cup, Third Round

Bottom-dwellers Incheon United had a welcome distraction from their awful league form on Wednesday night when they played to K League 2's Suwon FC in the FA Cup.

However, the result will have given them little comfort, as they were knocked out in the worst way possible -- stalwart midfielder Lee Do-hyeok missing the vital kick in a penalty shootout after the match finished 2-2.

FC Seoul 1-0 Incheon United
In Incheon's last league match they missed the chance to drag rivals FC Seoul into a relegation dogfight by losing to the struggling capital club 1-0.

Incheon missed a golden opportunity to take the lead when Lee Woo-hyeok fired a first-half spot-kick wide, and the visitors were made to pay when Seoul substitute Yun Ju-tae scored the only goal of the game on the hour-mark.

That loss leaves Incheon firmly rooted to the bottom of the table with just two points from nine games having lost seven on the bounce.
  

Previous Meetings

Incheon's eight wins and six draws from their twenty-five league matches at Munsu Stadium constitute a pretty decent record. In fact, the Nerrazzuri were something of a bogey team for Ulsan in 2016 and 17 when the visitors won three games in a row on the south coast.

However, Incheon have struggled against the Horangi the last few years, taking just one point from the meetings in 2019 -- that draw was a thrilling comeback in Incheon when Mugosa netted a hat trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw.

                                          [LINK: KLU Pod | Summer Transfer Window Preview]

Team News

Ulsan will be without central defender Kim Ki-hee, who can count himself lucky to have received just a two-match suspension for his rash challenge on Kim Bo-kyung last weekend. The former Seattle Sounder has apologised to his international teammate, but it may be a while before he regains the trust of his manager having derailed the team in such an important match.

Lee Chung-yong came on as a sub last weekend after recovering from the ankle injury he sustained in the East Coast Derby
Kim Do-hoon has has an ace up his sleeve though, as, in one of the few bright spots from last weekend's defeat, star man Lee Chung-yong has made his return from injury. It is unlikely the former Bolton winger will start against Incheon though, which could mean Lee Dong-gyeong is handed a rare chance on the right of midfield. Elsewhere, U22 player Seol Young-woo looks set to get a final chance at left-back before Ulsan's most recent signing, Hong Chul, joins the fray.

The Adversary

The rumour that former gaffer Yoo Sang-chul was healthy enough to return to the club following his cancer treatment was quashed earlier this week, meaning Incheon remain leaderless, rudderless, and adrift at the foot of K League 1.

However, the club did make one move to try to steady the ship this week -- playmaker Elías Aguilar has returned on loan from Jeju United in attempt to rekindle the relationship he had with striker Stefan Mugosa a couple of years ago.  Aguilar should be eligible and fit to take the field on Saturday, and with Mahazi in holding midfield, the Costa Rican international should be able to concentrate on  a more creative role.



Incheon may have some tired legs having played 120 minutes in their cup loss to Suwon FC last Wednesday, but several key players, including defender Lee Jae-sung and top-scorer Kim Ho-nam should be raring to go on Saturday having been rested for that match. 

FNR

Prediction

Anything less than a home win here would be a major shock. Incheon have looked poor all season and, unlike previous campaigns, do not seem to have the fight they need to get results.

Ulsan will be licking their wounds after last weekend's events, but Kim Do-hoon knows his team cannot afford to make many more mistakes if they are to keep the title race alive.

I expect Kim to make some changes to personnel for this match, giving some fringe players the chance to prove themselves. That should shake off any self doubt that may have crept into the Horangi camp and the home side will run out comfortable winners.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 3-0 Incheon United



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