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Preview: Pohang Steelers Vs. Seongnam FC

Preview: Pohang Steelers Vs. Seongnam FC

After back-to-back losses for the first time this season and on a five-game winless run in the league, Pohang Steelers are in desperate need of a win towards the business end of the season. Standing in the way will be Seongnam FC who travels to the Steel Yard on Sunday, August 30. Who will come out on top in this key clash at both ends of the table? Pohang Steelers columnist Shibajee Das previews the match. 

Last Time Out

Busan IPark 2-1 Pohang Steelers

The Steelers were coming into this match on the back of a derby defeat to bitter rivals Ulsan Hyundai. Kim Gi-dong stuck to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, whereas the hosts started the match in a 4-1-4-1 setup. Manuel Palacios was back amongst the starters after serving his suspension. But it was he who was dispossessed towards the edge of his own box following an opposition corner, and after some smart buildup play, centre-back Kang Min-soo's shot left Kang Hyeon-mu wrong-footed with the ball nestling into the back of the net. Just past the half-hour mark, Jeon Min-gwang was guilty of bringing down Lee Dong-jun in the area, and the referee straightaway pointed to the spot. Lee Jung-hyub made no mistake from 12 yards, to double Busan's lead in the 36th minute.

Pohang made a half-time change, with Lee Seung-mo replaced by the more attack-minded Lee Gwang-hyeok. The substitute made a telling impact when he slotted in Aleksandar Palosevic's low cross to reduce the arrears in the 58th minute, and then struck the base of the post minutes later. Pohang's hopes of salvaging a draw were extinguished when Kim Sang-won received his marching orders for an aerial challenge in the 81st minute. The Steelers ultimately suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season.   




Seongnam FC 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai

Seongnam faced a daunting task at home to table-toppers Ulsan Hyundai, who had talismanic striker Junior Negrao back in the starting lineup. The hosts started the match in their unorthodox 3-3-3-1 formation, whereas Ulsan lined up in their 4-2-3-1 formation. Both goalkeepers were forced into saves in the early exchanges, but it was Junior who applied a poacher's finish to give Ulsan the lead in the 36th minute of the contest. Junior's shot was then blocked by Seongnam skipper Yeon Je-woon with his arm and the referee pointed to the spot. The lethal Brazilian made no mistake to notch up his 20th league goal of the campaign.

After the break, Dutch defender Dave Bulthuis granted the hosts a lifeline when he hacked down Park Soo-il to the floor and the referee was left with no choice but to point to the spot once again. Na Sang-ho kept his cool to slot home in the 55th minute. Veteran keeper Kim Young-kwang made a number of smart stops to keep Ulsan at bay, but the Seongnam forwards were unable to provide much threat at the other end of the pitch. Eventually, Ulsan picked up all three points as they proved too much for a transitional Seongnam side.      


Previous Meetings

Pohang and Seongnam have faced each other 116 times in total, with Pohang winning 56 matches and losing 35.

The last match they faced each other was in the K League 1 Round 10 fixture, which had taken place on July 5th, 2020. It was a lop-sided contest, with all of Pohang's big guns on target. Song Min-kyu scored a brace, with Stanislav Iljutchenko and Manuel Palacios also registering their names on the scoresheet. The Steelers ran out 4-0 victors at the Tancheon Sports Complex.

Team News

Pohang has their injury concerns going into this match. Both Brandon O'Neill and Kwon Wan-gyu continue to be doubtful, having picked up injuries in the East Coast derby. However, Manuel Palacios returned to the starting lineup last week, and centre-back Ha Chang-rae is expected to do so in this matchup after missing out the previous encounter due to suspension. Kim Gi-dong could opt to start Lee Gwang-hyeok, following his impressive performance off the bench against Busan, but the manager will have to do without left-back Kim Sang-won who will be suspended following his sending off last week.

For Seongnam, Uzbek midfielder Jamshid Iskanderov could return at the heart of midfield, having been rested against Ulsan. Another of the club's foreign imports, Croatian striker Tomislav Kis, continues to start matches on the bench, having been unable to claim any stake in the starting eleven.   

The Adversary

Seongnam FC finished ninth last season, on their return to K League 1. This season they have tried to build on that, with rookie manager Kim Nam-il shown plenty of trust by the management. They are on course to replicate last season's finish, currently placed ninth in the league table. But things are a lot tighter at the bottom of the table this season, with just four points separating them from the second bottom. The Gyeonggi-based team picked up a crucial away win against basement boys Incheon United earlier this month, a win which could yet prove pivotal at the end of the season.

Surprisingly, the Magpies have been strong away from home this season, only losing to leaders Ulsan on the road. The key players for the team so far have been Iskanderov, who has been pulling strings in the midfield all season. Experienced keeper Kim Young-kwang has started in each of their last three matches and turned back the clock with some stunning saves against Ulsan. In the forward line, 24-year-old Na Sang-ho has scored some crucial goals this season, having also registered his name on the scoresheet last week. 


What To Watch

Can Pohang's lethal trio find back their goalscoring form?



The Steelers' attacking trio of Stanislav Iljutchenko, Manuel Palacios, and Song Min-kyu have entertained Pohang fans all season. The trio has been lethal throughout, having contributed a total of 19 league goals this campaign. However, in the last three league matches, their scoring boots have gone missing. This is reflected in the overall team performance as well, as much of manager Kim Gi-dong's game plan is centred around these three players.

In the last three league matches, Pohang has picked up just a single point and is without a league win since mid-July. This match against Seongnam could be the perfect platform for them to start scoring again and display that attacking flair which the Pohang faithful have so long craved for.     


FNR

Prediction

If the Pohang forwards can find their scoring form against Seongnam, then this could prove to be an entertaining watch. It remains to be seen if Pohang can find back that old touch in front of goal. However, the visitors themselves possess a threat going forward, having netted at least once in each of their last five matches in all competitions. This match could well prove to be one in which both teams cancel each other out, and therefore having to be content with a point apiece.

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