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Preview: Sangju Sangmu vs. Busan IPark

Sangju Sangmu, Kim Byong-oh
 After recent defeats to the cream of the division, Busan IPark and Sangju Sangmu will look to rebuild their form with a win this Sunday. Todd Wilde previews this K League 1 clash between two sides that have provided value and entertainment to supporters in 2020.

Last Time Out

Sangju drew 2-2 away last weekend at Gangwon, as the side was prevented from taking all three points afer some late drama. Gangwon took the lead through Han Suk-jong's own goal, the midfielder heading into his own net as he misjudged an inswinging corner. Sangju clawed back level before the break through Kim Bo-sub's thunderbolt, deftly taking down Oh Se-hun's smart lay up with his left foot before belting a right footed strike into the top corner form 20 yards out.

In a cagey second half both chances had good chances to take the lead as the two sides traded metaphorical punches. Cho Jae-wan and Lee Young-jae both forced Sangju stopper Lee Chang-geun into fine saves as the game opened up, before a confident Oh Se-sun blazed over as the clock ran down.

Sangju thought they had scored the winning goal in the 87th minute, through a brilliant goal from Gang Sang-woo. The winger took Moon Seon-min's through ball with his left foot, turning to position the ball onto his right side. With Gangwon CB Lim Chai-min stumbling, Gang shot low, hard and with precision from 25 yards out, beating the outstretched hand of Lee Bum-soo. However, Kim Jin-hyun rescued a point in the third minute of added time, as he rose highest from Kim Seung-dae's chipped cross, heading confidently into the bottom left corner.

Match Highlights:

Busan were defeated 2-1 last Sunday, as the Gudeok Stadium welcomed a sell out crowd of 586 for the Royals' first home game with spectators since government restrictions were limited. The socially distanced crowd were treated to an excellent performance by the home side, who dominated long periods of the match but were made to pay for poor finishing, whereas Ulsan demonstrated clinical finishing when it mattered most.

Man of the match Yun Bitgaram struck just before half time to give Ulsan the lead, as he chested down Bjorn Johnson's short flick on then powered a half volley past a helpless Choi Pil-soo into the bottom right corner.

Busan had 11 shots in this match, as their midfield capably progressed the ball into shooting positions, but were guilty of wasteful finishing as the likes of Kim Dong-jun and Kwon Hyeok-kyu shot over the bar with only the keeper to beat. IPark were finally able to find a breakthrough largely thanks to the creative brilliance of Romulo. The mercurial Brazilian caught Ulsan napping as he dazzled and dribbled through the Ulsan midfield from a quick free kick, releasing Kim Hyun into the box. The former Hwaseong striker's put his right footed finish in the only spot Jo Hyeon-woo could not reach, as the ball crept into the bottom left corner.

Unfortunately for Busan, their lead lasted just three minutes. Yun Bitgaram's excellent in swinging corner found Bjorn Johnson, whose free header was well blocked by Kim Moon-hwan, but only as far as substitute Junior Negrao, who instinctively tapped-in to secure his 18th goal of the season and Ulsan's seventh straight win.

Match Highlights:

Previous Meetings

The two sides previously met at the Gudeok Stadium in June, as the spoils were shared in a game of few clear chances. Lee Jeong-hyeop put Busan ahead with a penalty kick after he was pulled down in the box, before Moon Seon-min levelled the scores. Moon took advantage of a rookie error from young Busan stopper Kim Jeong-ho, who released the ball at the feet of Moon after failing to control what should have been a routine catch from a loose through ball.

If Busan and Sangju sit in a different half of the table at the end of Gameweek 22 (after which the league will 'split' into a Promotion and Relegation round), this will be the last competitive fixture between the two sides, with Sangju likely to move to Gimcheon for the 2021 season. The two sides have officially met 12 times, with Busan victorious on five occasions, Sangju twice, and the points shared five times.

Team News

Sangju Sangmu will be boosted by the return of Park Byung-hyun, once again available for selection after serving a suspension for a red card against Ulsan Hyundai. Park will compete with Kwon Kyung-won for a starting berth at centre back.

Park Se-jin is a doubt after he was the victim of a poor challenge last weekend, and was substituted early after suffering concussion on the pitch. He was replaced by Korean international Moon Seon-min, who impressed in a wide role, releasing Kim Bo-sub to play in an advanced, central position. Otherwise, Sangju should remain unchanged from their 2-2 draw with Gangwon FC.

Busan IPark are boosted by the return of left back Yun Suk-young, who returned against Ulsan Hyundai after two months on the sidelines. Yun will compete with Park Jung-gang, who deputised well in the position before his sending off at Daegu FC, and returns from suspension.

Busan will be without influencial striker Lee Jeong-hyeop up front, who is currently ruled out with a hamstring injury and should be sidelined for 2-3 weeks. Gustavo Vintecinco started against Ulsan as a traditional target man, however Kim Hyun may be preferred this weekend after impressing off the bench last Sunday.

Kim Seung-jun will compete with Kim Byong-oh for a place on the left wing, with mercurial youngster Kim Jin-kyu still sidelined. Defensive minded midfielder Park Jong-woo could be preferred to either Lee Gyu-seong or Romulo in the centre, with Cho Duk-jae often tempted to tinker with his midfield trio.

What To Watch

Sangju have been magnificant to watch for neutrals in recent weeks, as they attack with confidence and swagger. Their goalscoring threat is spread out throughout their side, with six different goalscorers scoring seven goals in their last four games. Sangju's one to watch is right winger Kim Bo-sub, who was the stand out performer against Gangwon. Utilised in an advanced role in support of fellow U22 player Oh Se-hun, Kim got his first goal of the season just before the interval against Gangwon, as he underlined his promise with an early contender for Goal of the Month.

Though Kim has no assists to his name so far in a season where he has rarely played 90 minutes, he is an efficient presence on the pitch, completing 100% of his passes (inluding two key passes that led to shots on goal) against Gangwon, and growing in confidence both on and off the ball under the tutelage of Kim Tae-wan.

Also look out for Gang Sang-woo on the opposite wing, who is on red hot form with 7 goals from a wide position, but also a creative powerhouse with four assists and 18 key passes - the most in the team and 9th most in the league. Kang's battle with Taeguk Warrior Kim Moon-hwan, who was excellent in limiting the attacking threat of Lee Sang-heon and Lee Chung-yong last weekend, will be the key battle this weekend.

Sangju's issues have mainly been in defence, as they have looked weak preventing opposition sides from making runs behind the backline and in wide positions. This was a particular issue when they visited Busan earlier this season, as Romulo pulled the strings in a game Busan would have won if it wasn't for a howler by rookie GK Kim Jeong-ho. Look for Lee Dong-jun to be utilised as the main attacking threat, utilising his pace as he makes intricately timed runs into the channels.

Busan have been boosted by the return of winter signing Yun Suk-young, back in the side after two months out. The former QPR left back had a solid game defending against his former international teammate Lee Chung-yeong, but may well be needed as an attacking threat this weekend. Busan have been extraordinarily weak attacking the left wing so far this season, as Kim Seung-jun and Kim Byong-oh have both struggled to offer any effective threat in wide positions.

One option for Cho Duk-jae would be to push Yun up as a wing back, with one of the Kims dropping into a narrower and deeper 'half-winger' role in possession, similar to the position Kwon Hyeok-kyu has performed on the right side of the pitch.

Busan's Target Man Troubles

Gustavo Vintecinco struggled last weekend as he started in place of Lee Jeong-hyeop. Ulsan's CB Kim Ki-hee effectively marked the Brazilian out of the game, as Vintecinco failed to win almost any long aerial balls, as Cho Duk-jae persisted with a tedious and ineffective tactic of hoof ball for much of the match. Cho expected the Brazilian to act as a target man, winning headers from long balls towards faster, more technical wide players to advance possession at pace.

Whilst the blame for the failure of these tactics should lie at the manager and not the player given the technical talent at Cho's disposal, it is notable that Kwon Hyeok-kyu was much more effective as a long ball outlet, showing great interplay with Lee Dong-jun and Lee Gyu-seong as a sometime wide target man.

Kim Hyun offered a more mobile and technically adept option coming off the bench in place of Kwon, as Busan went to a 4-4-2 in search of an equaliser against Ulsan. His movement and finish for the goal was refreshing given the lack of goals in a side that has not lacked creativity, and whilst Kim has only been brought on as a poacher in four substitute appearances, the former Hwaseong striker deserves a chance to show he can be a suitable deputy to Lee Jeong-hyeop from the start. His all round style of play could potentially be more useful for the team's build up play, given his willingness to drop slightly deeper when the side is building attacks.

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This match is perhaps one of the most difficult to predict this weekend. Whilst Busan have struggled for form and some of the tactics of their head coach has been baffling to say the least, the team has been strongly motivated and performed well as a unit. Having said, they face a Sangju side that is improving, extremely well coached, and appears well motivated to secure a top four finish in their final season of K League 1 football. This game is likely to open up as both sides aim to take all three points. Expect goals.

Sangju Sangmu 2-2 Busan IPark

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