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Preview: Seongnam FC vs Busan IPark

Seongnam FC, who recently returned to the top half of the league table, are facing Busan IPark at home this Friday for a K League 1 fixture. The Magpies are on a pretty good form as they have recorded two wins and two draws in the last five league matches. Meanwhile, IPark are going through not a very exciting period as they have lost three consecutive league matches. Will the home team continue their good performance? Or, will the away team come out of the tunnel and make this match a turning point?

Last Time Out

Incheon United 0-2 Seongnam FC

Incheon, the only team in K League 1 without a single victory this season, clashed with Seongnam at home. It was the first match Cho Sung-hwan, the new manager of Incheon, was leading. United started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation that they have used frequently this season, with Stefan Mugoša as the center forward. The Magpies brought a 3-2-4-1 formation again with the Best XI of the team on the pitch.

Both teams began the match with very offensive tactics. Incheon took eight shots in the first half while Seongnam tried five, and they were mostly made outside the penalty box. To utilize the humid air and wet pitch, the forwards actively targeted striking ranged shots in order to make the bounds harder to be expected. The second half was the 45 minutes solely for Na Sang-ho of the away team. Na, who had not been able to score or assist a goal after joining Seongnam in June, scored two goals in the second half in the 57th minute and 87th minute, one from a free-kick and one from an open play. The 24-year-old forward's beautiful shots were untouchable for Incheon's goalkeeper Kim Dong-heon, and the home team's players failed to make a definitive chance after conceding a goal. The match ended 2-0, and this victory placed Seongnam in sixth place on the league table.

Sangju Sangmu 2-0 Busan IPark

Sangju, who were placed in fifth place on the league table, faced eighth-placed-Busan at home. Both teams started the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation. The Soldiers concentrated on the link-up plays between the center forward Oh Se-hun and other attackers, while Busan's focus was on Rômulo's playmaking in the midfield.

The first half was relatively balanced. Both teams made three shots during the first 45 minutes, and none of them was definitive as the shots were not very accurate. The flow of the match changed greatly in the second half. Sangju took nine shots in the second half, but Busan could try only four. Oh Se-hun successfully fulfilled his duties as a false nine / target man, and Kim Tae-wan substituted Oh with Moon Seon-min in the 53rd minute with the hope of raising the overall speed of the attack progression. Moon perfectly satisfied Kim's wishes, as he scored two goals from open plays in the 73rd minute and the 90th minute. The IPark were able to generate a few good chances but they were a little off the target, and they failed to score any. The match ended 2-0, and this result got Sangju up to the third place on the league table.

Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Busan have faced each other 121 times in total in K League, with Seongnam winning 43 matches and losing 38. 

The last match they faced each other in was the K League 1 Round 9 fixture that took place on June 27th, 2020. Seongnam's desire for victory was enormous as the Magpies had lost four matches in a row before facing the IPark. Busan began the game with a 4-1-4-1 formation that they have been using in pretty much every fixture this season, while Seongnam used a 4-3-3 formation which they haven't utilized this year. It was obvious that Kim Nam-il was concentrating more on offense as he finally switched from a three center back system to a back four.

It was a roller coaster ride for both teams. In the early match, Seongnam showed sharp offensive plays with a fast tempo and direct passes from the defensive third to the attacking third. Jamshid Iskanderov was the key player that administered playmaking, and his simple but keen passes in the midfield effectively opened a path through Busan's defenders. In the 8th minute, Iskanderov's smart first touch led to one-on-one chance against Kim Ho-jun but Park Joon-gang stole the ball, and accidentally kicked the ball that was out of his sight and put it in his own goal to give Seongnam the lead. The match seemed to lean toward the away team's win pretty early in the game, but it wasn't that easy. In the 45th minute right before the half-time, Choi Ji-mook received his second yellow card of the day and was sent off, leaving Seongnam one player short. In the 68th minute, Rômulo took a breathtaking cannon shot outside the penalty box and scored a goal finally. Busan did not stop launching a series of attacks, locking the Magpies up in their defensive third. To make things worse, Lee Chang-yong received another red card for Seongnam in the 78th minute, and the Gyeonggi-based team now had to face Busan with only nine players on the pitch. Despite all the unfavorable factors for Seongnam, the home team failed to score another goal, and the match ended 1-1.

Team News

In terms of suspensions, Seongnam will not have an issue with calling upon anyone that played against Incheon in K League last weekend, and Busan won't have an issue either. 
Kim Hyun-sung, Seongnam's center forward that's recently replaced Yang Dong-hyun and has become the concrete member of the Magpies' Best XI, got injured in the last K League match against Incheon. Kim got hit in the head and a shocking amount of blood came out of the wound, and even the first aid couldn't stop the blood and resulted in getting substituted out in the 39th minute. There is a high probability of Yang starting the match against Busan.
Since Round 14, all the K League teams have been allowed to let in 10% of the seating capacity. Starting in the match between Seongnam and Busan this Friday, the K League teams can allow 25% of the seating capacity to enter the stadium. This is the second step to return to the pre-COVID-19 era, and the K League is expecting to keep lowering the limit in the future.

Who To Watch

Na Sang-ho
The 24-year-old Korea National Team forward finally proved his value with his first goals for the new team in the last league match against Incheon. Despite the fact that the opponents were the lowest team on the league table, Na's performance was still outstanding and remarkable, and his wonderful curved shots clearly showed his class. The new Magpie started showing great performance since the match against Suwon Samsung Bluewings in early July, and the good form doesn't seem to end anytime soon. Kim Nam-il's use of the new formation, 3-2-4-1, is perfectly matching Na's playstyle as the wing-backs are placed much higher in the attacking third and it enables the forwards to make diverse systematic plays. The new tactics let Na to freely utilize his fast pace, accurate shots, and aggressive pressure in the attacking third / midfield.

In the match against Sangju, Busan's back-four system performed relatively great against Oh Se-hun, a false nine with tall height and solid physical strength, but failed against Moon Seon-min, a very fast-paced forward that's specialized in dribbling and penetration plays. Na is a player that's closer to Moon's playstyle, and if he can succeed in performing as good as Moon last weekend, it will make the match much easier for the Magpies.

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Prediction

Seongnam FC 2-1 Busan IPark

The atmosphere is a very important factor in football matches, especially when the two teams' strength levels are similar. Seongnam and Busan's performances in the league this season have been pretty similar, and their goals scored / goals conceded are very close to each other as well (Seongnam: 12 scored, 16 conceded / Busan: 15 scored, 21 conceded). However, the current atmospheres around each team are quite different, as Seongnam's has been positive with their success in the FA Cup and recent great performance in the league while the IPark are in a slump of three consecutive losses. Unless the away team can bring a strategy that can crush the home team's concrete defense, that game is very likely to end in the Magpies' victory.

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