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Preview: Seongnam FC vs Ulsan Hyundai

Seongnam FC are clashing with the first-place team Ulsan Hyundai at home that haven't lost a single game since June 28th, which is going to be a big test for the Magpies. Although Seongnam lost to FC Seoul at the start of this month, the Gyeonggi-based team have been showing great improvements since mid-July. This season has been almost perfect for Ulsan as their records are currently 12 wins, three draws, and only one loss, and the Tigers are continuing the fierce race for the trophy with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Will the Magpies show the miracle of the underdogs and achieve a victory against Ulsan? Or, will the away team prove their class again?

Last Time Out

Seongnam FC 1-1 Busan IPark

Seongnam, who returned to the top half of the league table, faced Busan at home targeting to continue their good form. The home team started the match with a 3-2-4-1 formation, which has been proving rookie manager Kim Nam-il's strategic abilities since July, and the away team also used their usual formation, a 4-3-3.

In the first half, Seongnam showed a more memorable performance than Busan. Yang Dong-hyun, who has been off the Starting XI sheet for several matches, reappeared on the pitch and showed his class by making three shots including the one that hit the post. Despite Yang, Na Sang-ho, and Yu In-soo's impressive plays, the home team failed to score a goal, and the IPark were not successful either. Going into the second half, Kim Nam-il substituted in Kim Hyun-sung for Jamshid Iskanderov, implementing a two-center-forward system that focused on scoring goals through link-up plays. Kim Hyun-sung proved that his manager's decision was right, as he beautifully assisted Yu In-soo's goal in the 61st minute. Seongnam still had dominance as they tried 20 shots in total throughout the whole game, while Busan only tried six. However, the away team did not end the match easily. In the 93rd minute, Dostonbek Tursunov scored a header from a corner kick, which leveled everything again. Tomislav Kis of the home team made the very last shot of the game in the 98th minute, but it hit the post and finished the match. 1-1 draw for Seongnam and Busan.



Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 Pohang Steelers

The first-place team Ulsan clashed with the fourth-place team Pohang at home for the K League Round 16 fixture. The home team began the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation with Bjørn Johnsen starting as the striker instead of Júnior Negrão. Pohang started with a 4-3-3 formation that they have been using a lot this season, with the Best XI of the squad except for Manuel Palacios that was unable to play due to suspension.

The home team had dominance over the away team in the first half. Ulsan made nine shots while Pohang made only five, and the plays were more threatening as well including Kim In-sung's shot that hit the post in the 10th minute. But no goal was generated, and the second half began with the score 0-0. It did not take a long time for Ulsan to score the first goal of the game. In the 53rd minute, the home team's speedster Hong Chul made a fantastic cutback to Kim In-sung, and this play led to the first goal of the match. The second goal was scored right after that, as Bjørn Johnsen proved his outstanding physical strength and shot accuracy in the 55th minute. Pohang quickly picked up the pace and tried six shots in total during the second 45 minutes, but they were slightly off the target and failed to generate any definitive chance. The fixture ended 2-0, and Ulsan succeeded in keeping the first place on the league table.



Previous Meetings

Seongnam and Busan have faced each other 123 times in K League, with Seongnam winning 43 matches and losing 45.

The last match they faced each other in was the K League 1 Round 6 fixture that took place on June 13th, 2020. After the blissful May, the Magpies encountered the first loss of the season in the match against Daegu, so this game was very important for Seongnam to overcome the loss and continue the good form in May. Seongnam showed great performance throughout the match, as their concrete defensive line successfully protected the goal against Júnior, the lead scorer of the league. The Gyeonggi-based team did not only focus on defense, but effectively made offensive plays as well utilizing Iskanderov's lob passes into the opponent's penalty box. However, despite the effort, the result was determined by just a single play. In the 87th minute, Júnior scored the goal from the cross that Kim Tae-hwan made, and this goal ended the fixture 1-0 for Ulsan.

Team News

In terms of suspensions, Seongnam will not have an issue with calling upon anyone that played against Busan in K League last weekend, and Ulsan won't have an issue either. 
If Júnior plays in this match, it will be his 100th game in K League. Since joining Daegu FC in 2017, Júnior has scored 71 goals and nine assists in 99 games. That's about 0.81 goals/assists per game, which proves his amazing performance in the top football division of South Korea.
Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in multiple cities, the South Korean government prohibits the entry of fans again in order to slow down the spread of the virus. Raising the social distancing level to two immediately stops the entry of people into the stadiums for every sporting event.

Who To Watch

Júnior Negrão

It will be hard not to admit that Júnior Negrão is the key player in this matchup. Not only that fact that this game will be his 100th one in K League makes the 33-year-old Brazillian special, but his form this season explains everything. So far, Júnior has scored 18 goals in the league, and there have been only 16 games. The most goals in a K League season record is owned by Dejan Damjanović, 31 goals in 42 matches during the 2012 season, and it is not only a dream for Júnior Negrão to go beyond that record.

In the last matchup between Seongnam and Ulsan in June, Seongnam's defenders kept showing vulnerability to Júnior's height and physical strength. Although this problem was already observed in the match against Daegu, which was the game right before, the Magpies failed to fix it and ultimately conceded a goal to Júnior in the 87th minute. After going through the terrible June without a single win, Seongnam went back on track in July and are showing much improved performances. Watching if Seongnam will be able to overcome the threat that Júnior's physical strength gives is going to be one of the viewpoints of the game.

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Prediction

Seongnam FC 1-3 Ulsan Hyundai

Although many K League fans would agree that the Magpies' plays have gotten much better compared to June, it still seems to be too difficult for the home team to achieve a win over the first-place team. Seongnam's center backs, such as Yeon Je-woon, have been continuously showing weaknesses when they are faced by taller, stronger center forwards, and Júnior is a striker that has many more abilities other than his body. Ulsan's Best XI even gives me the impression that it's flawless, and that's why I expect the Tigers to achieve a win this match.

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