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Preview: Daegu FC vs Ulsan Hyundai

This Sunday sees Daegu FC host league leaders Ulsan Hyundai at DGB Daegu Bank Park for the first game of five Final A Round games. Can the Sky Blues influence the title race? Or will Ulsan Hyundai strongly get the job done for the title? K League United's Daegu FC correspondent Muyeol Jung previews what can be expected from this clash.

Last Time Out

K League: FC Seoul 0-0 Daegu FC

It was a disappointing Sunday afternoon for FC Seoul as the hosts had to settle for a point in a home game that they had to win for making the top six. Nearly halfway into the first half, the Sky Blues tested Seoul's shot stopper Yang Hanbin with a decent header from Ryu Jaemoon right before former Arsenal forward Park Chuyoung unfortunately hit the woodwork from a direct free kick for the Capital side.

The hosts continued to suffer from misfortune when Park Chuyoung's low shot came off the bottom of the post on 63 minutes. Afterwards, both sides were trying to open the scoring, but the game ended in a goalless draw.


FA Cup Semi-final: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Pohang Steelers AET (4-3 on pens.)

This Wednesday the East Coast Derby took place with an FA Cup Final place at stake and Ulsan Hyundai dramatically won 4-3 on penalties after playing extra time. The game was very eventful with lots of incidents and twists. The hosts mistakenly fell behind on 11 minutes after Kim Taehwan scored an own goal.

In the early minutes of the second half, Kim Insung composedly leveled things up for Ulsan when he neatly slotted home a rebound off the post inside the box. Pohang could have restored the lead again, but Stanislav Iljutcenko's header at point blank range was incredibly palmed away by Jo Hyunwoo off the line ten minutes before the game entered extra time.

Despite playing extra time, neither side was able to find a way past each goalkeeper. The winner was decided by a penalty shoot out where Jo Hyeonwoo made three incredible saves and put Ulsan through to the final.


Previous Meetings

The last meeting between Daegu FC and Ulsan Hyundai was quite recently played at Ulsan Munsu Stadium where the two sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw. The Horangi immediately went ahead from the break with a bit of luck thanks to an own goal from a Daegu defender before Cesinha leveled things up for the Sky Blues from the spot kick. Meanwhile, in their first meeting at Daegu's turf in mid-July, Ulsan bagged three points in a 3-1 win thanks to Shin Jinho and a brace from Junior Negrão.

Historically, the pair have clashed 43 times in the league with the Sky Blues winning only six times and the Horangi winning 25 times. In their recent ten meetings, Ulsan's dominance has been more obvious with six wins and four draws.

Team News

Daegu FC

With usual absentees like Hong Jungwoon (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) and Hwang Soonmin (fatigue fracture) on the injury list, Edgar da Silva (Achilles) and Kim Sunmin (unspecified) are major doubts for the Ulsan home fixture.

The former Buriram United striker played the last two games as a substitute until the Sky Blues secured the top six finish ahead of Seoul away. It looks like he was rested out as a precaution. Meanwhile, there's no update on Kim Sunmin, his place will be replaced by young midfielder Park Hanbin who has brought life back to the midfield.

Ulsan Hyundai

The biggest concern for Ulsan will be the fatigue on their regulars after playing 120 minutes in the midweek FA Cup game. As a result, there's some uncertainty in team selection.

Nevertheless, league leading goal scorer Junior Negrão with 24 goals, is likely to start after he only played 75 minutes last time as a substitute. Also, rookie Park Jungin is expected to be given a place as U22 player to freshen things up. Park Jooho, Kim Kihee, Lee Donggyeong and Jung Hoonsung who were unused subs or had limited playing time will be ready to replace tired players. 

What To Watch

How will caretaker Lee Byunggeun motivate the Sky Blues?

Ahead of this season, the citizen club publicly made it clear that their season goal is to earn an ACL spot next season after making the top six in the league in spite of the chaos caused by the sudden departure of former manager André Gaspar and Covid-19.

Caretaker Lee Byunggeun took over the post in a chaotic situation and has been steering the Sky Blues to the top six

With still five games to play in Final A Round, the Sky Blues appear to have already achieved their season goal after Seongnam FC's elimination in the FA Cup this Wednesday. Because Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai are the top two sides in the league, who also are into the FA Cup Final, and Sangju Sangmu's ineligibility, 5th place in the league where the Sky Blues are currently sitting will be guaranteed an ACL play-off spot.

In the current situation, there are not many things the Sky Blues can realistically achieve, but to keep their position in the table as they are seven points adrift of fourth placed Sangju Sangmu and six points ahead of Gwangju.

As a result, there seems nothing realistic left to fight for, but only for their pride. This could be a significant factor in playing against title contenders Ulsan. It will be down to the gaffer how he can keep the lads switched on and motivated for the remaining season.

Can Ulsan Hyundai get the job done?

Because of the fatigue issues on the Horangi, some extent of squad rotation will be expected and it will be interesting to see what decisions Kim Dohoon will make and how his side will fight against Daegu in their second attempt in a short turnaround.

Can manager Kim Dohoon prove his ability to hold his nerve?

In fact, the last time Ulsan hosted Daegu at home two weeks ago, manager Kim Dohoon rotated his side in preparation for Jeonbuk away, hoping that the rotated side would take three points. Unlike his wish, the Horangi appeared toothless, struggling to threaten the Sky Blues' defence enough with only two shots on target.

With only two points separating Jeonbuk and themselves, a tiny mistake could lead to a big consequence. Can they hold their nerve and get the job done?
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Daegu FC have advantages in terms of fitness and fatigue over Ulsan Hyundai, however, it still remains questionable about how motivated they are when they have already achieved their season goal. Even though Ulsan are knackered, they still have quality players fresh in the squad. I anticipate a narrow win for Ulsan.

Daegu FC 1-2 Ulsan Hyundai

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