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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Daegu FC

Table-toppers Ulsan Hyundai welcome Daegu FC to Munsu Stadium this Saturday for the first of three crucial games in eight days for Kim Do-hoon's men.  The two teams are in vastly different form at the moment with Daegu shipping goals, but they are unbeaten in their last three trips to Ulsan.  Can the Sky Blue's take points off the Horangi again, or will Ulsan grab a morale-boosting victory before Tuesday night's showndown with Jeonbuk? 

Last Time Out

Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Gwangju FC
Jeonbuk's loss at Seongnam the day before handed Ulsan the chance to go seven points clear at the top of K League 1. However, not for the first time this season, they were left frustrated by a 1-1 draw with battling Gwangju.

The Horangi looked somewhat out-of-sorts in the first half, and conceded on 23 minutes when Willyan nodded home a cross from Eom Won-sang after Ulsan failed to clear their lines.

It was all Ulsan in the second half though, and Kim Do-hoon's men got their equaliser just before the hour mark through who else but Junior Negrao.  The Brazilian's diving header took his tally to 22 goals in 19 appearances this season; he is now just one goal shy of guaranteeing himself the best goals-to-game ratio in K League history. 

Junior had a late chance to get that goal and all three points for the hosts, but Yoon Pyeong-gook in the Gwangju net blocked his close range shot.


Pohang Steelers 3-2 Daegu FC 
Daegu's miserable form continued last weekend as they came unstuck at a soggy Steelyard.  The Sky Blues led twice thanks to two first half goals from their captain Cesinha either side of a Palocevic penalty.

It was all Pohang after the break though. Daegu's young back three struggled to keep up with the likes of Palacios and Song Min-kyu, and indeed it was those two pacy forwards who bagged the goals that gave the Steelers the victory.

Defeat for Lee Byung-geun's team meant they have taken just one point from their last five games and are looking over their shoulder at a raft of teams closing in below them.
 


Previous Meetings

Ulsan are still undefeated in seventeen league games with Daegu at Munsu Stadium. However, the visitors have taken a point from their last two trips to the southeast coast -- 0-0 and 1-1 draws last season.

The Horangi's last home win over Daegu came in July 2018 when now Ulsan shot-stopper Jo Hyeon-woo was sent off for handling outside his area. With all subs used, midfielder Ryu Jae-mun had to take Jo's place between the sticks and did well, only conceding a single goal in stoppage time. 

In the match earlier this year the Horangi came out on top 1-3 at DGB Arena thanks to a goal from Shin Jin-ho and a brace from Junior against his former team.

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Team News

Ulsan Hyundai 
Kim Do-hoon will undoubtedly have one eye on his side's crucial trip to Jeonbuk on Tuesday night, so expect some rotation in preparation for that.

Most notably, first choice defenders Dave Bulthuis and Kim Tae-hwan are both one booking away from suspension, meaning Kim will likely rest both players to avoid either being suspended for the Hyundai Derby. Kim Ki-hee and Seol Yong-woo should get the nod for Saturday instead. 

With a trio of games in eight days coming up, it is unlikely Junior will start all three. Bjorn Johnsen could be handed a rare start on Saturday as the lone striker, although he may be used as a surprise element against Jeonbuk instead. 


Daegu FC
The big news as far as Daegu are concerned is that young central defender Jo Jin-woo is suspended. The 20-year-old has made quite the impact since his arrival from Matsumoto Yamaga in the J League, making 15 appearances in his debut season with the Sky Blues. However, Jo will sit this one out having received his fifth booking of the campaign at Pohang last weekend.

Another player missing on Saturday is Brazilian marksman Edgar.  The 33-year-old's absence through injury has been cited as one of the reasons for Daegu's downturn in form. Expect Cesinha to carry much of Daegu's attacking threat then, aided by Kim Dae-won and Dejan Damjanovic. 


What to Watch

This match will mark a couple of significant milestones for Ulsan.

First, it will be Kim Do-hoon's 200th match in charge of a K League team. Kim took over the Horangi for the 2017 campaign after two relatively successful years with Incheon United. He guided his side tho their first ever FA Cup title in his first season at Munsu Stadium and has made steady progress since then. His overall win percentage is 45%, but that jumps to 53% of his 133 games in charge of Ulsan.

It will also be a significant evening for Ulsan's playmaker Yoon Bit-garam, who will be making his 300th K League appearance.  The 30-year-old Changwon native came through the ranks at his hometown club of Gyeongnam FC in 2010, and has gone on to play for Seongnam, Jeju, Sangju, and now Ulsan. In his 299 matches so far, Yoon has notched up exactly 50 goals along with 41 assists.

Prediction

These two teams could not be in more different form: Ulsan have eight wins and two draws from their last ten, while Daegu have won three, drawn one, and lost six in that time -- not the kind of run that will lead to Champions League qualification.

But while the Sky Blues have been shipping goals of late (nine in two games), they are unlikely to be so gung-ho when Saturday comes. They have shown that they can be compact and organised when they decide to settle for a point, while Ulsan can struggle to break teams down as they showed against Gwangju last week.

A home win is still the most probable outcome, but should Daegu decide to bunker down with a back five, the Horangi will not find the victory as easy as the form guide suggests.


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