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Preview: FC Seoul vs Incheon United


Incheon United head to FC Seoul on the final day of the season knowing a win keeps them in the Hana 1Q K League 1. A draw, coupled with a Seongnam defeat, should also see the Mariners retain their top-flight status, while defeat consigns them to K League 2. Simon Farnsworth previews the encounter. 

Last Time Out

FC Seoul 1-1 Gangwon FC
Over 2,600 fans were in attendance as FC Seoul and Gangwon played out an entertaining draw in Sangam. Seoul's Park Chu-young opened the scoring in the 70th minute with a cheeky free-kick, before Go Moo-yol poked home an equalizer 10 minutes later, following excellent work from Lee Jae-kwon.

The visitors started brightly and missed arguably the best chance of the game in the 31st minute when Jeong Ji-yong cut through a disorganized Seoul backline only to shoot tamely at Yang Han-been.

Seoul grew into the game as the half wore on, and Han Chan-hee, Cho Young-wook, and Han Seung-gyu all fired wide from good positions. Han Seung-gyu, who was deployed on the left-wing, came closest, cutting inside onto his favoured right foot before curling an effort just past the post in the 41st minute.   

Gangwon tested Yang Han-been three times in the opening ten minutes of the second half, but it was Seoul who went closest to breaking the deadlock: Gangwon failed to deal with a Kim Jin-ya cross, and Cho Young-wook latched onto the loose ball, slamming a thunderbolt against the post. 

Park Chu-young came off the bench in the 67th minute and took just three minutes to open the scoring and net his fourth goal of the campaign. Lee Bum-soo - like everyone in the stadium - expected Park to cross from a free-kick that was in line with the penalty spot on the left-wing. Park had other ideas, whipping a shot goalbound that Lee could only palm into the net. 

Parity was restored 10 minutes from time when Lee Jae-kwon combined an industrious run with some touches of ingenuity to set up Go Moo-yol for a simple tap in. Lee burst into the box, scoping the ball over one defender before pirouetting and flicking the ball past a shellshocked Seoul backline for Go to net his eighth goal of the season.


Incheon United 2-1 Busan IPark
Incheon kept their survival hopes alive thanks to two goals in two frantic second-half minutes. However, it took a couple of unbelievable last-ditch goalline blocks to ensure Incheon head into the final day of the season with a realistic shot at staying in the top-flight. 

The first half sprang into life in the 44th minute when Busan opened the scoring through dangerman Lee Dong-jun. Lee Sang-jun galloped down the left flank, beating Kim Jun-bum for pace and power, and delivered a fizzing cross into the box that Lee Tae-hui could only push towards the unmarked Lee Dong-jun, who headed home with ease.

Incheon almost equalized immediately as Kim Jun-bum crossed for Stefan Mugoša, but Choi Pil-soo scrambled across his goalline to claw the Montenegrin's header to safety, ensuring the visitors led at the break.  

Mugoša, Incheon's top scorer, turned provider in the 75th minute when he delivered an inviting cross into the box for Kim Dae-jung to head home. The game flipped on its head just 90 seconds later when Jung Dong-yun waltzed through the Busan backline and his shot took a slight deflection before nestling into the bottom corner. Cue understandably wild  - and socially distanced - scenes in the stands.

What followed will go down in Incheon United folklore: In the 88th minute, Busan pushed forward. Park Joon-kang arrowed an inch-perfect delivery into the box. Lee Tae-hui was caught in no man's land, but he produced a fine save from a powerful header. The drama was just getting started: Lee's save looped into the six-yard box, and it looked for all the world like Kang Min-soo had an easy tap in. Step forward Rashid Mahazi who heroically lunged towards Kang and somehow managed to poke the ball away. However, the ball fell to a totally unmarked Lee Jung-hyub, who had the goal at his mercy, but Lee Tae-hui flung out a leg and managed to divert the striker's shot to safety. Madness. 


Previous Meetings

Incheon have won four of the last ten Gyeongin Derbies, with Seoul winning three and the sides sharing the spoils on three occasions. In September, a solitary Song Si-woo strike was enough to secure Incheon's first victory over Seoul since November 2018 - the capital club had won the previous three meetings. Elías Aguilar was at his creative best for the Mariners in R21; superbly setting up Song Si-woo for the game's only goal, while Stefan Mugoša missed a couple of golden chances to open his account against Seoul. The Montenegrin marksman has failed to hit the back of the net against Seoul in six appearances. 

Team News


Seoul fans may finally get a glimpse of Ki Sung-yueng in the flesh. Injuries have blighted Ki's return, limiting the former national team skipper to just five substitute appearances. The latest of which was a 10-minute cameo vs Seongnam in R25. However, Ki didn't make the bench in R26. It's hoped that Ki will make some kind of appearance on Saturday in front of Seoul fans for the first time since returning. 

Former Incheon man Kim Jin-ya has struggled to nail down a position in the starting XI following his move to Seoul from the Mariners. The youngster hasn't managed to oust Yoon Jong-gyu from the right-back spot and has had to settle with cameos as a winger. Last weekend, he even turned out at left-back. Expect Ko Kwang-min to replace Kim this weekend. 

Don't expect too much change from the Incheon side that fought back to win three points against Busan. Jo Sung-hwan will likely name an unchanged side - although Kim Dae-jung is pushing for a start after coming off the bench and impressing against Busan. The visitors are still without the suspended Kim Ho-nam following his red card against Gangwon in R25.


The Adversary 

It took Incheon 16 attempts to win their first league game this season, but somehow their K League 1 status is in their hands heading into the final day of the season. It's a testament to their character - but also a pretty damning indictment of the other sides who have been sucked into a relegation battle.

At the heart of Incheon's resurgence is Stefan Mugoša. The 28-year-old has bagged 12 goals this season - all of which have come away from home. Mugoša's form on the road is a huge cause of optimism for Incheon heading into R27 - especially as Seoul have the leakiest defence in the league.

Elsewhere, Kim Do-hyuk has been an integral part of Jo Sung-hwan's side with the midfielder playing more minutes (1,946) than any other Incheon player this season. 


What To Watch


Can Incheon pull off the most remarkable escape? 
Or will the Mariners buckle under the pressure? Incheon have 90 minutes to save their season: Win, and they guaranteed another season in the top-flight. It's as simple as that. Already-safe-Seoul might be unbeaten in two, but they've looked far from convincing. On paper, Seoul are the perfect opponent for a side who are in a do-or-die battle to stay up. 

Can Seoul find a way to stop Mugoša?
Seoul's backline has looked stronger with the experienced Yun Young-sun slotting in at CB, but in Mugoša, Incheon have one of the league's leading strikers. Expect the Montenegrin to come out all guns blazing. He's a different beast away from home. It's not just Mugoša that Seoul will have to pay special attention to as Song Si-woo has netted three goals in six Gyeongin Derbies.

Can Seoul finish the season on a high? 
Doubtful. It's been a horror season for Seoul: The club has lacked a plan on and off the field this season. Recruitment was, on the whole, woeful and tactics have been baffling at times. But Seoul have some talented youngsters and experienced pros who could prosper next season under the right manager. 


FNR

Prediction

We should have known better than to doubt Incheon - even if they took 16 games to win a game. Great escapes are woven into their footballing DNA - and many predict they'll be celebrating come full time. Seoul have laboured their way to safety after a turgid season and provide a soft target for what will be a fired-up Incheon side. 

Don't expect Seoul just to roll over, however. They still have a number of exciting youngsters in their ranks, none more so than Cho Young-wook, that can hurt Incheon. But, as a collective over the course of the season, Seoul have been miles off the pace. Expect Incheon to rise to the occasion - despite some nervy patches - and leave the World Cup Stadium with all three points. 

Prediction: FC Seoul 1-2 Incheon United.

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