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Unfancied Gwangju look to upset the odds

Travelling to Suwon Samsung Bluewings for their Hana Bank K League 1 opener this weekend, Kim Ho-young's first match in charge of Gwangju FC looks a tough one on paper. Peter Hampshire assesses the Yellows chances of confounding the pundits predictions.

Differing Winters

Gwangju's transfer business doesn't look too promising with key players departing in former captain Yeo Reum, centre back pairing Hong Joon-ho and Rustam Ashurmatov, plus influential winger Willyan. There are some causes for optimism though with new boss Kim managing to retain the services of talisman striker Felipe and valuable U-22 winger Eom Won-sang. Kim also acted shrewdly in the signing of Kim Jong-woo, who is set to face his former side on Sunday.

Kim Jong-woo in action for the Bluewings in 2019
Suwon meanwhile enjoyed an upturn in fortunes since the conclusion of 2020's K League 1 season. Finishing in Final Round B last term, they went on to put in an impressive performance in the Asian Champions League despite being knocked out by Vissel Kobe on penalties.

New signing Uroš Đerić looks to revitalise his K League career under Park Kun-ha with the 28-year-old hoping to form a good partnership with Bluewings stalwart Kim Gun-hee up front. Park also has Han Suk-jong to call upon in midfield, who impressed towards the end of last season, while Nicolao Dumitru arrives as an unknown quantity on the wing. 


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A Repeat Performance

Gwangju's last three fixtures against Suwon have produced vastly different performances from a side then managed by Park Jin-sub. Their last visit to the Big Bird saw Felipe stoop to bravely head home a last-minute winner, while the pairs' last meeting came in a 1-0 defeat for Gwangju, incidentally the Yellows first game at their new stadium. Despite being in K League 2 at the time, Gwangju also travelled north in 2019 for a resounding 3-0 FA Cup defeat. Gwangju's last victory at Suwon prior to last season came in 2016 with Song Seung-min, now back at Gwangju after spells at Pohang Steelers and Sangju Sangmu, among the goals in a 2-0 victory.

Song Seung-min in action for Gwangju at Suwon in 2017
Should Gwangju succeed in emulating their successful visit last season they will need Felipe to be at his bullying best. Early in the season at Round 5 last year, perhaps the Bluewings underestimated their newly-promoted opponents, but that doesn't seem likely this time around with Suwon under the astute management of Park Kun-ha. Interestingly, Gwangju switched from their preferred 4-3-2-1 to field a 5-3-1-1 on their last visit with Eom Won-sang and Willyan causing danger as attacking full backs. With 20-year-old Kim Tae-hwan looking likely to start as Suwon's U-22 option, perhaps this is an area Gwangju could exploit again.



FNR

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