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Preview: Gwangju and FC Seoul Scrap for Points

Hana 1Q K League 1's bottom two meet in Gwangju this weekend as Kim Ho-young's Yellows host a struggling FC Seoul side looking for a vital boost ahead of a month-long break from action. With pressure on both sides to pull away from the bottom, who can keep their cool to earn a potentially season-defining three points? Peter Hampshire looks at who could provide an edge for either side.

Basement Battle - Saturday June 19th - 16:30 KST

Gwangju haven't won in seven and have failed to score in four of those. Three goalless games in their last four at home, earning just one point, demonstrates how toothless Kim Ho-young's side have been in attack of late. However, an exception to this was the 4-3 defeat to Suwon Bluewings in their last home outing. Perhaps reverting to their gung-ho tactics of last season under current Seoul boss Park Jin-sub, Gwangju thought they had equalised through a 95th-minute penalty against Suwon but still contrived to lose the game.


Without a win in their last 10, pressure is mounting upon Park Jin-sub in his first season at Sangam. With the quality at their disposal there is no doubt that the capital club should be performing better but there have been sparks of quality this season that suggest a top six finish is not unattainable. Their last win was on the road at the Big Bird in a 2-1 victory against Super Match rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings. Immediately prior to that they beat Gwangju at home as Seoul's season looked to be getting into second gear. Na Sang-ho leveled after Kim Ju-gong's penalty had gifted Gwangju the lead, before Ki Sung-yueng grabbed a late winner.

Predicted Starting Line-ups

Eom Won-sang, Kim Jin-ya and Cho Young-wook have all been drafted into Kim Hak-beom's latest Olympic squad due to meet in Paju for training next Tuesday, so this may be their last opportunity to form part of their respective groups for a while. Gwangju have enjoyed a fairly settled line-up this season, whereas Park Jin-sub has tinkered on an almost weekly basis, a familiar trait to Yellows fans from his time down south.

What to Watch - Felipe's Absence

Talisman Felipe's future is under constant speculation amid reported interested from Daejeon Hana Citizen among others this week. While the Brazilian striker only has three goals in 13 appearances to his name this season, there's no doubt he is vital to Gwangju's style of play. Without him they are blunt in attack with Eom Won-sang left to imitate a number nine and try to use his pace to pressure defenders into mistakes. Without Felipe, Gwangju often resemble a side putting square pegs in round holes with a squad flooded with natural wingers playing out of position.

Since playing 61 minutes in defeat to Incheon United, Felipe has missed three games in which Gwangju have failed to find the net twice. However, their expected goals (xG) has remained quite high and shots are still finding the target. While it may seem obvious to point out the difference in physicality between starting Felipe and Eom Won-sang as lone strikers, the stats back this up, with Eom Won-sang winning just 18% of aerials duels compared to Felipe's 47%. Fans at Gwangju's stadium have grown frustrated in recent home games as Gwangju continue to hit long balls for Eom to chase.

Who to Watch - Lee Ji-hun

Lee Ji-hun has settled in as Gwangju's first-choice right back this season with only Kim Won-sik and 19-year-old Eom Ji-sung featuring in more games for the Yellows in 2021. Signed from Suwon FC in the last transfer window, Lee forms part of a defence that has completed the second most interceptions in the league this season. Gwangju have also competed for the most aerial duels this term, but rank bottom for success in those duels.


While Gwangju's defensive frailties are there for all to see, FC Seoul should keep a close eye on Lee Ji-hun on Saturday, especially when the 27-year-old ventures forward. Gwangju are the second most accurate crossers in the league and while Lee Ji-hun does not rank highly for accuracy compared to teammates Kim Ju-gong and Eom Ji-sung, he has put in 66 crosses from the right flank this season. To put Lee's importance in this regard into context, the second most common crosser is Lee Min-ki (37) followed by Eom Ji-sung (23).
FNR

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