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Preview: Pohang Steelers vs Suwon FC — Can Pohang Keep Up Their Form?

Pohang Steelers have been on a roll lately. They have just one loss in their last eight K League matches, earning 18 of a possible 24 points. Suwon FC on the other hand has been struggling. They have just one win in their last eight, earning four out of a possible 24 points. Pohang looks to close the gap between themselves and high-flying Ulsan, while Suwon FC needs a change to lift themselves away from the relegation zone. 

 Recent Form

As mentioned in the intro, the past few matches have been the best of times for Pohang, and the worst of times for Suwon FC. Over the past eight matches, Pohang have the third-best form in K League 1, behind just leaders Ulsan Hyundai and a revitalized Jeonbuk Hyundai. Suwon FC sit in 11th in that same table, ahead of Gangwon FC and one spot behind last-place Suwon Samsung. 

Pohang's good form may come as a surprise, due to the number of first-team injuries that they are dealing with, which will be covered later in the Team News section.

On the contrary, Suwon FC's poor form might come as a surprise. They brought in a number of winter signings that had high expectations come with them, including Yoon Bit-garam, Lee Gwang-hyeok and Lee Yong. 

Before the start of Round 20, Pohang sits second with 34 points, and Suwon FC is 10th with 19 points.

Team News 

In this match, Suwon FC are expected to bring a lot of change. After Murilo's departure, they have signed Ricardo Lopes, a Brazilian winger with loads of K League experience having spent five years in the league earlier in his career, one year with Jeju United and four with Jeonbuk Hyundai. Additionally, Lee Young-jae is expected to play after finishing military service, and Jeong Dong-ho is expected to return from injury soon. Shin Se-gye and Kim Hyun are also reported to be extending their playing time. Their rumored two new foreign signings, Walterson Silva and Hugo Gomes, will watch the match from the stands. 

[READ: The Next Kim Min-jae Or The First Kim Ji-soo?]

Pohang's squad won't see any additions when this match is played, but it will still have injuries to shake off. Over the international break, star Go Young-joon suffered a ruptured MCL in his right knee while playing against China for the U-24s, joining Jung Jae-hee, Kim Jong-woo, Sim Sang-min and Shin Kwang-hoon on the list of injured players. In the midweek FA Cup fixture, Park Seung-wook was taken off after he suffered a cut on his forehead following a clash. His availability for this match is unknown.

Despite losing several first-team players, Pohang has held up well. Pohang will hope that despite the losses, they can keep their good times going, while Suwon FC will hope that the new additions will help them steer the ship in the right direction. 

Head-to-Head

This match will be the 12th time that these two clubs meet. Suwon FC leads the series all-time, having six wins to Pohang's five. Four of these wins come from the 2016 K League Classic season. Suwon FC was relegated that season after finishing 12th but seemed to have Pohang's number that season, the aforementioned four wins being four of just ten wins for the side that season.

With Kim Gi-dong at the helm, the Steelers lead the series five to two, with this also being the head-to-head record between Kim Gi-dong and Kim Do-kyun. 

Pohang's 'Suwon FC killer' Lim Sang-hyub, who leads the series in goals with five, is no longer with the team, meaning they'll have to look for someone else to step up in his place. In the first meeting this March, Pohang won 2-1 thanks to goals from Go Young-joon and Jung Jae-hee, two players they will be without. 


What to Watch

Who steps up for Pohang, and who is on the bench for Suwon FC. 

As mentioned before, Pohang are without a number of key players and will need to rely on their depth until they return. Zeca has scored in two straight matches (Incheon United in the league and against Gangwon FC in the FA Cup) and played for half of the FA Cup win. 

Suwon FC has been known to start two U-22 players and substitute them early into the match in order to use all 5 substitutions. They usually pick Jang Jae-woong and Jung Jae-yun two wingers. Suwon FC has quite a few options when it comes to over-22 players in these positions. Lee Seung-woo, Lee Gwang-hyeok and Ricardo Lopes are all capable options, and it is hard to see a situation in which all three of them can share the field in their 4-2-3-1 that they use most often. Lee Young-jae's play and how he is re-integrated into this Suwon FC side will be crucial not just for this match but for the rest of their season.

This season, Pohang have been one of the best home teams in K League 1, recording six wins, two draws and just one loss. Meanwhile, Suwon FC have been the worst away team in K League 1, with juse one win, two draws and five losses. Pohang will want to keep the good times coming, as they are unbeaten in their last three K League matches and have won their last three home games. 

Expected XIs

Pohang: 4-2-3-1
Hwang In-jae
Kim Yong-hwan, Ha Chang-rae, Alex Grant, Wanderson
Oberdan, Kim Jun-ho
Kim In-sung, Kim Seung-dae, Baek Sung-dong
Zeca


Suwon FC: 4-2-3-1
Park Bae-jong
Lee Yong, Kim Hyun-hun, Jackson Lachlan, Park Cheol-woo
Lee Yeong-jae, Yoon Bit-garam
Jang Jae-woong, Lee Seung-woo, Jung Jae-yun
Lars Veldwijk

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