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Cheonan City vs. Suwon Samsung: Bluewings smell sweet revenge

The last time Suwon faced Cheonan, the wheels were firmly coming off Yeom Ki-hun's disastrous reign. The Bluewings were booed off while Cheonan celebrated a famous victory at the home of a former K League powerhouse. Will Cheonan make it two-from-two or can Suwon exact revenge for that miserable night in Bird Bird? K League United will be there to report on all the action.

Match details

Match: Cheonan City FC vs. Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Date: Saturday, July 13th, 2024. 19:30.
Venue: Cheonan Stadium. Capacity 26,000.
Tickets: Interpark. Prices start at ₩8,000.
How to watch: K League TV.

Record so far

Cheonan City FC
Played: 20 Won: 5 Drew: 6 Lost: 9 Points: 21
Goals For: 23 Goals Against: 31 
Position: 10th

Suwon Samsung
Played: 19 Won: 7 Drew: 5 Lost: 7 Points: 26
Goals For: 24 Goals Against: 15
Position: 6th

Cheonan City are only four points shy of last season's total of 25, underlining the significant improvements made this season. They currently sit 10th, four points above bottom spot, but only five points behind their visitors on Saturday. Their home form is a cause for concern; Cheonan are winless in 10 all season, picking up just three draws, and have notched four losses on the bounce. On Tuesday night, they were floored in Anyang, although Bruno Mota was a sensational save away from opening the scoring inside three minutes. A win on Saturday would be incredible.

From the dizzy heights of first following April's demolition of Anyang, the Bluewings went on an extraordinary losing streak, tumbling down the table in the process. The fatal blow to Yeom Ki-hun's reign came in Round 15 when the Bluewings tossed away a 1-0 lead with five minutes remaining, to lose 3-1 against Seoul E-Land. Yeom walked away, and Byun Sung-hwan took over in the hot seat. Since then, Suwon are five unbeaten, but four of those are draws, including against Ansan Greeners. The rot has stopped but the Bluewings aren't exactly flying again.

Byun Sung-hwan needs wins, not draws, if Suwon are to haul back FC Anyang.

Double Trouble spells danger for everyone else

Bruno Mota and Paulinho. The Suwon back line will likely be having nightmares when the Brazilian pair take the field on Saturday. Mota will be discussed below, so let's focus on Paulinho. There's a reason the number 10 has been linked with K League 1 clubs this summer. First and foremost, he'd absolutely walk into the Bluewings lineup if there was a slight tactical change. Paulinho is a set-piece expert, quick, and has an eye for a goal. Undoubtedly the Bluewings are already aware of his talents; he will punish Suwon if given the chance.

The question is whether Cheonan, despite the obvious improvements, are taking advantage of their 9 and 10. Mota has nine goals and three assists in 20 games. Paulinho has seven goals in 15 games. The rest of the squad has combined for seven total goals. Cheonan are a team set up to play on the road. They have the target man who can score winning goals (Mota) with the pace and finishing ability of his partner (Paulinho). It explains why Cheonan are the second-best team away - 18 points from 10 games - but are the worst team in the country on their home turf.

Kim Tae-wan's side were ripped apart in the second half on Monday in Anyang. Mota nearly scored the goal of the season, but after that, the leaders were in control. One of the goals came from a defensive error, but the other two were outstanding individual finishes. While the final score doesn't look healthy, Cheonan will feel if they can restrict Suwon's key playmakers to half chances and little space, a surprise isn't impossible. Suwon are, after all, terrible away from Big Bird and haven't won on the road for three months.

The rot has stopped, but now's the time to push on

Since taking over in early June, new manager Byun Sung-hwan has had five games to implement his style, helped initially by the opening of the transfer window. Suwon had been quiet on the former, except for a clever swap deal of Kazuki Kozuka for Peter Makrillos. For whatever reason, the Japanese midfielder hasn't had the impact we expected after some promising displays in K League 1. Makrillos is exactly what they needed; a heads-up central midfielder who transitions the ball quickly between defense and attack. Sometimes Suwon look so labored and one-paced in this facet of the game.

Then, on Tuesday, the club announced they had sold first-team players Jeon Jin-woo and Yoo Je-ho to Jeonbuk Hyundai. At the time of writing, only young forward Lee Kyu-song has arrived on loan from Jeonbuk.

Peter Makrillos has been a good signing so far.
Byun has, in the last four games, settled for a 4-3-3 formation. Goalkeeper and captain Yang Hyeon-mo would be an ever-present apart from injury. Lee Ki-jae, back in from the cold, has started four times for the new man. Crucially, a defensive partnership has properly emerged in the form of Jo Yoon-sung and Baek Dong-kyu. Previously, the Bluewings were erratic and chaotic at times. Kim Ju-chan has been ever present on the right side of the front three but the manager has rotated his central striker and midfield options.

Makrillos' impact has already been discussed, and then there's Kim Bo-kyung. Another experienced international who was left largely on the sidelines of the previous regime was recently nominated for player of the month. Having sat out the Ansan game, Kim is in line to return on Saturday, alongside Makrillos and either Lee Jong-seong or Kim Sang-jun. The talent is there to mount a title challenge, but the draws are adding up and Anyang have opened up a significant gap.

Key men

Bruno Mota
Bruno Mota celebrtaes his winning goal at the Suwon World Cup Stadium in May.
Bruno Mota's second-half strike settled May's encounter and the hosts will again look to the big Brazilian to ruffle the Suwon rearguard. Mota can play at a higher level, so it is surprising to see him still toiling away with Cheonan. He reminds me of Daegu's Edgar from a few seasons back; Bruno bullied the Suwon defense in Big Bird, went close with a long drive in the first half, and then punished some shambolic defending and tracking back for the winner. Lee Jong-seong, asleep at the wheel, was unaware of Bruno's presence even after they collided on the edge of the box. Another lapse will lead to a Cheonan goal this weekend.

Suwon need a motivated and selfless Kim Bo-kyung to help them charge up the table.
Kim Bo-kyung

After sitting on the bench for the costly draw with Ansan Greeners, the 35-year-old Kim Bo-kyung will likely take his place in the starting eleven in Cheonan. The 38-times capped international has emerged as a key figure under Byun's early reign, being nominated for player of the month. With Yoo Je-ho now wearing 81 in Jeonju, Kim should line up next to Makrillos and one other. Kim has the experience to guide Suwon towards the top of the table, but the issue with some of Suwon's better paid (and more experienced players) is whether they want to be there; is there a fight in the belly of, say, Kim Bo-kyung and Lee Ki-jae? The jury remains out.

That May night

The weather was atrocious the night Cheonan City rolled out of Big Bird with all three points in just their second year playing at this level. The boos which greeted the final whistle were loader than the alarm bells ringing in the bowels of the stadium. Yeom Ki-hun hung on for a few more weeks but he was a dead man walking and everyone knew it. The fatal blow inflicted by Bruno Mota, Cheonan's star man. He waltzed into a goal-scoring position because Lee Jung-seong was caught ball-watching. It was systematic of Suwon's problems under Yeom; as we know, it only got worse.


The recent upheaval can't have helped the situation around Big Bird, but the starting XI is good enough to claim all three points. With the away end sold out in seconds, the team will be under pressure to deliver a long over-due away win - 83 days since Suwon last won on the road - but they'll have to keep Cheonan's front pair quiet; a combination that is more lethal than anything the Bluewings have.

Cheonan City FC 1-2 Suwon Samsung

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