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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Seongnam FC


Gangwon FC return to action in the K League on Saturday, when they host fourth-placed Seongnam FC at the Gangneung Civil Stadium. Kim Byung-soo’s men will be eyeing getting back to winning ways when they meet Seongnam, who remain unbeaten after their two games so far this term. However, it remains to be seen whether ‘Byung-soo Ball’ can prevail over the high-flying Magpies of Seongnam. Guest writer Nived Zenith previews the match.



Last Time Out

Sangju Sangmu 2-0 Gangwon FC

Despite their impressive 3-1 win over FC Seoul during the opening weekend of the 2020 K League season, Gangwon FC were handed a shock defeat by Sangju Sangmu in their last outing. Kim Byung-soo’s men travelled to Sangju with the aim of putting pressure on the other top-six aspirants by securing three points, but succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against the military men.
Kim Tae-wan’s hosts suffered a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Ulsan Hyundai in their opening game, but climbed off the bottom of the league table with their win over Gangwon. The visitors were handed their first blow as early as the 23rd minute, when Kang Sang-woo was brought down with a clumsy tackle inside the penalty area.

The 26-year-old broke the deadlock from the resulting penalty, as the hosts drew first blood in Sangju. Gangwon showed signs of promise before the halftime interval, but Jung Seok-hwa was unable to do justice to the service provided by his teammates on two separate occasions.
Sangju sealed the win in the 78th minute, when Moon Seon-min came off the bench and completed the rout with a neat finish from a one-on-one chance.



Seongnam FC 0-0 Incheon United

The Magpies also began their 2020 K League campaign with an impressive win away from home against Gwangju FC. However, they were held to a disappointing stalemate by ninth-placed Incheon United in their last game.

Kim Nam-il’s Seongnam were far from the electrifying unit that enjoyed a quick-fire double over Gwangju in their opening game and ultimately failed to keep up pace with the likes of Jeonbuk Motors and Ulsan Hyundai at the summit of the table.
Incheon, who have yet to score in both their stalemates against Daegu FC and Seongnam respectively this term, retained their unbeaten record away from home against the hosts with the result last weekend.

In spite of the result, Seongnam remain in the top half of the table with four points from their two games so far this season.



Previous Meetings

During the 2019 K League season, Gangwon and Seongnam locked horns with each other on three instances. Gangwon, who finished in the top half last season, emerged 2-1 winners during the first two meetings, while Seongnam secured a narrow 1-0 win at home in the final game between the sides back in September last year.

Overall, both teams have met each other on 21 separate occasions, with Seongnam holding an edge over Gangwon. The Magpies have won 11 games and played out three draws, while losing just seven times.

On the other hand, Gangwon have managed just 7 wins against their counterparts, with only three of them coming on their home turf in Chuncheon. Coincidentally, Seongnam boast an impressive record away from home in this fixture, owing to their six wins on the road against Gangwon.

Team News

Gangwon FC have yet to involve their only foreign player Takahiro Nakazato so far this season, with the Japanese midfielder sitting out from both their games. However, Kim Byung-soo’s domestic recruits have quickly settled in at their new surroundings, especially considering all of Kim Sueng-dae, Lim Chae-min, Kim Young-bin and Lee Bum-soo have started in both the games till now.
Shin Se-gye and Ko Mu-yeol continue to wait for their full league debut for Gangwon, who seem to prefer a 4-3-3 formation from the get-go. The hosts are the only team, apart from military outfit Sangju Sangmu, with no foreigners in their ranks with the exception of Nakazato, who fills the mandatory AFC player quota.

Seongnam are unbeaten in the league so far and have lined up in two different formations during their games against Gwangju FC and Incheon United respectively, in recent weeks. The Magpies strengthened their foreign contingent with the addition of Jamshid Iskanderov from Lokomotiv Tashkent during the close season.

The Uzbekistan international made his debut during the stalemate against Incheon United and is expected to feature against Gangwon on Saturday. However, both Tomislav Kis and Igor Jovanovic have yet to make an appearance so far, with the former remaining an unused substitute in both the games.

The Adversary

Seongnam kicked off their 2020 K League campaign in emphatic fashion against Gwangju FC by securing an impressive 2-0 win away from home during the opening weekend. The Magpies finished ninth last season and following a root and branch shake-up in their dugout, they were tipped to battle the likes of Gwangju and Incheon United to avoid relegation.

Despite their commendable start to the season, stronger tests await Seongnam in the coming weeks and the trip to face Gangwon will be followed by another clash away from home to FC Seoul. Kim Nam-il will be hoping to build on their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, but they will need more than their blunt display against Incheon to walk away with three points from Gangneung.
Additionally, it remains to be seen whether Nam-il hands a starting role to Tomislav Kis, who netted 27 goals in Lithuania last season, to work in tandem with Uzbek international Jamshid Iskanderov.

Who To Watch

Kim Ji-hyun

The K League Young Player of the Year from 2019 has enjoyed an impressive start to his new season at Gangwon. Despite only making two appearances off the bench for his team so far this term, Ji-hyun has earned the plaudits for his impressive performances.

The 23-year-old netted the opening goal for Gangwon during their impressive 3-1 win over FC Seoul in the opening weekend, while also making a briefly inspiring appearance during their defeat at Sangju Sangmu. Despite not being able to secure a win for his side, Kim impressed with his interplay between the front-three during the 2-0 loss at Sangju.

Yang Dong-hyen

The veteran striker was the driving force behind Seongnam’s opening weekend win over Gwangju FC. Yang completed a quick first-half brace to seal the win for his side, who were the lowest scorers in the K League last season.

Owing to their poor form in front of goal last season, where they netted just 30 times from 38 games, the onus is on Yang to rediscover the Magpies’ shooting boots during the 2020 campaign.
However, the 34-year-old failed to find the back of the net against Incheon United and will be eyeing drawing inspiration from his opening weekend exploits during the clash against Gangwon on Saturday.

Prediction

Even though Gangwon finished three places and five points ahead of Seongnam in the K League last season, the Magpies have enjoyed a better start to the ongoing campaign. Despite being pipped as relegation favourites at the beginning of the season, it seems like Kim Nam-il can fight for a better finish this term.

As a result, I feel Seongnam can avoid defeat against Gangwon and maybe even secure maximum points, should they replicate another blitzkrieg start to the game.

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