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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Seongnam FC

The most shocking, devastating, and heartbreaking loss of Seongnam FC this season was made by Incheon United last weekend. Despite the importance of the match to avoid demotion, the Magpies lost to the United with the score 6-0, and even lost their captain Yeon Je-woon due to a red card. If you remember Seongnam's outstanding performances back in May, the current form is worse than just being disappointing. This Sunday, the Gyeonggi-based team is visiting Gangwon for one of the most important matches of the season. Will the Magpies put an end to their three consecutive losses and make this a turning point? Or, will Gangwon add three more points to the league table and secure their place on the top of the Split B?

Last Time Out

Busan IPark 0-2 Gangwon FC

Busan, the 11th-place team that need a win desperately considering Incheon's recent superb form, faced Gangwon at home. The home team brought a 4-2-3-1 formation that they are very familiar with, using Lee Jung-hyup as the center forward and focusing on link-up plays between him and Lee Dong-jun. Gangwon also brought their main formation, 4-3-3, with Cho Jae-wan and Kim Seung-dae off the squad.

It was a tight game, but the accuracy declared the winner. Although both teams have similar number of shots (Gangwon 7, Busan 5) and made several good chances, Busan did not have the sharpness that Ko Mu-yeol and Lee Young-jae of Gangwon showed in game. Thanks to Ko's goal in the 51st minute and Lee's goal in the 87th minute, the away team achieved a victory and became 7th place team, getting the top position of the Split B.

Seongnam FC 0-6 Incheon United

Two teams that are desperate to survive in K League 1 clashed at Tancheon Sports Complex. Seongnam, the team that gave a rest to majority of the Best XI players during the FA Cup Semi-final against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, brought their best lineup with a hope to achieve a victory against the lowest-place team Incheon. Both teams brought 3-5-2 formations, the home team putting emphasis on Na Sang-ho and the away team expecting much from Stefan Mugoša.

The match started to shift towards Incheon in the second minute. Yeon Je-woon, the Magpies captain, received a red card for his aggressive foul right outside the penalty box, and that was the start of the tragedy. Starting with Kim Joon-beom's goal in the 11th minute, Incheon scored 6 goals throughout the game while the home team could not make any definitive chance. Seongnam tried only three shots in the whole game while the United tried 15 shots and sent 12 of them on target. Incheon could finally escape from the lowest place on the league table with this victory, and the Magpies now seriously have to worry about getting demoted to K League 2.

Previous Meetings

Gangwon and Seongnam have met 22 times total in K League 1, with Seongnam winning ten games and losing seven.

The last match they faced each other in was the K League 1 fixture that took place on July 25th, 2020, at Seongnam's home. The Magpies started the match with a 3-2-4-1 formation that they've been using since the match against Jeonbuk. Gangwon brought a 4-3-3 formation that focused on harsh pressure and fast attack progression, with Kim Seung-dae on the bench.

The home team had dominance over the away team in the first half. Seongnam tried six shots during the first 45 minutes, while Gangwon could only take one. The impressive part was the pressure in the midfield that the Magpies were putting on the Bears, as an insufficient amount of pressure in the midfield has been the Gyeonggi-based team's weakness this season. In the second half, Gangwon played more offensively and made five shots, but they weren't very meaningful ones as none of those were on target. Both teams seemed to be participating in the match carefully as they have the FA Cup fixture next week, and the game ended 0-0.

Team News

Because of receiving a direct red card in the second minute due to an obvious foul outside the penalty box, team captain Yeon Je-woon is going to be suspended for the next two league matches. It is even more surprising considering that Yeon did not receive a single yellow card last season. Compared to that, Gangwon don't have any players on suspension, and will be able to use the players that were on the pitch against Busan for this match.
Current league standings have Seongnam, Incheon, and Busan on the lowest. Seongnam have 22 points, and Incheon & Busan both have 21 points. That means, if the Magpies lose the match against Gangwon and the United & the IPark win or draw, Seongnam can be placed 12th. Because Sangju's demotion to K League 2 is already finalized, only the 12th place team will be demoted this season, and the battle between Seongnam, Incheon, and Busan is an exciting viewpoint for other teams' fans.

Because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak in multiple cities, the South Korean government prohibited the entry of fans again in late August in order to slow down the spread of the virus, and the re-entry does not seem to happen soon as the circumstances regarding COVID-19 isn't improving.

Who To Watch

Lee Chang-yong
The worst-case scenario has happened. Captain Yeon Je-woon, who was the commander of the defensive line of Seongnam, has to be off the pitch during the most important period of the season for the Magpies. We all know that the Gyeonggi-based team's offensive performances have been pretty disappointing throughout the whole season, but the strong defense was what kept the Magpies away from the danger of being demoted. The ultimate leader of the squad is gone, and it's the time for the followers to take initiative. If I have to choose another defender that can replace Yeon's role, it would be Lee Chang-yong. The 30-year-old defender has been showing a concrete performance throughout the season, and achieved a spot on the Best XI of Seongnam while the original starters such as Igor Jovanović and Ma Sang-hoon have been struggling. Unless Lee shows an impressive leadership in the game and protect the goal from the strongest attackers in the Split B, it will be very difficult for the Magpies to get the victory.

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Gangwon FC 3-0 Seongnam FC

Although football can't be calculated with mathematical equations, it's just simply impossible to find variables that indicate the away team's victory. The team morale, recent performance, squad depth, player loss, among any category one might bring up, Gangwon has the lead. The Magpies' defensive line will struggle without its leader, and will have a difficult time facing the rapid attackers of the Bears.

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