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Daegu FC Hottest Ticket in Town as Suwon FC make K League 1 Return

Daegu FC
K League 1 Round 1: Daegu FC v Suwon FC. Two sides coming off a successful season lock horns, with Suwon FC making their first top flight appearance after four years in the second tier. KLU columnist Todd Wilde previews this fascinating encounter between two sides that have undergone significant changes in the off season.

Match: Daegu FC vs Suwon FC (Hana Bank K League 1, Round 1).

Venue: DGB Daegu Bank Park, Daegu.

Kick off: Saturday February 27th 2021, 16:30 KST

Where to Watch: Fans in the 34 countries with overseas broadcasting rights will be able to follow the match live on television. Alternatively, there is the K League's online OTT platform, K League TV, where live coverage will be available free of charge.

For a summary of the first round of K League 1 fixtures, click here.

Last Season

Against all the odds, Daegu FC secured AFC Champions League qualification with an impressive fifth placed finish. This was achieved despite a managerial departure on the eve of the season, the loss of several key players to long term injuries, and playing without the side's crown jewel - the intimate atmosphere of DGB Daegu Bank Park. The Sky Blues impressed as they continued to play their distinct brand of direct, passing football, and maintained their policy of finding gametime for several promising young talents.

Under the leadership of rookie manager Kim Do-kyun, K League 2 runners up Suwon FC gained the adoration of neutrals as a dynamic, relentless attacking unit, one which become more capable at breaking down sides as the season wore on. The Dashers secured promotion in dramatic circumstances, salvaging the draw they needed to claim promotion through the final kick of the season, a 100th minute penalty awarded via a controversial VAR decision


Team News

Daegu FC:

Last season's caretaker manager Lee Byung-geun has been awarded the job as permanant manager after a fantastic 2020 season. In his first game in charge for 2021, Lee must decide which keeper will get the nod between the sticks. Korean international stopper Gu Sung-yun has departed for Gimcheon Sangmu on loan to fulfill his military service, opening the door for last season's backup Choi Young-eun or former Oita Trinita stopper Mun Kyung-geon to take the starting spot.

Lee Keun-ho
Lee Keun-ho won a winners medal for his efforts in the 2020 AFC Champions League

A significant loss for the side is striker Edgar Silva, sidelined with an achilles injury. The target man had surgery in his native Brazil after the conclusion of the 2020 season, and is not expected to return to action until April. 35 year old veteran Lee Keun-ho, an impact substitute for Ulsan Hyundai in recent seasons, is set to take a more prominent role up top in his absence. 

With Daegu under Level 1.5 of social distancing, 25% of the ground's capacity has been made available for this game. All 3,000 tickets available were snapped up within five minutes of going on sale.


Suwon FC:

Suwon will be almost unidentifiable at the back from their promotion winning team, with a quartet of former Ulsan Hyundai defenders set to form their backline in 2021. Lee Ji-hun is the only defender to keep his place from last season's promoted side, and will be joined by new captain Jeong Dong-ho, Yun Young-sun and former Borussia Dortmund left back Park Joo-ho to make a formidable but aging backline. 

Kim Do-kyun has transformed Suwon FC's squad over the off season

Behind the back four, coach Kim Do-kyun will be forced to choose between a 37 year old veteran and a 20 year old rookie in goal. Min Dong-hwan comes highly rated at parent club Ulsan, and stands a good chance of starting as he helps satisfy the league's U22 rule. However, Min may be too raw and inexperienced to make his debut at this stage of the season. If the coach opts for experience, Yoo Hyun will start, having previously won a fierce competition for the starting spot last season.


What To Watch

Can Daegu's improved backline frustrate Suwon's new look attacking quartet?

Of the new players at Lee Byung-geun's disposal, the most notable is new Daegu captain Kim Jin-hyuk, who impressed at centre back whilst serving his military service at Sangju Sangmu last season (he is also capable of playing as a centre forward). On paper, Daegu's back line appears to be a stronger proposition in 2021, with highly rated left wing back Sue Gyeong-ju also coming into the side after impressing at Seoul E-Land in the second division. The Sky Blues once again will play with a back three (rotating to a back five out of possession), which allows the side to stay compact before looking to exploit the opposition through counter attacks that can involve both wing backs.

Kim Jin-hyuk
Kim Jin-hyuk is a significant upgrade to Daegu's back line

Suwon FC's attack came under significant change in the off-season, as Masatoshi Ishida and last season's K League 2 MVP An Byung-jun departed the club. Whilst Suwon FC were able to recoup modest fees for both players, it is certainly an enormous risk to have dispensed with 61% of the side's league goals from last season. 

The side does have a ready made replacement up front in South African international Lars Veldwijk, who adapted well to new surroundings after Jeonbuk Hyundai allowed the player to join on loan midway through last season. The powerful frontman will be motivated to prove his previous employers wrong in 2021, and now gets a full season to prove that he is a K League 1 level striker.

[LISTEN: Lars Veldwijk's KLU Pod Interview from August 2020]

Ishida may be more difficult to replace. The Japanese livewire looked particularly dangerous in a shadow striker role that allowed him to exploit space between the lines, and break behind the defensive line. He was integral to the side last season, and it'll need a special player to step into this role...


Who To Watch

Han Seung-gyu

Han Seung-gyu

Enter Han Seung-gyu. The young attacking midfielder was fantastic on loan at FC Seoul last season, hitting form towards the end of the campaign with a string of goals and assists in a number 10 role. It was strongly rumoured that parent club Jeonbuk Hyundai were planning on using Han as part of their first team in 2021, but given the promise of guaranteed first team football in Hwaseong, Han will instead carry the bulk of Suwon FC's attacking threat this season. 

The former Korean youth international is likely to step into the same role that Ishida filled in 2020. Han has excellent awareness and positioning, is excellent at finding space in advanced positions, and possesses a powerful shot that makes him a tricky threat from outside the box.

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