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Seoul Derby preview: FC Seoul and Seoul E-Land meet for the first time in FA Cup clash

A consistently inconsistent FC Seoul side face-off with city rivals and K League 2 hotshots Seoul E-Land in the second round of the FA Cup on Wednesday. Simon Farnsworth and Michael Redmond preview the first-ever meeting between the two capital clubs. 

Michael Redmond Asks, Simon Farnsworth Answers

Michael Redmond: The Seoul Derby is a big thing for Seoul E-Land and their push to establish themselves as the noisy neighbours. What is FC Seoul’s take on the Leopards?

Simon Farnsworth: The better Seoul E-Land perform, the more FC Seoul fans start to take notice. However, there’s a long way to go before this curiosity turns into a heated rivalry in the eyes of FC Seoul supporters. Still, the derby has all the ingredients to develop over time into one of Korea’s best. While Wednesday marks the first time these sides have met, there’s bound to be some needle on the pitch with local pride at stake. Hopefully, Seoul E-Land can get promoted to K League 1, so this clash becomes a regular occurrence, and a rivalry starts to take shape. The more derbies and rivalries, the better the K League gets.  

MR: The FA Cup normally sees K League 1 sides play a weakened team when they draw lower league sides. Do you think FC Seoul will do the same, given the severity of the game?

It’s fair to say that manager Park Jin-sub (pictured below) doesn’t yet know his strongest starting eleven. The former Gwangju boss made five changes against Ulsan in round eight and made six further alterations at the weekend. Only Na Sang-ho, Aleksandar Paločević, Hwang Hyun-soo, Ki Sung-yeung, and Osmar are guaranteed starters, although Park has chosen to rest and rotate the latter two. Ki missed Saturday’s clash against Pohang with injury and may sit out the cup tie, while Osmar has played three games in seven days so could well be rested for Wednesday’s derby. Park has given plenty of chances to youngsters in his first nine games in charge, and we may see the likes of Kim Jin-sung, Kang Seong-jin, Lee In-gyu, and Lee Tae-seok against Seoul E-Land. However, on the back of three straight defeats, Park may choose to name a strong starting eleven in an attempt to stop the rot.

MR: How do you expect FC Seoul to defend against a Seoul E-Land side that has been scoring for fun this season?

It all depends on what FC Seoul turns up. Park Jin-sub’s defence has been plagued by inconsistency this season. Neither Yoon Jong-gyu and Kim Jin-ya have done enough to cement themselves as first-choice right-back, and left-back Ko Kwang-min has dipped in and out of form. Centre-back Hwang Hyun-soo has played every minute this season, but - just like his fellow defenders - he’s produced a series of Jekyll and Hyde performances. Kim Won-gun started the first seven rounds at centre-back but has since lost his place to Hong Joon-ho, who looks to be a much-needed commanding presence at the centre of defence. FC Seoul will need to produce a coherent defensive performance for a whole 90 minutes - something they’ve rarely managed this season - to keep the likes of Leandro and Nicolás Benegas quiet.

MR: FC Seoul are pushing to be, at the very least, in the top four and get into the ACL again this year. How important is the FA Cup for this FC Seoul side? 

SF: Realistically, the FA Cup is FC Seoul’s only shot at silverware this season. They last lifted the cup in 2015, and Park Jin-sub will be eager to kick-start his reign with an impressive cup run. Of course, this season's main aim is to qualify for the ACL, and despite three straight losses, confidence remains high in achieving this. While the most likely route is via a third or fourth-place finish behind Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai, it’s not beyond impossible to envision FC Seoul lifting the trophy in 2021.

MR: What’s your prediction on the result, and how the game will be played out?

FC Seoul will be confident of progressing to the next round. However, a lot depends on the side that Park Jin-sub names. With so much rotation in recent weeks, FC Seoul have looked severely disjointed - especially in the opening 30 minutes against Pohang. If Park fields a weakened side, Seoul E-Land will fancy themselves to cause an upset against their city rivals. However, FC Seoul should have enough quality to see off the challenge of E-Land. Expect a lively, attacking game of football with chances galore. Prediction: FC Seoul 3-1 Seoul E-Land.

Simon Farnsworth Asks, Michael Redmond Answers

Simon Farnsworth: Seoul E-Land are flying at the top end of K League 2! What's been the secret to their success, and what's impressed you most about their start to the season?

Michael Redmond: Seoul E-Land have had an excellent start to the season. Even with the Chungnam Asan loss aside, they have been nothing short of incredible. Seoul have scored 17 goals in the league and FA Cup this season and have conceded just two. The partnership at the back with Lee Sang-min and Lee In-jae has been very solid, to say the least. FC Seoul really need to try and keep Leandro at bay on Wednesday. Clearly, he's one of the K League's best players; fans who haven't paid attention to him yet will after Wednesday. A quick player who uses his pace well to chase down against defenders, FC Seoul could have a long night if they underestimate him. 

SF: The Leopards are scoring goals at will and keeping clean sheets for fun - it's the perfect combo! However, which players will Seoul E-Land be most wary of on Wednesday? 

In the past, we have seen K League 1 teams play a weakened side against K League 2 opposition. However, with this being the first-ever Seoul Derby, I can't see anything short of a full-strength team from both sides. Ki Sung-yueng is really turning on the style this season, and his long balls and passes have resulted in FC Seoul goals. E-Land fell against Asan due to a well placed long ball over the top. Ki Sung-yueng could do these balls all day for fun. If he’s fit, the Leopards need to keep him in check and not give him time on the ball.

SF: Chung Jung-yong has done an impressive job since taking charge at the end of 2019. How do you think he'll set his team up for the derby cup clash? initials. 

MR: Chung Jung-yong has had a great time managing Seoul E-Land. He has taken them from the bottom of the table to the top. He plays young, energetic players who love to run and chase down the ball. This season we have seen a 3-4-3 formation with the left and right tracking back for extra defence. Hwang Tae-hyeon is a name that fans need to make note of due to his style of play. He runs down the wings with the ball and can pinpoint passes to the attackers. I can see E-Land playing a little bit defensive on Wednesday. They need to score, but I can see the boss being more strategic in his line up, rather than putting everyone upfront and hoping for the best. He will look for where FC Seoul are lacking throughout the game, and he will match his play accordingly. 

SF: It's still early days, of course, but is their genuine optimism that Seoul E-Land can get promoted this season?

MR: Seoul E-Land have had an excellent start to the season. However, the loss to Asan was a huge blow. It not only gives other teams a chance to catch up, but it also shows their vulnerability as a side. Don't get me wrong, Asan came to Seoul and played 11 men behind the ball for 90 minutes. But the cracks are starting to show a little in the capital. Only time will tell. It looks as if the same thing is happening this season as last: E-Land can turn it on against the big teams but struggle against the sides they should ease past. Time will also tell if Deajeon and Gimcheon get their act together. Jeonnam and Gyeongnam are also going to be knocking on the door sooner rather than later. Maybe it's not best to ask a fan who has seen them do so poorly in the past! Pessimism is easy to develop and very difficult to shake! 

SF: And, finally, let's hear your prediction! Which team is progressing to the next round, and how will the game play out?

MR: The magic of the FA Cup, isn't it? Seoul E-Land have made a big deal of this derby and have been talking about it for weeks on social media. The fans and the players know the importance of this tie, and they will go out all guns blazing on Wednesday. It looked as if they were a little distracted on Saturday because of this. It's tough to call. If FC Seoul turn up with a full squad and show the quality they have shown this year, i.e against Suwon, then E-Land could be in for a very long evening. However, if the Leopards can go across town and let themselves known early on in the tie, they could sneak it. Oh, why not? I'm going for a 1-0 win for the Leopards!

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