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Will Gangwon boost their survival prospects at home to Pohang?


After three consecutive losses, Kim Byung-soo will be desperate for Gangwon to avoid falling deeper into trouble as they host a Pohang Steelers side with mirroring league form. Nothing could separate the two last time they met, which should help make for an intriguing encounter.

Recent Form

Since their forced COVID break, it’s fair to say that Gangwon have been more than just subpar. Three poor defeats - the latest of which came with just one shot on target - have left the Bears floundering at the bottom of the table, with their lacklustre performances only excused by the fact they hold a number of games in hand on their relegation rivals. Things could soon turn bleak if they don’t begin to get results, with guaranteed safety currently six points away.

Unfortunately for the travelling side, their recent fortunes have been only slimy better. Although they managed to progress to the Quarter-Final of the AFC Champions League, they too have lost their last three domestic fixtures, with a wasteful 4-2 loss to Jeju serving as the rotten cherry on an unwanted cake. However, there was still an impressive 1-0 away win against Jeonbuk this month, a performance which Pohang will have to replicate in pragmatism and effectiveness should they wish to make their visit to Gangwon a pleasant one.


Team News

Given their rotation for Sunday’s match against Seongnam, it’s likely that Kim Byung-soo will ring the changes in midweek, especially considering the circumstances his team find themselves in. Shin Chang-moo, Rustamjon Ashurmatov and Matija Ljujic should drop out, with Rim Chang-woo, Ko Moo-yeol and Shin Se-gye all potential replacements.

On the other hand, Pohang will be without Kim Ryun-sung following his red card, with other likely absences including goalkeeper Kang Hyun-moo, Kim Ho-nam and Boris Tashchy.

Head-to-Head

It’s the Steelers who tend to have the better luck in this fixture, winning in 12 of the 24 meetings, and only losing on 5 occasions. Most recently the two fought to an evenly contested 1-1 draw, although a 3-1 Pohang triumph early in the campaign is unlikely to be far from Gangwon's memory. The Bears need to do better this week, and in the process collect their first victory against the 7th-placed side in six attempts.

What to Watch

Do Gangwon have enough in them to stay up?


Right now, there seems to be a lack of quality when it comes to Gangwon games. Sure, the quarantine period they endured is likely to be a big reason for it, with the extended time away from competitive football a huge setback when the teams around them were competing regularly, but it doesn’t wholly excuse some of the basic failings. Set-pieces, defensive positioning and a lack of a clinical edge have all been major defects of late, with no player covering themselves in any sort of glory. As such, it’s evident that Kim Byung-soo needs to prepare himself for a slog for survival. But with a real need for wins, attempts at any major overhauls to his team's system may not yield the desired result, meaning the 50-year-old manager will be forced to forensically weigh-up the potential cost effectiveness of any risk he chooses to make between now and the end of the season.

Can Pohang get their act together defensively?


In their last three league outings, Pohang have conceded eight goals. For context, such a figure was the same amount of goals shipped in the nine preceding games. Such poor defensive work has seen Kim Gi-dong’s side struggle to convince people of their top-half prospects, with the Steelers now in the bottom portion of the division for the first time since round nine. With this week’s opposition looking vulnerable, though, Wednesday is the perfect time for such unflattering reading to change.


FNR

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