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scouting

AFC Champions League Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs. BG Pathum United

Ulsan Hyundai get their 2023-2024 AFC Champions League campaign up and running this Tuesday with the visit of Thai giants BG Pathum United. The two teams have met before, twice in fact with the Horangi coming out on top on both occasions. But BG Pathum United have begin the new Thai League 1 season strongly and Ulsan are currently on a run of three wins in 10. 

Overview & Match Information

Fixture: Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) vs. BG Pathum United (THA)
Competition: 2023-2024 AFC Champions League Group Stage, Matchday 1
Venue: Ulsan Munsu Stadium
Date: Tuesday 19th September, 19:00 KST

Ulsan Hyundai qualified directly to the Group Stage as K League 1 champions. The Horangi haven’t reached the ACL as K League champions since 2005. PG Pathum United, meanwhile, were the 2021-2022 Thai League 1 Runners-up, finishing just two points behind Buriram United. The Rabbits went through a playoff this year and beat Shanghai Port 3-2 away.

ACL History

Ulsan Hyundai: Two ACL titles (2012, 2020), qualified for the last seven years in a row
BG Pathum United: Quarterfinalists in 2022, third season in ACL, third in a row

Recent Form

Ulsan Hyundai head into their AFC Champions League opener having suffered a dip in form. The Horangi are now on a run of one win in five and three wins in 10. Such a drop in form has seen Ulsan's lead at the top of K League 1 dwindle to six points. On Saturday, Ulsan drew 1-1 at home to Daejeon Hana Citizen but it was a heavily rotated starting XI with Hong Myung-bo giving goalkeeper Jo Su-huk a rare start and making nine changes from the team that faced Gwangju prior to the international break. Joo Min-kyu, despite the team finding things difficult, still has his scoring touch having scored the equaliser against Daejeon to move him on to 14 for the campaign. It could have been 15, though, as the powerful centre forward had the chance to convert from the penalty spot but Lee Chang-geun parried and the match ended 1-1.

BG Pathum United, meanwhile, have started the new Thai League 1 season in decent form, earning two wins and two draws from their first four matches. In all competitions, they have won three on the spin. On Saturday, BG Pathum United put five past Muangthong United in a 5-2 home win to move up to fourth in the table and move level with Bangkok United in terms of goals scored this season with nine. 

In terms of their ACL Group Stage openers, Ulsan have lost just once in the last six seasons. Their overall record since 2017 reads one win, four draws, and one loss. BG Pathum United, meanwhile, are unbeaten having picked up one win and one draw from their two previous ACL openers.

Team News

Ulsan Hyundai will be without full back Seol Young-woo and winger Um Won-sang due to their participation in the Asian Games. Kim Tae-hwan and Lee Myung-jae are likely to start at full back with Ludwigson and Qaizaishvili on the flanks.

BG Pathum United will be without star player Chanathip Songkrasin through injury while the Fandi brothers, forward Ikhsan and defender Irfan, are also doubts.

FNR

Head-to-Head

There have been two matches played between the two clubs and both ended 2-0 to Ulsan. Both came in 2021 Group Stage at BG Stadium, one of the hubs for the tournament that year. The first meeting game on Matchday 2 with goals from Kim Min-jun and Lukas Hinterseer earning a 2-0 win before another Kim Min-jun strike as well as one from Qazaishvili earned the Horangi all three points in the final group game that campaign.


Ulsan have a decent record against Thai teams, losing just once in five meetings - a 1-0 reverse away to Muangthong United in 2017. Ulsan draw with Muangthong that season but since then have run out winners each time.

What to Watch

Underperforming Ulsan vs. Rampant Rabbits

With Hong Myung-bo making wholesale changes to his lineup at the weekend, his core players will be well-rested and ready to go on Tuesday night. They will be tasked with getting the team back on track but their recent form is definitely weighing on the players' minds. But the Horangi are team that knows how to battle out of a tight spot and rank fourth in K League for challenge intensity - that being duels, tackles, or interceptions per minute of opponent possession with 5.4. They're also the league's most accurate shooters with 43.4% of shots finding the target but with four goals in their last five matches, Hong Myung-bo will be looking for a reaction.

BG Pathum United, meanwhile, are fourth in Thai League 1 for shots, third for shots from outside the area, and fourth for shots from open play. In short, and as can be seen from the 5-2 win over Muangthong United, the Rabbits are not afraid to have a nibble. 




Who to Watch

Joo Min-kyu

Joo Min-kyu scored again at the weekend to move one clear of Daejeon's Tiago Orobó in the K League 1 golden boot race. His xG is also the highest in the league with 11.49 which is perhaps even more impressive considering the 33-year-old is eighth overall for total shots. He has the second-best shooting accuracy in the division at 54.55%, and has had the most touches in the box with 95. His physical presence will be something that BG Pathum United will have to try and contend with, too.

Igor Sergeev

BG Pathum United are in the ACL proper thanks, in part, to their Uzbekistan international forward Igor Sergeev. The 30-year-old scored a hat-trick in the 3-2 win playoff win over Shanghai Port and is off the mark in the league, having scored in the 2-0 away win over Uthai Thani in late August. He's the Rabbits' second-most accurate shooter so far this season with 25% of shots finding the target. 

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