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Korea Cup Writers' Chat: Who'll win the second-ever Seoul Derby?

This Wednesday will bring another installment of knockout football in the 2024 Korea Cup. The list of fixtures includes the second-ever Seoul Derby. A fixture that is to be played in Leoul Park (Mokdong Stadium), it will be the coming together of the two biggest teams in the capital, Seoul E-Land and FC Seoul. 

The two sides met back in 2021 when it was the Leopards who came out on top. FC Seoul will look for revenge in this fixture for their shortcomings three years ago. For Seoul E-Land, they will look to pick their season back up again, after slowing down somewhat over the past couple of weeks. Michael Redmond and Paul Neat sit down and discuss what they expect to see in this much-anticipated fixture. 

Michael Asks Paul...

Michael: As FC Seoul faces Seoul E-Land for the second time, memories of their dramatic encounter in 2021 resurface. Do you anticipate a more focused approach from FC Seoul this time around, considering the stakes?

Paul: I think so. FC Seoul still haven’t found a rhythm under Kim G-dong so, although I expect there to be some rotation, they will need to put in a performance to try and build momentum if nothing else. It’s still the honeymoon period for Kim Gi-dong to a certain extent but if his side loses to a K League 2 outfit and loses what is perhaps their best chance of a trophy and ACL qualification, then fans will not be happy. A strong lineup and a professional mindset will be essential.

Michael: Osmar's reunion with his former club, FC Seoul, adds an intriguing subplot to the upcoming match. Drawing from his past experiences, how do you envision him approaching this game?

Paul: He might feel like he has a point to prove, but that’s just my guess. He might want to show that he’s still a good player and that he hasn’t dropped to K League 2 because he’s on the decline. Anyone who watched FC Seoul last season will know that he still had a lot to offer. I think it’ll be business as usual once the game settles a bit but that first five to 10 minutes you might see him jump that little bit higher, run that little bit faster, tackle that little bit faster. He’ll also know FC Seoul’s weaknesses better than anyone else so will, I’m sure, try and use that to his advantage.

Osmar on Seoul Derby:

"If you want to be a good player, you have to be prepared and you have to be willing to play against big teams. This one is special. This one is different, obviously but I think because of the messages that I received, the attention, it feels different than playing against a big team, you know?  There's not much history in this game, we haven't played many times. Actually, I think it was only one in these 10 years of Seoul E-Land history, so there is like, not history behind the game, but somehow, I think it brought a lot of attention to this game. So I don't know if the eyes will be on me or not or on the game in general, but it's going to be fun."   

Read more here

Michael: Both FC Seoul and Seoul E-Land find themselves in 6th place in their respective leagues, with slight differences in points. Do you believe their current form suggests a closely contested match, or do you see FC Seoul with a stronger footing compared to their 2021 performance?

Paul: It’s a cup game so anything can happen. Both teams are in positions in the table that they probably don’t want to be in; they want to be higher up and will want to show that they deserve to be so. Ultimately, they’ll just want to pick up a win. The next round is Gangwon or Hwaseong so a winnable fixture and a possible place in the quarterfinals. Only Palocevic, Kim Jin-ya, Cho Young-wook, and Hwang Hyun-soo are still at the club in terms of who played in the first Seoul Derby so it’s a different team. Park Jin-sub was the manager at the time, too, and he only lasted a couple of more months before he was sacked. Looking back at their results in and around the last Seoul Derby, they’d lost the previous three matches and then failed to win any of their next nine so it’s a different FC Seoul than it was back then.

Michael: With the return of fans to the stadium, including the inclusion of away supporters, the atmosphere promises to be electric for this Derby. How significant do you think the presence of both home and away fans will be in shaping the dynamics of the match, especially considering the absence of away fans in 2021?

Paul: Massively, it’s going to be a great occasion and I am looking forward to seeing Mokdong full. It’s probably, most likely, going to be sold out so the atmosphere will be electric and will be something the players will enjoy, I’m sure. The fans will give the players that little bit extra energy and those fine margins are what could settle this tie.

Michael: Considering the importance of the Korea Cup for teams like FC Seoul, could their focus extend beyond this match to future competitions? With the K League 1 lacking a dominant force this season, do you see FC Seoul prioritizing success in the Korea Cup as a pathway to Asian football qualification?

Paul: The game will be more of a priority for FC Seoul, or at least it should be. Seoul E-Land have more important things to worry about in trying to win promotion but, as I mentioned earlier, FC Seoul should probably look at the FA Cup as a competition they should be winning. They aren’t ready to challenge for the title yet, and they probably won’t finish second so the FA Cup is something they should take seriously and this should be reflected in how they acquit themselves on Wednesday.
Alternatively, this can also be Who To Watch with a spotlight focused on a specific player for either team.

#KLUPod | Petrescu Leaves, Seoul Derby and Korea Cup Preview + ACL Semifinals

Listen to the KLU Pod wherever you get your podcasts. Don't forget to leave us a review!

Michael: What's your score prediction?

 Paul: I think both teams will score and that it will go to extra time. What happens after that point is anyone's guess. I think FC Seoul will win on penalties after a 1-1 draw. 

Paul Asks Michael...

Paul: Is this game a nuisance or a welcome distraction after what happened in the last 30 minutes against Seongnam, and with the team having not won in the league since Round 2?

Michael: This is definitely a welcome distraction. Something just is not clicking for Seoul E-Land ever since that victory against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The team has enough experience and capability to win every game so far this season, yet they have looked stale and almost nervous on the ball. Seoul can not close games out. They went ahead against Gimpo and ended up drawing, now going from two goals up to all square against Seongnam added further frustration. I think this game gives the team a chance to forget about their shortcomings in the league and give their best fight against FC Seoul.

Paul: Kim Do-kyun made a lot of changes to his team for the Round 2 match against Daejeon Korail. Surely, especially having had the weekend off, it’ll be his strongest lineup. What can we expect in terms of team selection and his tactics, do you think?

Michael: I would be surprised if he played a weakened side against FC Seoul. I think Kim Do-kyun knows the importance of this game for the fans and the club. Especially this being Seoul E-Land's 10th anniversary. However in saying that, I remember the first derby in 2021 when Chung Jung-yong played a weakened team and we all know how that ended. I definitely think he will start with the likes of Bruno Silva, who has been a very positive player for Seoul this year. They have struggled at the back so far this year so maybe having a defensive style with Bruno up top for the pace and goals, then this could be something we see on Wednesday.

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Paul: Is there a danger of there being too much focus on Osmar?

Michael: This is actually something I touched on in the podcast this prior week. This is not the Osmar Derby. This is the Seoul Derby. Focus needs to come away from Osmar and focus on the other 21 players who will start this much-anticipated fixture. Okay, it is pretty Hollywood the situation we find ourselves in. However, the game will be won by a team, not just one individual. I believe Osmar is a true professional and a very experienced player, he will not let the occasion get the better of him and he will for sure remember that he wears the blue of Seoul now and not the red and black.

Paul: From what you’ve seen so far this season, what’s Seoul E-Land’s main strength, and what will it be that gets them the victory if they do knock out FC Seoul?

Michael: I think the game will be won up top. As stated earlier, Seoul are slightly lacking at the back and some strange errors have already occurred. Up top Seoul have a very good and fast player in Bruno Silva. Peter is also coming into form now bar his open goal miss against Seongnam. Ikoba is knocking on the door of his first E-Land goal. When Seoul were firing on all cylinders, they played as an outfit and as one team. If they can recreate that then this will be their main strength.

Paul: Finally, score prediction?

Michael: 2-1 to FC Seoul 

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