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Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs FC Seoul

league 2023.05.12   I   hits 779

The top two collide this Sunday when Ulsan Hyundai welcome FC Seoul to the Munsu Stadium. The Horangi sit eight points clear of Seoul and know that a win would put them well and truly in the driving seat to retain their K League crown. Seoul, however, could open the title race back up again with a first win over Ulsan since 2017.

Recent Form

Reigning champions and, so far, runaway league leaders Ulsan Hyundai are on a run of four straight wins and are unbeaten in five. Throughout the run of four consecutive victories, Hong Myong-bo's side have conceded just once, keeping back-to-back cleansheets in the process. The most recent win - and cleansheet - came in the 1-0 win over Gangwon FC in Round 12 thanks to a Joo Min-kyu penalty in the 52nd minute. 

FC Seoul also won in midweek, overcoming Gwangju FC 3-1 thanks to goals from Willyan Barbosa - his first for the club - as well as Na Sang-ho and Park Dong-jin. That gave Seoul a third win in five matches and extended the team's unbeaten run to three matches. Seoul sit second in the table, eight points behind Ulsan meaning Sunday's clash could have a big impact on the title race. 

Team News

FC Seoul are without first-team regular Kang Seong-jin who is with the Korea U20 team for the U20 World Cup in Argentina. Lee Seung-joon and Cho Young-kwang are also part of Kim Eun-jung's squad and so FC Seoul are exempt from the U22 rule for the time being. Kim Jin-ya, Kim Ju-sung, Lee Tae-seok, Aleksandar Paločević, and Na Sang-ho are the only players who have featured in all 12 matches for the club so far this season. Manager An Ik-soo prefers a back four with a 4-4-2 used for 38% of the time and a 4-2-3-1 for 24%.

Ulsan don't have any players called up to the U20 squad and so will need to adhere to the U22 rule. 
Manager Hong Myung-bo has largely stuck to the same formation this season, preferring a 4-2-3-1. Only four players have featured in all 12 matches so far this season, Jo Hyeon-woo, Kim Young-gwon, Park Yong-woo, and Um Won-sang.


Sunday's clash will be the 175th between the two teams. Head to head, Ulsan have 67 wins to Seoul's 51 and 56 draws and have also outscored their capital counterparts 222 to 198. Over the last 10, too, makes great reading for the Ulsan faithful as the Horangi have managed eight wins and two draws. In fact, Ulsan's last loss to FC Seoul dates back to October 2017 which is 17 meetings ago - 3-0 at Seoul World Cup Stadium following goals from Lee Myung-joo, Osmar, and Dejan. 

The first meeting this season ended as a 2-1 win for Ulsan thanks, in part, to the quick thinking of Japanese midfielder Ataru Esaka. A pass-back mix-up between FC Seoul defender Kim Ju-sung and goalkeeper Choi Cheol-won led to Ulsan being given an indirect free-kick for the Horangi. Ataru laid the ball into the path of Martin Adam whose shot was parried but only as far as Lee Chung-yong who turned the ball into an empty net. 

The last meeting at the Munsu, meanwhile, ended 1-1 with Stanislav Iljutcenko putting Seoul 1-0 up on 50 minutes before Valeri Qazaishvili levelled eight minutes later.

Who to Watch

Valeri Qazaishvili, Ulsan Hyundai

Valeri Qazaishvili, aka 'Vako,' has a superb record against FC Seoul. In seven appearances the Georgia international has scored five goals and assisted two. Vako didn't score or assist when these two teams met earlier in the campaign but managed two goals and one assist from the three meetings in 2022. This season, Vako ranks fourth in the division for shots from outside the box with 13 and his expected goals and assists value per 90 is 0.49, enough to sit ninth among all players in K League 1. In terms of shots per 90, though, Vako ranks second with 3.22, and for one-on-one dribbles, he sits 10th with 45 - 51.11% of which have been successful.

Hwang Ui-jo, FC Seoul

Na Sang-ho will be taking plenty of the plaudits for yet another goal in midweek but credit must be given to Hwang Ui-jo for the inch-perfect cross. The Korean international hung the ball up perfectly against Gwangju on Wednesday for Na to volley home and restore Seoul's lead - he also teed up Willyan for the game's opener to make it two in one game. With three assists and two goals, this gives the former Bordeaux man a record of five goal contributions in 10 starts FC Seoul. Hwang's xG is 3.47 meaning he is slightly underperforming but the 30-year-old will perhaps consider himself to have been a bit unlucky. His shooting accuracy is at 46.15%, enough to rank in the top nine for players who have made 10 appearances or more this season. He also ranks highly for touches in the box with 33, enough to sit seventh in the division in that regard. 

Where to Watch

Fans in countries with K League overseas broadcasting rights can follow the game live and with English commentary on television. Check local listings for more information.

Alternatively, the match is also available for FREE on TV.KLeague.com.