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Preview: Pohang Steelers Vs. Incheon United

league 2021.10.22   I   hits 1591

Fresh off the back of their triumphant Asian Champions League semi-final with fierce rivals Ulsan Hyundai in Jeonju on Wednesday, Pohang return to the Steelyard to host an Incheon United side who sit just five points behind them in the table. Hoping to push themselves into Final Round A in the final game before the split, Pohang must return their focus to domestic football in their bid to defeat shot-shy Incheon.

Recent Form

Hosts Pohang put a stop to four straight K League defeats last time out in the league by coming out on the right side of a five-goal thriller in Gwangju. 21-year-old Lee Ho-jae replaced former Yellow Lee Seung-mo with 15 minutes remaining, netting the equaliser and then a stoppage time winner to rejuvenate the Steelers hopes of a top-half finish. Lee Ho-jae also saw minutes in Pohang's dramatic Champions League penalty victory over Ulsan, with Kang Sang-woo netting the winning spot kick. Lee Sang-hyup notched two assists against Gwangju, taking good form into the Champions League quarter final where the veteran striker put in a match of the match performance to score a brace in defeat of J.League outfit Nagoya Grampus. Pohang's home form however has been less desirable of late, earning just one point from four and conceded eight goals in their last three.

                                    [READ: Kang Sang-woo ACL Interview]

Incheon United have found goals hard to come by since consecutive wins in August pushed them into Final Round A contention. Dropping down to ninth due to a run of one point from seven games, Jo Sung-hwan's side still boast an eight-point cushion to the automatic relegation zone with six games remaining. Incheon may not be too disappointed to be back on the road, having lost their last free home games by a 1-0 scoreline. Last time out saw defeat to Gangwon, with manager Jo bringing Song Si-woo and Kang Yun-koo off the bench in an attempt to salvage a point. 

Team News

Alex Grant returns from suspension having seen red against Gangwon, having scored a last-gasp equaliser in Wednesday's semi-final past Korean national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo. However, Incheon will be without wing back Kim Chae-woon as the 21-year-old was sent off against Gangwon. Elías Aguilar is also unavailable due to accumulated bookings with both due to return following the split in fixtures with Incheon set to take part in Final Round B. 

Pohang's Lee Jun earned multiple plaudits for his goalkeeping exploits in this week's Champions League knockout stages, producing a spectacular save to deny Nagoya Grampus at 0-0 and largely keeping out an impressive Ulsan front line. He looks set to feature between the sticks once more in place of Kang Hyeon-mu. Incheon fans will have been pleased to see Wednesday's Champions League final head to extra time, with many of Pohang's key players forced to play 120 minutes. With that in mind, Kim Ho-nam could earn a start against his old employers to keep legs fresh. Former Pohang stalwart and huge defensive influence Kim Kwang-suk was expected to return soon ahead of the split but suffered a setback in his recovery from injury and looks set to be out for the season.


Pohang have fared better historically in this fixture, winning 23 of 52 contests compared to Incheon's 14. In recent meetings the Steelers are also unbeaten in five with 2019 producing a Steelyard classic as Wanderson Carvalho's hat-trick edged out Stefan Mugoša's brace in a 5-3 win. Earlier that season Incheon earned their only win in this fixture since 2017 as Lee Je-ho bagged a stoppage-time winner for a side led by former manager Yoo Sang-chul. 

                                         [READ: K League 1 Round 24 Preview]

Creativity in Aguilar's Absence

There is no doubting Elías Aguilar's influence on this team with the costa rica talisman bringing much more to the fore than his five goals this season. Jo Sung-hwan is tasked with choosing another player to fill the void in the number 10 role. With Stefan Mugoša set to return to the fold following international duty with Montenegro in Gibraltar and Norway, it presents Jo with options for a timely reshuffle. While Song Si-woo is usually preferred as an option from the bench, starting just three games this season out of 29 appearances in the league, he seems ideal to play behind Mugoša or Kim Hyun. Negueba also stepped into the first team out wide last time out and certainly has the quality to influence the game from a central position. Whoever is chosen must play well to overcome the likes of Shin Jin-ho and Lee Soo-bin in Pohang's central midfield. 

Who to Watch - Kim Chang-soo

Incheon United were set to welcome back veteran defender and Steelyard legend Kim Kwang-suk this weekend from a hamstring injury. The 38-year-old however looks set to be out for the season due to further injury and it appears Incheon boss Jo Sung-hwan favours Kim Chang-soo to replace him. Having played right back for the majority of his career, former Gwangju FC full back Kim played out of position centrally against Gangwon alongside Kang Min-soo and Kim Yeon-soo with Harrison Delbridge absent. Incheon boss Jo said: "We have prepared various options and want to keep our promise to the fans to avoid a relegation battle." Sitting eight points ahead of Gwangju, who currently occupy 12th position, automatic relegation looks unlikely. However, an interesting scrap is developing to avoid 11th place, with Gangwon in eighth currently just three points ahead of 11th-placed Seongnam. 

Where To Watch

Incheon's visit to the Steelyard can be viewed live globally and for FREE on K League TV. Fans in countries with K League overseas broadcasting rights can also follow the game live on their television. More information on overseas broadcasting rights can be found here.

K League United Assistant Editor