Opinion

Four reasons why Victory can be confident ahead of Seoul showdown

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While Melbourne snatching a draw from the jaws of Victory against Chiangrai United on Tuesday (AEDT) was frustrating, it didn’t change that much.

A win against FC Seoul in the final game on Friday was always going to be necessary if the A-League team were to get out of Group E and into the knockout stage - and that is still the case.

Three points and second place would go some way to making up for Sydney FC and Perth Glory being eliminated with games to spare.

There are reasons for the Australians to be confident against the South Koreans, a team that have had a worse year than many in this worst of years.

Coaching instability

To start with, there is no head coach which is why Graham Arnold was able to turn down an offer from the club in October.

Lee Won-jun’s are the fourth pair of hands to take the reins in the second half of 2020 alone - another caretaker coach who was appointed almost on the plane over to Qatar.

A new coach should be appointed in the next few days but it will be too late to help Seoul in the Champions League. 

Big-name absences

Star players such as Ki Sung-yueng, the former national team captain who spent a decade in Scotland with Celtic and then in the Premier League with Swansea and Newcastle, and Go Yo-han are absent.

Ki’s presence, distribution and composure on the ball have been missed.

So is South Korean international midfielder Ju Se-jong, who tested positive for COVID-19 when on national team duty last month.

Seoul are missing perhaps their three best players.

There has been some rotation of course and the squad that came from the Korean capital is a young one.

Spanish star Osmar provides some experience sitting in front of the back four, as well as a threat from set-pieces.

There is also Park Chu-young. I remember well when he burst onto the scene at the 2004 AFC Youth Championship and was hailed as the future star of Asian football.

Now, he is a 35-year-old veteran who had a solid spell with Monaco and a short and far from sweet time with Arsenal.

He never became quite as prolific as his early years suggested but in a poor season for Seoul, the forward has been the reason for much of the team’s good attacking play.

Defensive issues

The club are a shadow of the 2016 title-winners and finished ninth in the 2020 K League 1, losing 14 of their 27 games in the campaign.

Defensively, there have been major problems all year with a lack of organisation (perhaps not surprising given the coaching issues), with the team conceding more goals than any other with the exception of Gwangju FC.

Gaps behind the Seoul backline are there for the Victory attackers to play around with. 

Both goals from the 2-1 defeat to Chiangrai United came with the Thai side getting behind the defence.

Seoul have been vulnerable from set-pieces too as they have shown against Beijing Guoan.

Score first against Seoul in Asia and you win. 

A long season

The team played 29 games from May to November in what was a testing season.

Then there was the tragic death of defender Kim Nam-chun, who passed away on October 30.

It was an incredibly emotional time for the club and players who had to deal with the passing of their popular teammate who had spent his entire career - apart from 21 months of military service - at the club.

It is hard to say what effect this has had on the team but there was genuine shock and grief when the news was announced.

Seoul’s players could be forgiven for being in need of a break after a long and difficult season both physically and emotionally.