Sunday sees the biggest regular fixture of the season – the meeting between FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings – and if any extra spice was needed then the fact that the two teams occupy the top two spots in the K-League is more than enough.
The corresponding 2007 match at Seoul World Cup Qq Online Stadium, almost exactly a year ago, saw the K-league record attendance smashed as 55,000 people saw the Bluewings win 1-0 – a new record could be set this Sunday.
Winning is a big deal for both teams and supporters but losing can have consequences too. The result one year ago stopped a promising Seoul season in its tracks. At the time of the meeting, Seoul was sitting pretty at the top of the table but after the Suwon defeat, the capital club failed to win any of its following eight matches and slid down the table.
For many fans, it is the first game that they look for when the K-league release the fixture list at the start of the season. Sure, the media hypes the game to the nth degree but nobody minds too much as fans and journalists are just happy to have a genuine big match to talk about and attend.
When LG, or GS as it now seems to be called, moved Anyang Cheetahs to the capital in 2004 and renamed it FC Seoul, they broke up the fiercest rivalry in the K-League. Anyang and Suwon had been going at it for years. The move to the capital was greeted by dismay by the vast majority of football fans, including those of Suwon, and it is safe to say that FC Seoul is the most unpopular club in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Suwon is owned by LG rivals Samsung but electronic goods will be far from minds when the game kicks off. The two teams have met already this season in the Hauzen Cup – last Wednesday, at the same stadium in fact. Suwon won 2-0 with two late goals. Seoul had chances of its own and frustration boiled over in the very final seconds of the game.
A late tackle by Seoul’s Lee Sang-yeob on Song Chong-guk didn’t please the Suwon skipper as soon players and members of coaching staff from both teams were pushing and shoving as if their lives depended on it. That was pretty much how the game ended and there will certainly be no need for pre-match motivational talks on Sunday.
Both teams have started the season well and have collected ten points from four games. Suwon enjoys a better goal difference and the team has looked solid and smooth. Only seven-time champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma has taken points from the Bluewings. Bearded Brazilian striker Edu has scored four and the defence has been as tight and expertly marshalled by Croatian Mato Neretljak. Last weekend’s 2-0 win at the home of a spirited Busan I’Park was a clinical lesson in how to win away from home.
Seoul hasn’t been as slick but has picked up points. Last week’s 1-0 victory in Gwangju wasn’t pretty but it was a battling performance notable for a free-kick special from Park Chu-young. The young striker is returning to fitness and form and along with big pre-season signing Dejan Damjanovic, Seoul could soon start to possess a goal threat that they have lacked for some time.