Metropolitan rivals clash in the FA Cup

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Metropolitan rivals clash in the FA Cup

Even the dominance of midseason KBO series in the Korean sports scene can’t bury the passion for the K-League’s most anticipated derby, dubbed the “Super Match,” between FC Seoul and the Suwon Bluewings.

The two fierce football rivals will face off for the second time this season tonight at 7:30 p.m. at World Cup Stadium, this bout in the quarterfinal knockout phase of the FA Cup.

FC Seoul has saved its best for the matchup, benching Adilson Santos, Choi Tae-uk and Park Hee-do during its last K-League game against the Pohang Steelers on Sunday. The league front-runners sacrificed a five-game winning streak with a 1-0 loss.

But a win against Suwon would vindicate the decision.

“Another loss to Suwon would deal a blow to our ego,” Seoul manager Choi Yong-soo said.

Seoul has dropped its last four versus Suwon, the streak going as far back as July 2010. In the most recent three matches, Seoul has been shut out every time.

The club expects a lot from its home pitch advantage. Seoul has played eight league matches on home turf this season and is undefeated with seven wins and one draw.

For Suwon, which defeated Seoul 2-0 in the previous game on April 1, manager Yoon Sung-hyo dismisses the match as just another game. He even refuses to refer to the matchup as a rivalry.

“Seoul is a good team. But it’s hard to call them our biggest rival,” Yoon told reporters. “I will speak to Seoul with actions on the pitch, not words.”

The manager started his best players in the two previous matches, one against the Sangju Phoenix and another versus Jeju United, despite the risk of injury.

Kwak Hee-ju, Suwon’s captain, said he doesn’t worry much about the home crowd in Seoul, which is expected to be especially active in tonight’s game. He said he believes that Suwon’s loyal fans will create a home-pitch atmosphere of their own.

“We don’t even remember the last time we lost to Seoul,” Kwak said. “Seoul must have prepared a lot this time, but it will be us that smile in the end.”

Counting all the matches between the two, Suwon is ahead with 27 victory, 20 losses and 14 draws.

Their match in the FA Cup quarterfinal comes as the second quarter of the K-League regular season begins. Each of the 16 teams in the K-League are scheduled to play 30 games before entering the second half of the season.

This year, the league will be split into two groups in the second half of the season. The top eight teams in the standing will play each other to earn spots in the playoffs, while the bottom eight teams will battle to stave off relegation.

A victory in the FA Cup can thus build momentum for the rest of the season. Suwon is in third place after the Jeonbuk Motors in the K-League. Both are on pace to make the cut for the league’s top group.

“Both teams are riding on a good rhythm recently, and that would be a more important factor during the game, rather than their previous games a long time ago,” football analyst Park Moon-sung said.

Suwon and Seoul have played against each other three times in the FA Cup since their first game in 1997. All three games ended in penalty shootouts.

Seoul won twice and lost once. The winner of the FA Cup clinches a spot in the AFC Champions League. Suwon won the FA Cup in 2009 and 2010.

By Moon Gwang-lip, Han Yong-sup[joe@joongang.co.kr]

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