ACL 2017 Round 1 Previews

 

acl_2017_banner_3

This week sees the first round of the Group Stages of the 2017 ACL and for many of the teams it’s that much awaited first competitive match of the season and the chance to showcase the new additions to the squad. The first round has a couple of matches which even at this early stage could go a long way to deciding who gets out the group and who gets to “focus on the domestic scene”. With last year’s winners Jeonbuk being thrown out of the tournament all Korean eyes will be on ACL regulars Seoul and Suwon Bluewings to see if they can keep the trophy in Korea.

fc_seoul_trans

FC Seoul v Shanghai SIPG (Tuesday 21st Feb)

FC Seoul start their Asian Champions League campaign with a home match against Andre Villa Boas’ Shanghai SIPG in what is generally regarded as one of the toughest ACL groups in recent years. Where SIPG are bolstered by players such as Hulk, Carvalho and Oscar, Seoul have seen their squad somewhat depleted with Adriano leaving for pastures new over the close season. Adriano had a fantastic group stage last year and will be undoubtedly be greatly missed with his replacement, Maurinho, hardly an eye-catching capture . With the other two members of the group being Urawa and Western Sydney Wanderers its fair to say that every point is a prisoner and neither team can afford a slow start. Shanghai came through the playoff stage with a rather routine 3-0 win over Sukhothai, Seoul haven’t exactly set the world on fire with their pre-season friendlies, it could all come too quick for the K-League Champions.

Prediction : Draw : Seoul 1 – Shanghai SIPG 1

 

ulsan_trans

Kashima Antlers v Ulsan Hyundai (Tuesday 21st Feb)

The second Korean team involved in this year’s ACL are Ulsan Hyundai who found themselves the main beneficiaries of the ACL decision to prohibit Jeonbuk playing in this year’s tournament. Ulsan were promoted to the play-off stage after Jeju automatically moved up to take Jeonbuk’s place. They had a rather tense affair against Kitchee when the match went to penalties, this really was a match that they should be winning without too much huff and puff but I guess you can excuse them as they really didn’t get a whole lot of time to prepare. Ulsan make a welcome return to the ACL having last competed in 2014 when they failed to qualify from the group stages. They start their campaign with a tough trip to Japan to face J-League title holders and Fuji Xerox Cup winners Kashima Antlers. The main talking point of the match will undoubtedly be Kwon Sun Tae making his first appearance against a Korean team since his winter transfer from Jeonbuk. Ulsan themselves have seen a few new faces arrive in the close season with Mislav Orsic and Lee Jong Ho being two huge additions to their squad. As mentioned they did struggle against Kitchee and Kashima will be a tough nut to crack away. Brisbane Roar and Muangthong United make up the rest of Group E so they might just view this one as being “loseable”

Prediction: Home Win : Kashima 2 – Ulsan 0 

 

bluewings_trans

Kawasaki Frontale v Suwon Bluewings (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Korean cup winners Suwon Bluewings will head to Japan to start their ACL campaign and must be hoping for a better showing in the group stages this year than last year when they lost out on away goals to Melbourne Victory. They have strengthened quite a bit over the close season and seem to be building a team for an assault on the K-League title, signings such as Matt Jurman and Shin Hwa Young should more than compliment the squad which clinched the FA Cup to end the 2016 season. They seem to have managed to keep the prolific Jonathon in their ranks and on his day he is one of the deadliest in the K-League. This match will see Jung Sung Ryong line up against his old team for the first time since his J-League switch.  Kawasaki finished 3rd in the J-League last year and will be no pushovers and considering the other teams making up the group are Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and Hong Kong’s Eastern it will almost certainly come down to the head-to-head between these two. Hopefully Bluewings will have learned from last year’s harsh lessons and be a little more focused in their home matches.

Prediction : Draw : Bluewings 1 – Kawasaki 1 

 

jeju_united_trans

Jeju United v Jiangsu FC (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Our final Korean team in action are Jeju United who embark on relatively unknown territory as they make only their second ever appearance in the ACL, the first of which was back in 2011.They qualified courtesy of finishing third in the K-League and then were moved into Jeonbuk’s place after they were expelled. They had a good season last year and will be hoping to build on a rather surprising third place spot this year. They strengthened their squad by adding Frederic Mendy from Ulsan whilst bringing Aleksander Jovanovic back from China. They also signed the experienced Park Jin Po from Seongnam which should add some steel to their often leaky defence. In Jiangsu FC, they face a tough opening game against such big names as Ramires, Martinez and Teixeira as well as continuing the ex-player theme by coming face to face with Hong Jeong Ho. Add in Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka and they have a really tough group which they will do well to get even close to qualification from to be honest. They are difficult to beat on the island in the domestic scene but bringing that form into the ACL is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Prediction : Away Win : Jeju 1 – Jiangsu 3

K-League Playoff 2nd Leg Preview

 

keep-calm-you-are-the-last-man-standing

 

At 3pm on Sunday two teams will clash in the final 90 mins of the 2016 K-League season as Seongnam FC and Gangwon FC face off in the playoff second leg at Tancheon. The match is perfectly poised after a rather tepid and oftentimes boring first leg finished 0-0 on Thursday past. With all to play for hopefully this match will serve us up a battle to last long in the memory. 

K_League_Classic_2016

K-League Playoff Final 2nd Leg Preview

Seongnam_FC.svggangwon_fc-svg

Seongnam FC v Gangwon FC

Seongnam will host the K-League Challenge’s Gangwon in the final match of this year’s K-League season in a game which will decide which team gets the final place in the Classic for 2017. The sight of Seongnam in the playoffs is something that even the most pessimistic among their support could not have foreseen.  They had an awful run of form toward the end of the season which saw them plummet from potential ACL participants to the playoffs.  They have only the one win in their last fifteen or so games including last week’s bore draw but more worryingly for the Tancheon die-hard is the fact they’ve only found the net once in the last six matches and that was from the spot in a 2-1 loss to Suwon FC. Too many key players have failed to perform for them in key matches and if they once again fail to turn up in the final it could be a miserable day for those in black.

Gangwon are a team playing with confidence having won both of their playoff games vs. Busan and then Bucheon 1995. They didn’t have a great end to the season and lost a few games in the final push for the playoffs although interestingly they lost to both Busan and Bucheon in the league before overcoming them in the playoffs which could be ominous for Seongnam. They boast a good group of foreign players and as was witnessed from the 1st leg they are not afraid to get down and dirty if the occasion calls.

Key Players

Seongnam –

%ed%94%bc%ed%88%acpitu-%ec%98%b7%ed%94%bc%ec%85%9c_%ec%84%b1%eb%82%a8fc

Pitu – There is no denying the class that Seongnam’s Argentinian number 26 possesses. He has an incredible eye for a pass, can score and is pretty deadly from set-pieces. He’s been off the boil since Kim Hak Bum left the club and has been used sparingly under the caretaker manager. He played in the 1st leg but winded himself in a challenge with the goalkeeper and limped off the pitch but should recover in time to take his place at Tancheon. If he plays there are fewer more influential midfielders in Korea and he could just be the man to pull the strings of probably Seongnam’s most important 90 mins of the last few seasons.

Gangwon

luiz

Luiz – The Brazilian midfielder raised quite a few eyebrows during the summer transfer window when he stepped down a division from Jeonbuk, albeit on loan. This was a move which seemed to have been engineered to allow Edu to make his return to Jeonju. He’s repaid his loan deal notching up seven goals for the club and while that sounds like a meagre return it’s his experience and overall presence on the pitch which has elevated him to a key player. Having lifted no less than three K-League Classic titles during his time in Korea he knows what it takes to win big matches and is unlikely to be phased by this one. If he plays on the day he has all the skill to cause Seongnam problems.

Prediction: It will be a cagey affair with so much at stake and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if extra time is needed to separate them. Seongnam 2 – Gangwon 1 (potentially taking 120 mins to decide it)

K-League Classic Round 38 Previews – Relegation Group

38

 

K-League Classic Relegation Group Previews

K_League_Classic_2016

This weekend sees the final matches in the K-League Classic in what has been one of the most unpredictable seasons I can remember. We’ve had points deducted, ‘giants’ being slain while others implode plus the emergence of a new face at the party. The K-League have split the fixtures over two two days with the Relegation Group being on Saturday and the Championship Group on Sunday.

wp-1478265947392.png
The Relegation Group going into the final round.

In the relegation round the biggest match  is that between Incheon United and Suwon FC as they battle to see who can avoid automatic relegation.  Suwon FC need to defeat Incheon by more than three goals if they are to survive until the playoffs at least. The other important match sees Pohang host Seongnam and both will be hoping Incheon don’t win otherwise one of them would slip into the playoffs.

With more potential twits and turns than an episode of Sherlock it is going to be an exciting 90 mins for sure. 

 

young soccer supporter man with ball and beer bottle watching football game on television sitting at home couch looking dejected sad and disappointed for failure or defeat wearing team jersey
Someone will be crying into their Soju night ….but who?

 

Incheon_United.svgsuwon fc

Incheon United vs. Suwon FC

After all the football played over the season the relegation battle will come down to these final 90 mins at Incheon Stadium as the bottom two face off in a winner takes all battle. Incheon had been in outstanding form recently having won five of their last ten or so matches but then they went and lost to Suwon Bluewings midweek. That defeat ensured the Bluewings survival and coupled with a surprise  Suwon FC win in Seongnam threw the relegation battle wide open again. Incheon have a fantastic ‘never say die’ attitude and have managed several last minute winners over the year. They also boast match-winners like Kevin in their squad and he will be a key man in this match too. Suwon have also surprised many and although they sit bottom of the table they have been more than competitive. Unfortunately thought their inconsistency goes hand in hand with their passion and desire and that is why they find themselves where they are.  They too have key men who they’ll need to be at their best and probably none more so than Australian defender Adrian Leijer who was a rock midweek against Seongnam. It might not be a pretty match but it will be exciting and could just go all the way to the final kick of the ball.

Prediction: Score Draw : Incheon 2 – Suwon 2

Pohang BadgeSeongnam_FC.svg

Pohang Steelers vs. Seongnam FC

Football has seen many a team fall from grace down the years, Blackburn Rovers, Parma to name but two and the K-League is of course not immune to this but it has to be said nobody could have predicted that these two clubs would be potentially 90 mins from a playoff spot to stay in the Classic. It is quite incredible that they find themselves in this position and no doubt both of these sides will have half an eye on the game over in Incheon where a draw would see them survive to regroup next year. Pohang come into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Gwangju in a match that they yet again threw away a lead. They have been incredibly erratic from day one of the season and even after they brought in several new recruits in the summer were still unable to stabilise things. Seongnam’s season has been slightly more dramatic as they have gone from sitting comfortably in the top three to 9th in the table. They had a great opportunity to effectively finish their season midweek when Suwon FC visited town but yet again they fell short. They did however get their first goal since the split and in fairness did pepper the Suwon goal for the majority of the 2nd half . It should be a close match but the last time they met Pohang ran out easy 4-1 winners and that might just be in both team’s heads come kick-off.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Seongnam 1

Suwon BadgeGwangjuFC

Suwon Bluewings vs. Gwangju

The final game is a bit of a ‘dead rubber’ as both sides are safe from relegation and therefore have only pride to play for, there is also the added fact that Bluewings have an FA Cup final coming up in a couple of weeks and might just decide to rest key players such as Yeom Ki Hun and Jonathon. Bluewings have had a nightmare season but have managed to get the results when they needed them and  have won three matches in a row. Their fans may have been blocking buses and screaming ‘blue murder’ for most of the season but if they bring the elusive FA Cup home to The Big Bird all will be forgiven. Gwangju yet again have secured their place at the top table and surely there come a time soon when we stop referring to them as the “surprise package” of the league. As they showed midweek they do love a comeback and  have a habit of finding late goals when they most need them. With nothing to play for this one could go either way.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Gwangju 1

 

K-League Classic Round 37 Previews & Predictions

37

K-League Classic Round 37 Previews & Predictions

K_League_Classic_2016

 

The end of the 2016 K-League Classic is almost upon us as Wednesday sees the penultimate round of matches in what has been one of the tightest leagues of the last few years . Most eyes will be on the key games in the Championship Group featuring the top two of Jeonbuk and Seoul to see if anything will give before they meet in the final game at the weekend. It’s only goals scored that separates them after some big wins last weekend.

In the Relegation Group the big one is probably the battle between Suwon Bluewings and Incheon United as the two in-form teams of the bottom six go head to head in a game that will have ramifications for the other four teams. Suwon FC will be relegated if they lose to Seongnam and Incheon fail to see off the Bluewings.

wp-1478047985538.png
The K-League Classic League Table

This round of games take place with matches kicking off in  the evening at either 7 or 7.30pm, with temperatures plummeting in Korea it’s going to make it especially frosty for those fans who find themselves on the losing side.

Wednesday November 2nd 2016:

Jeonbuk BadgeSangju_Sangmu_FC

Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu (7pm) – Championship Round

First up we have the match involving league leaders and defending champions Jeonbuk against the surpside package of 2016 Sangju, the hosts will  come into this game knowing that if they match FC Seoul’s result on the night then they will be in complete control of their own destiny come the final game on Sunday. They’ve only lost once all season which was to Jeju but they have come close on several occasions and have definitely looked shaky in recent weeks, although they did look every bit champion material last weekend as they routed local rivals Jeonnam. Sangju, although impressive in the early stages have been pretty rank rotten of late and haven’t won since mid August although they did put in a battling performance recently against FC Seoul with a 2-2 draw. They’ve ran Jeonbuk close in their meetings all season and have drawn twice with the leaders so this is anything but the easy home win it might look on paper.

Prediction: A hard fought home win : Jeonbuk 2 – Sangju 1

FC Seoul BadgeJeonnam Badge

FC Seoul vs. Jeonnam Dragons (7.30pm) – Championship Round

FC Seoul will host their final league match of the season perhaps wondering if they should be sitting atop the table after surprisingly dropping two points in their last home game against Sangju a couple of weeks ago. Since then though they have made it to the FA Cup final where they have a two-leg ‘Supermatch’ final to look forward to and stopped their poor run of form against Jeju by flying back from the island paradise with all 3pts in the bag. Jeonnam’s fortunes have not been quite so lofty and they will still be licking their wounds after that humping at the hands of  their Jeolla neighbors. They lost in the FA Cup to Seoul on a penalty shootout and that might make them want revenge in the league but they’ll need to up their performances of late if they wish to get anything from a tough match.  With Jeonbuk having put five past Jeonnam last weekend Seoul will need to rack up the goals in this one too.

Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 2 – Jeonnam 0

Ulsan BadgeJeju Badge

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeju United (7.30pm) – Championship Round

The final game in the Championship Round is a battle for third and that all important final ACL place for 2017 (although recent rumors regarding Jeonbuk’s 2017 place being in jeopardy could change things). Jeju had looked in pole position to claim third going into last weekend but a defeat at home to Seoul coupled with an Ulsan victory has thrown the cat among the pigeons slightly. Jeju had been on a pretty good run of late, notching up four wins in a row and it was a little surprising to see them halted by Seoul and especially without finding the back of the net. Ulsan on the other hand, managed their first win in five as they defeated Sangju away. There is not a whole lot between the two teams and with so much at stake it could come down to who handles the occasion best. They have one win apiece so far this season but they’ve all been close affairs.
Prediction: Score Draw : Ulsan 1 –Jeju 1

GwangjuFCPohang Badge

Gwangju vs. Pohang Steelers (7pm) – Relegation Round

The first match to preview in the Relegation Group should really be a ‘dead rubber’ as only a few weeks ago these sides looked in zero danger of losing their place at the top table. Now with 2 games to go they, like the whole bottom six, are firmly in the battle to avoid the dreaded relegation playoffs. Both teams have been hugely inconsistent this year and they have both only managed to record two victories in their last ten matches. Gwangju come into the match after holding Seongnam to a goalless draw, their second match in a row where they have failed to score as top scorer and MVP nominee Jung Jo Gook has struggled to maintain his fine early season form. Pohang were surprising losers in the last round as they fell 3-2 away to Incheon as the hosts snatched all 3 pts with a 95th minute goal. That made it two defeats in a row for The Steelers, and they look like a team really struggling with the situation they find themselves in. A win for Gwangju would guarantee their safety, a defeat for Pohang could see them having to win at The Steelyard on the final day to avoid having to battle it out in the playoffs.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gwangju 1 – Pohang 1

Suwon BadgeIncheon_United.svg

Suwon Bluewings vs. Incheon United (7.30pm) – Relegation Round

This one is probably the biggest game of the round and arguably the biggest game of the season for both teams as they’ll know that a win for either would really impact on the relegation battle but a defeat could be disastrous. Bluewings have found some end of season form and won three games straight to give themselves a little breathing space as they move up to 8th place. Pretty much of all their positives have come from Jonathon, who after arriving in the summer transfer window has completely transformed their fortunes. He may have taken a few games to get used to his team mates but there is no denying the impact that he has had. Much like Adriano at Seoul last year he has become an integral part of their team and could just be the man who delivers them the FA Cup when the final comes around.   As impressive as Bluewing’s form has been recently it does pale when compared to Incheon who are having their own purple patch having won five and drawn three of their last eight matches. They have been pulling results out of nowhere at times and have shown incredible fight and resilience as last weekend’s victory showed. This is a team who is not going to go without a fight and are more than capable of putting in a performance in the big matches. All three matches between them this year have ended with a share of the points, this looks like it will go the same way.


Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Incheon 1

Seongnam_FC.svgsuwon fc

Seongnam FC vs. Suwon FC (7.30pm) – Relegation Round

The final game of this week’s previews sees Seongnam host Suwon FC in the final installment of the ‘flag wars’ saga and if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite it could potentially see Suwon relegated or Seongnam with the proverbial mountain to climb come next weekend. It is quite difficult to fathom quite how Seongnam have got themselves into their current fix, after all this was a team that was flirting with the table leaders as the trees were beginning to bloom. They have had a dismal run and  have only one win in eleven games and to make matters worse for them their goals look to have completely dried up. In form players such as Pitu have looked exhausted of late and the pressure of the ‘lone goal scorer’  has taken its toll on Hwang Uijo. They look like a team just begging for the season to end to regroup. Suwon FC have been a joy to have in the Classic at times this year with their battling spirit and never say die approach. They lost the Suwon Derby at the weekend but again should that same fight and passion throughout. They have players who are too good to be plying their trade in the Challenge and you get the feeling they would bid farewell to one or two of them if and when they drop back down. This is an almost impossible game to call, Suwon need something to keep their dreams alive and Seongnam will not want to have to travel to Pohang needing a win.


Prediction: Score Draw : Seongnam 1 – Suwon 1

K-League Classic Round 35 Previews – Saturday Fixtures

number-35

The K-League Classic Round 35 Previews

K_League_Classic_2016

 

Last week we witnessed the title race being blown wide open as Jeonbuk suffered their first league defeat of season at the hands of Jeju and Seoul continued their good run of form by dispatching Ulsan to pull level on points. Things also remain tight at the bottom with both Incheon and Bluewings being held to draws. It’s definitely shaping up to be one of the closest battles in the league for a couple of years. This Saturday sees both Seoul and Jeonbuk play as well as Bluewings facing off against their rivals Seongnam. 

wp-1477101536181.png

Saturday October 22nd 2016:

Ulsan BadgeJeonbuk Badge

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai (3pm) – Championship Round

First preview up this weekend is the  Hyundai Derby between Ulsan and Jeonbuk as 4th place hosts 1st in a game which could have huge impact on the destination of the K-League Classic trophy.  Ulsan have lost their last two games in the league and have such slipped 4pts behind Jeju in third, with the FA Cup semi final looming midweek they might just feel that that is where their main focus lies and could very well rest some players. They have also been poor at home in the league this season. Jeonbuk have had a mixed last seven days to say the least, they progressed to the Champions League Final on Wednesday night but they did lose their 2nd leg to FC Seoul and that could have huge psychological effects on them going into the last few league matches. Add in the fact that they also lost last weekend to Jeju United and they are beginning to look rather shaky. This season has seen two draws and one win for Jeonbuk.

Prediction: Score Draw : Ulsan 1 – Jeonbuk 1

 

FC Seoul BadgeSangju_Sangmu_FC

FC Seoul vs. Sangju Sangmu (3.20pm) – Championship Round

FC Seoul got rather lucky with the post-fixtures and managed to land two home games in a row, coupled with their mid-week ACL match and next week’s FA Cup semi and you could be excused for thinking they only play at home in October. This week they take on a rather ragged looking Sangju who are more than struggling at this point. Seoul are on a good run of form and as mentioned above got that huge mental boost over Jeonbuk on Wednesday. They have looked solid at home and in Ju Se Jong have a player more than capable of turning a match on its head, which is helping to alleviate some of the pain of a misfiring Adriano who looks a little disinterested at times.   Sangju don’t have their woes to seek and  haven’t won in over two months and are only making the case against an “Army” team occupying a slot in the top division all that more credible. The three fixtures this season have resulted in two wins for Seoul and one for Sangju but with so many key players now gone it’ll take something totally unexpected to see the Army boys repeat that feat again.
Prediction: Seoul to win and go top : Home Win : Seoul 2 – Sangju 0

Suwon BadgeSeongnam_FC.svg

Suwon Bluewings vs. Seongnam FC (3pm) – Relegation Round

The final match on Saturday and the only game in the relegation round is the derby match between Bluewings and Seongnam FC. Bluewings are still perched precariously just above the playoff spot having only won the one match in their last eleven games although that did come at Tancheon against Seongnam. In that run of matches they’ve notched up something like six 1-1 draws and really have struggled to kill teams off all season.Summer signing, Johnathon, has been the one shining light for them and has scored in the last five games. Seongnam have been in free-fall for a while now and in the last round drew 0-0 at home to Incheon in one of those matches that would get football stopped. They have only the one win in nine games and have looked a team sorely missing captain Kim Do Heon and of course the talismanic Tiago, which has made the ommitance of Pitu of late all the more strange. A stick-on draw on paper this game does have the potential to be a cracker if the key players in each team show up. They’ve played four times this season and have two victories apiece.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Seongnam 1

K-League Classic Round 34 Previews

happy
International week is over!!!!

After a week off for international duty domestic football returns this weekend with the first of the post-split fixtures. For some the international break is a welcome distraction and a time to rest and recharge the batteries and this is undoubtedly the case for most K-League players as international coach Uli Stielike continues to select his players on a ‘anywhere but Korea’ basis. And so after a rather disappointing international week for Korean football fans in which they yet again fell short in Tehran it’s time to get back to real deal and the bread and butter of the K-league.

 

K_League_Classic_2016

K-League Classic Round 34 Previews

34image
Round 34 is looking at you babe!

The Classic has now split into two groups, one that will compete for the title and the automatic ACL spots the other that will fight to avoid relegation and the play-off spot against the best from the Challenge. Unlike last season, this year we have really competitive matches in both groups and with all to play for it should be a tense end to the season for most teams.

wp-1476318409215.png
The post-split league table.

First up we have the Championship Group….

 

Championship Group

Jeonbuk BadgeJeju Badge

Jeonbuk v Jeju United (Sat @ 3pm)

Jeonbuk welcome Jeju to the Jeonju World Cup Stadium for a match that would really have been practically meaningless were it not for the host’s 9pt deduction a couple of weeks ago, now though it is a match which could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title and also ACL qualification. Jeonbuk still remain undefeated so far this season in the league and as undoubtedly impressive as that is they have found themselves snatching a draw from the jaws of victory on several occasions.  They have drawn four of their last five matches and in fairness that’s probably not really what you would call the form of champions. Jeju have put together a late run of form that has seen them edge above Ulsan into third place and with two wins in a row they will be feeling confident about staying there. With both Jeonbuk and Jeju topping the scoring charts you would imagine there will be goals in this one…so I guess it’ll probably end up 0-0 now I’ve said that.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Jeju 1

FC Seoul BadgeUlsan Badge

FC Seoul v Ulsan (Sat @ 3pm)

The other Championship group match on Saturday sees second placed FC Seoul welcome fourth placed Ulsan to the capital with, you imagine, as many eyes on Naver watching the Jeonbuk score as watching the action on the pitch. This will be the third time the teams have played at Sangnam in the league this season, as yet again we see why having a league with a split tends to be as unpopular as a certain presidential candidate at a sewing circle. Seoul have had their title bid reinvigorated by Jeonbuk’s punishment and now a cause that seemed lost is almost within their grasp again, although that’s usually when they blow it. They have won their last two league games which has pulled them to within 3 points of Jeonbuk who they also meet midweek in the ACL semi-final. Ulsan are firmly in the battle for an ACL spot although they will also have the safety net of the FA Cup which if they were to win would guarantee them a place in next year’s groups and probably an easier route to the last sixteen also. They lost their match, a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Incheon, so will be looking to bounce back in this one. It will be a close game with the last two matches, also played in Seoul, finishing in draws.

Prediction : Score Draw : Seoul 1 – Ulsan 1

Sangju_Sangmu BadgeJeonnam Badge

Sangju v Jeonnam (Sun @ 3pm)

This season the K-League has decided to spread the group matches across the weekend instead of in previous years where one group played on Saturday and the other on Sunday. That means that on Sunday we have Sangju hosting Jeonnam as the only two teams with nothing to play for in the Championship group go head to head. Sangju secured their first every spot in the top group on the last day of the pre-split with a draw at home to Jeonbuk. They have been on a poor run of form since losing so many key players to their parent clubs and haven’t won in the last seven games and probably only the shocking form of Seongnam allowed them to make it into the top half. Jeonnam came from nowhere to make the Championship group but will probably view an ACL spot as being out of their reach. They lost to Jeju in the last round but had been unbeaten in six before that. Interestingly this game could see Sangju’s key player of 2016 Park Ki Dong start against them as he recently returned to Jeonnam. These games do tend to see goals and this could be another high scoring affair.

Prediction : Away Win : Sangju 1 – Jeonnam 2

Relegation Group

Pohang BadgeSuwon Badge

Pohang v Suwon Bluewings (Sat @ 3pm)

At the beginning of the season if you had said that one of these sides would be in the Relegation group you would have been scoffed at yet alone the idea that both would find themselves among the bottom teams and potentially fighting to remain in the Classic. The year started with both  sides playing Champions League football so it is quite the fall from grace for both. After a quite atrocious run of four defeats Pohang have won their last two games and are probably the only team in the bottom six that goes into the split with a modicum of confidence and security. They defeated Seongnam FC in the last round and even though the 4-1 result was a little more than they deserved they showed a hunger in that match that has been missing much of the season.  Bluewings have only one win in ten games, I feel that needs repeating one win in ten,  and have been a pale reflection of the team that finished second last year. They have amassed sixteen draws this season and although the optimist among you will say if they had won some of them they could be sitting at the top the flip side is just how lucky they are not to be bottom. None of their key players have turned up consistently this year and if they continue this way for the last five fixtures they could well be facing a playoff. This year all three matches have been draws, it could be tough to separate them again.

Prediction : Home Win : Pohang 2 – Bluewings 1

Seongnam_FC.svgIncheon_United.svg

Seongnam FC v Incheon United (Sun @ 3pm)

The first of two matches in the Relegation group on Sunday is somewhat of a derby as Seongnam FC host Incheon United in a game few thought they would see again until 2107. If Pohang and Bluewings fans are disappointed to be in the bottom six Seongnam fans are almost distraught, and in fact only the prospect of potentially relegating their Bluewwings rivals is helping them crack a smile. Sitting atop the table in April Soengnam have gone on the kind of poor run that keeps managers awake at night. Only 4 points from their final 8 games has pushed them close to the edge of the relegation dogfight. They need to stop the rot asap or they might well end up being the team representing the Classic in the playoffs.  Incheon on the other hand are in the middle of a purple patch with three wins from five keeping them above Suwon FC. Their away win at Ulsan in the last round raised many an eyebrow and ruined many a bet in the process. They won on their last visit to Tancheon, Kevin Oris the hero that day. That match also set the ball rolling for Seongnam’s drastic decline in form. This a huge match for both teams.

Prediction: 1 – 2

suwon fcGwangjuFC

Suwon FC v Gwangju FC (Sun @ 3pm)

The final game to preview of the weekend pits bottom club FC Suwon against Gwangju FC in a match that is a huge match for the hosts as relegation rivals Incheon and Bluewings have tricky away fixtures. Suwon come into the match on the back of a quite incredible 5-4 away win in the Suwon derby in a game that must be a contender for match of the year.  Although they have been at the foot of the table most of the season they are capable of rising to the big occasion and have taken quite a few big scalps over the year. Gwangju failed to make the top 6 after losing three of their last five matches and sit in 9th tied on 41 pts with Seongnam and Pohang. They were unlucky in their match when they fell at home to Seoul to a last minute Yun Il Lok goal. They of course have previous in the playoffs having defeated Gyeongnam back in 2014 but it’s an experience you can guarantee they don’t want to have to repeat. We have had two home wins and a draw so far this season between the teams and you just get the feeling that Suwon might have a little more desire to win than their opponents.

Prediction: Home Win : Suwon 2 – Gwangju 1

K-League Classic Round 33 Previews

K_League_Classic_2016

 

K-League Classic Round 33 Previews

round_33

 

This week sees the final set of matches before the ‘dreaded’ split. It’s a full card of action on the Sunday as we’ll finally confirm just who’s season has been a disaster and who’s going to have the pleasure of travelling to Jeonju for a trip to the ‘bribedome’ in the last few weeks. 

 

wp-1475288135072.png
League standings as of Round 32 *Jeonbuk deducted 9pts*

Suwon Badgesuwon fc

Suwon Bluewings vs. Suwon FC (2pm)

First up we have  the third ‘Suwon Derby’ in history as Suwon Bluewings host Suwon FC, when the fixtures were drawn away back in Feb this would have been planned as the final encounter between the two but so poor has Bluewings season been that we will be treated to another serving before Christmas. Both sides are deep in the relegation battle and three points for either team could swing the pendulum. Bluewings are undefeated in seven games though an incredible six of those have been draws. I watched Suwon FC last weekend at home to Jeonnam and it was not a pretty 90 mins to be polite. This one will be close and with so much at stake it might be experience that takes it.

Prediction: Home Win : Bluewings 1 – Suwon 0

Sangju_Sangmu_FCJeonbuk Badge

Sangju Sangmu vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai (2pm)

Jeonbuk Hyundai were given a 9 point deduction on Friday evening for referee bribery and as such this match no longer has title winning potential for the visitors.  Sangju, after performing so well in the first half of the season, haven’t won in the last six, and have in fact lost four of those. Without Park Ki Dong, now returned to Jeonnam, they look an average team.  Jeonbuk are still undefeated in the league this season, and in midweek continued their superiority over the K-League by destroying Seoul in the Champions League to all but seal their place in the final. Jeonbuk will be favorites to win this and the title looks destined to be staying in Jeonju for at least another year.

Prediction: Away Win : Sangju 1 – Jeonbuk 2

Ulsan BadgeIncheon_United.svg

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Incheon United (2pm)

A more contrasting pairing would be hard to find this week as third placed, FA Cup semi-finalists Ulsan take on a beleaguered looking eleventh placed Incheon. Ulsan currently occupy the final Champions League spot and have won their last two on the bounce and seem to be one of those teams that really does ‘play to the final whistle’ having come from a goal down to Seongnam to win 2-1 in the 93rd minute recently. They are on a great run of form and have only lost one match in the last couple of months. Incheon  are also capable of their own fightback and came back from two goals down to the Bluewings to draw last weekend in injury time, but then again it was only the Bluewings!! This one should have goals in it and nobody will leaving before the final whistle that’s for sure.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Incheon 1

Seongnam_FC.svgPohang Badge

Seongnam FC vs. Pohang Steelers (2pm)

Seongnam host Pohang Steelers in one of the  key games in the battle for a top half finish this weekend as both could end up in either half of the table depending on other results. Flying high for most of the start of the season, Soengnam have been nothing short of woeful the last 3/4 months. It started with the sale of Tiago and continued with some bafflingly defensive tactics from Kim Hak Bum. In fairness since Kim stepped down the boys in black have looked better but it’s looking too late now.  Pohang haven’t done much better, and in fact have had the worst season in many a year. They made huge changes in the transfer window to stem their poor form but it hasn’t helped and one win in five games leaves them in the unfavorable plight of being in the Relegation Group but out of the relegation battle and the resulting five ‘friendlies’ that brings. A tough match to call but the hosts need the win more.

Prediction: Home Win : Seongnam 1 – Pohang 0

GwangjuFCFC Seoul Badge

Gwangju vs. FC Seoul (2pm)

A match that was all about Gwangju making the top six has now been given an extra dimension after Jeonbuk’s midweek points deduction as Seoul are back in with a chance of the title however slim that chance might be. Gwangju have been around and about the top half of the table most of the season but last week slipped back into the bottom half. They will need  a win this round if they are to stand a chance of securing their place in the Championship Group. Seoul seemed to have given up the ghost of winning the title and have been poor of late with just the one win in their last six and even that was a last minute win against bottom dwellers Suwon. It will be interesting to see if they find some more energy about their game after that Jeonbuk decision.

Prediction: Away Win : Gwangju 1 – Seoul 2

Jeonnam BadgeJeju Badge

Jeonnam Dragons vs. Jeju United (2pm)

The final game of the weekend has more of an impact on the ACL spots than on the post-split league groups. Jeonnam have come from nowhere to find form over the last few months and are now looking like the form team in the league. That this form has come after the departures of Stebo and Orsic is all the more incredible. Jeju United are also one of the top teams in the country at present as their utter domination of Sangju last weekend showed. They are the second top scorers in the league behind Jeonbuk and hold a whopping 20 goals over Ulsan who sit just above them in the table. The game is being played in Suncheon as Jeonnam take the team on the road. What impact that has will be revealed by 4pm on Sunday.

Prediction: Away Win : Jeonnam 1 – Jeju 2