K-League Classic 2017 Week 3 Predictions

 

Week 2 of the K-League saw the Super J’s of Jeonbuk and Jeju United continue on their winning ways with huge wins over the Bluewings and Ulsan respectively, even at this early stage they do both look a cut above the rest in the league. Seoul came back from the ski jump resort with a win and Jeonnam had another dismal day at work as they fell to a confidence-sapping 3-1 defeat at home to the Army with Joo Min Kyu netting his first goal of his military service.

 

Son Heung Min excited about Week 3 of the K-League

K-League Classic 2017 Week 3 Previews and Predictions

 

Gangwon vs. Pohang Steelers @ 3pm

Depending on where you look this match may or may not be postponed but I’ll preview it just in case, it’s our second trip of the season to the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium as Gangwon welcome Pohang to the Korean Alps. Last weekend didn’t go according to plan for the newly promoted Classic team as FC Seoul came to town and left with all 3pts. A lot of the talk was about the goings on off the pitch as there were more than one or two issues for those hoping to see their heroes. On the pitch it was a pretty dour affair and neither team could have complained about a scoreless draw. Yet again a poor pitch played a huge part in the proceedings and with an extra week (or more if the match is truly postponed) hopefully things will be better. Pohang grabbed their first points of 2017 with a 2-0 home victory over Gwangju courtesy of a Yang Dong Hyun brace. Last year they were woefully inconsistent, they will need to rectify that if they want to avoid another year in the doldrums of the Relegation Group.  The head to head is totally in Pohang’s favour, with the last two matches seeing them rack up seven goals with no reply.

Prediction: Away Win : Gangwon 1 – Pohang 2

Incheon United vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

The other match on Saturday sees a rather fragile and shaky looking Incheon host Jeonbuk in what will probably be a ‘backs to the wall’ performance from the home team. Incheon haven’t looked great in their opening two games of the season, but, just like last season, they showed their spirit with a  comeback from 2 goals down against Daegu last week. They’ve looked like leaking goals almost every time a team attacks them but are definitely capable of grabbing the odd goal themselves. Last week they had Kim Dae Kyung to thank for saving their blushes as his last minute penalty sent them back up the road with a point. Jeonbuk have had a perfect start to the 2017 season beating both Jeonnam and Suwon Bluewings, with the latter barely requiring them to break sweat. They easily brushed Bluewings aside at The Big Bird with goals from Kim Bo Kyung and Lee Jae Sung making even the most ardent Leonardo fan begin to forget him. The match was marred by a shocking challenge on Lee Seung Ki, but Jeonbuk do look every bit the title challengers and it’s already looking like it will take something special to stop them marching to the title. Last time out Jeonbuk beat Incheon 3-1 however over the years the head-to-head record is pretty even.

Prediction: Away Win : Incheon 1 – Jeonbuk 2

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm

The first game of ‘Super Sunday’ comes from Ulsan as they take on the Army side of Sangju Sangmu as 8th hosts 4th. Ulsan come into the match short of confidence having lost 3-0 last weekend in the league against Jeju United and then drawing at home to Muangthong United in the ACL. That annihilation of Brisbane Roar is already paling into the background and it is exactly this inconsistency which plagued their fans last year. It has now been over 180 mins since they last hit the net and although not exactly time to run panicking into the night it is something of a concern.  Sangju are level on points with Ulsan after bouncing back from losing week one by romping Jeonnam 3-1 last weekend with the highlight being that Joo Min Kyu strike.  The two teams are evenly matched and it could be a really tight match. Ulsan have had it easy over their previous meetings with 24 wins from 36 matches but interestingly it was honors even last year, one thing is for sure there should be goals as both teams have lethal forwards.

Prediction: Score Draw : Ulsan 1 – Sangju 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Daegu @ 3pm

Next up we have our second visit of the season to Suwon World Cup Stadium as The Bluewings take on Daegu in a match which on paper the hosts should be winning every time. Suwon, like 2016, have had a poor start to their league season drawing the ‘Super Match’ in week 1 and then losing at home last weekend to Jeonbuk. They beat Eastern in the ACL 1-0 during the week but even that was somewhat closer than it should have been and took the introduction of Johnathan and Yeom from the bench to garner the win. They were incredibly pedestrian against Jeonbuk last weekend and look as though the same ailments from last season are still afflicting them. Daegu lost their opening game and then last weekend let a 2 goal lead slip to draw against Incheon to draw 2-2. Their goals came from Leo and Cesinha but it will be that lapse at the back which will be playing on their minds come kick-off. Suwon won 2-0 back in August 2013 when they last met and over the head to head haven’t lost since 2009.
Prediction: Home Win : Bluewings 2 – Daegu 0

FC Seoul vs. Gwangju @ 3pm

The final 3 o’clock kick off on Sunday comes from the Seoul World Cup Stadium, and features FC Seoul versus  Gwangju. FC Seoul rught now look a team devoid of confidence, creativity and guile as they suffered a 3rd straight ACL defeat mid-week and all but resigned themselves to crashing out of the group stages.  In the league they’ve notched up four points from their opening two games but have impressed nobody in either game. Dejan was the hero last week down in Gangwon and he is always going to be Mr. Reliable but it is the performance of Yoo Hyun in goals that is proving costly to the Champions. Gwangju won their opening game but lost last weekend down in The Steelyard and although they are a plucky team they do lack that killer ball and little bit of imagination that wins matches. Seoul won all four games last year and even though they are struggling for form it would be folly to look beyond them repeating the same feat this year too.
Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 2 – Gwangju 0

Jeju United vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 5pm

Rounding off the weekend we have the late afternoon Sunday game from the Jeju World Cup Stadium between Jeju United and Jeonnam Dragons. Jeju traveled to Adelaide during the week on ACL duty and came back with a credible draw although having led twice in the match they might feel that it was more two points lost than one gained. They’ve had a perfect start to the Classic this year with two wins from two and look very much like the only team who will push Jeonbuk for the title. Not only are they scoring for fun but they are still to concede in the league. It is going forward though they they look incredible and are capable of scoring from almost anywhere on the pitch.  Jeonnam are the complete mirror image of that and have had the worst possible start to the season with two defeats from two. They might have felt bad after losing the Jeolla Derby in the last minute but losing 3-1 at home to Sangju was unacceptable and they rightly languish at the foot of the table. The head to head is reasonably split with Jeju just edging it, last time out though it was Jeju who emerged the victors winning 5-3 back in October.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Jeonnam 0

Seongnam v Suwon FC – The Flag Wars Return

 

Seongnam’s Journey Back – Week 3 – The Flag Wars Return

Last year the clashes between Seongnam and Suwon FC were billed as ‘The Flag Wars’ as both mayors held their own private competition which would see the victor get to fly their “colours” at the other’s stadium, it’s safe to say that this was a bet that Seongnam’s Lee Jae Myung probably didn’t see himself losing once never mind twice across the year. We often hear the term “bogey team” get banded about in football but in fairness last year Suwon put the knife into Seongnam on more than one occasion and given the fact that only one of those four fixtures took place in Suwon it was tough for the boys in black to take. This weekend will see the first of a double-header as Seongnam welcome Suwon to town in the Challenge before meeting them again in the FA Cup 3rd Round on March 29th, also at Tancheon. Given how Seongnam have started their first year in the 2nd Division those two matches are already looking like season-defining moments.

 

 

 

 

Saturday March 18th – 5pm kick-off

While they might not stir the emotions of the fans as much as Seongnam v Bluewings derbies the games against Suwon’s poorer cousins last season were some of the most entertaining with one draw and three victories being watched by some of the largest attendances in either stadium. Suwon have started the season brightly and have two wins from two so far, having first dispatched of Anyang before last week’s scalp of Bucheon. Those two victories have them sitting in second on goal difference behind Busan. They are a solid outfit and one of their more successful tactics last year was to press their opponents, never giving them a second to breathe. This was particularly successful against Seongnam when the likes of Kim Do Heon and Hwang Uijo seemed to really struggle with the ‘close attention’. The win last week came courtesy of a Bruce Djite goal and he is definitely going to be one to watch in 2017. He signed for Suwon in the summer last year and scored a reasonable five goals in thirteen games as they battled for survival in Classic. Suwon also kept a hold of fellow Australian Adrian Leijer who impressed at the back for most of last year.

Suwon get ready to visit Tancheon again!!

Last week saw Seongnam get their first goal and first point of the 2017 campaign as they battled to a 1-1 draw down in Daejeon. The visitors took the lead in the second minute, Ahn Jae Joon with a header at the back post. Seongnam looked much more dangerous in the first half hour than they had looked all game against Busan in the opening weekend. They were pegged back when Lee Ho Seok scored for Daejeon on 36 but in all honesty it was a wicked deflection that beat Kim in goals and you got the feeling that he had the original shot more than covered. Daejeon threw everything at Seongnam in the 2nd half and Christian Danalche especially should have scored but in the end the game petered out and both teams settled for a draw and some points on the table.  Seongnam are still suffering from injuries but the games come thick and fast in the Challenge and they’ll need to find winning ways soon. This weekend against second place would be the ideal start.

The teams have met each other four times, all of which were last year, and Suwon have the upper hand having won twice and drawn once. Incredibly Seongnam have only been in the lead for a total of 20 minutes over those four matches. It is safe to say that Suwon played a huge part in Seongnam’s relegation and I’m sure The Magpies will be eager to make amends.

Prediction : Score Draw : Seongnam 1 – Suwon 1

Also in the Challenge this week we have

Daejeon v E-Land (Sat @ 3pm)

Asan v Bucheon (Sun @ 3pm)

Ansan v Anyang (Sun @ 3pm)

Busan v Gyeongnam (Sun @ 3pm)

 

ACL 2017 Round 3 Previews

 

Asian Champions League Round 3 – Previews

As we approach round 3 and the halfway stage in this year’s ACL it’s safe to say that it’s not been all plain sailing for the Korean teams, I’m looking at you FC Seoul, and there is still a lot of work to be done if we are to have an interest beyond the summer months. It’s not been all doom and gloom though and there have been a couple of stand-out results with Jeju and Ulsan catching the eye in Round 2

 

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
MUANGTHONG UNITED (THA) 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
KASHIMA ANTLERS (JPN) * 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
ULSAN HYUNDAI FC (KOR) * 2 1 0 1 6 2 4 3
BRISBANE ROAR (AUS) 2 0 1 1 0 6 -6 1

Ulsan v Muangthong United (Tuesday 19:30)

Ulsan come into the match on the back of a resounding hammering of Brisbane Roar in the last round, a 6-0 hammering to be precise. That was one of those matches where everything just seems to click and that coupled with some suicidal defending meant it was an easy night for the Koreans. They unfortunately got a taste of their own medicine at the weekend as Jeju sent them packing with a 3-0 victory on the island. Muangthong followed up their draw in Australia with a hard-fought 2-1 home victory a 95th minute strike from Xisco sending the home players and fans into a frenzy. They look a tough team to beat and Ulsan can’t have it as easy again as when Roar came to town.

Prediction : Home Win : Ulsan 1 – Muangthong 0

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE FC (CHN) 2 1 1 0 9 2 7 4
SUWON BLUEWINGS (KOR) 2 0 2 0 3 3 0 2
KAWASAKI FRONTALE (JPN) 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
EASTERN FC (HK) 2 0 1 1 1 8 -7 1

Eastern FC v Suwon Bluewings (Tuesday 20:00)

Suwon Bluewings seem to have started the K-League and indeed the ACL exactly like they did in 2016, looking unable to hold on to victory and see a match out. They were leading against both Seoul and Evergrande this season before throwing both matches away and having to settle for a share of the points. On Sunday they were outplayed at home by Jeonbuk and lost 2-0 and are already making fools of pre-season tips for the title. They seem to rely heavily on Jonathon and he has been misfiring so far, although he did score their second against Evergrande in Round 2. You would on paper think that this match should be one that they should sail through with relative ease but then it’s the Bluewings and easy doesn’t seem to come naturally for them. Eastern bounced back from their 7-0 humbling in China in Round 1  to record their first goal and points in the ACL, a Bleda penalty, it will be interesting to see if they can put another heroic show tonight.

Prediction : Away Win : Eastern 0 – Bluewings 2

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
URAWA RED DIAMONDS (JPN) 2 2 0 0 9 2 7 6
SUHANGHAI SIPG (CHN) 2 2 0 0 6 1 5 6
FC SEOUL (KOR) 2 0 0 2 2 6 -4 0
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 2 0 0 2 1 9 -8 0

FC Seoul v Western Sydney Wanderers (Wednesday 19:30)

In a match that could almost be billed as a damp squib even this early in the tournament we see Seoul welcome WSW to home in what can only be a ‘must-win’ match for both teams after their woeful starts. Seoul were swept aside easily in the first half in Japan against a rampant Urawa team who scored four goals in the first 21 minutes in their Round 2 encounter. Seoul looked devoid of ideas in that match although it was the performance or rather a lack of one from Yoo Hyun in goals which made all the headlines. He looked like both a rabbit caught in headlights and a cat being thrown a ball (thanks Paul Neat for that last comment) as he flapped at and jumped over every ball that came his way. It truly was a night to forget for Seoul’s number 1. Seoul do come into the match unbeaten after two games in the K-League and that might just give them the belief this week. If Seoul’s defeat in Japan was bad WSW’s home thrashing by SIPG was horrendous. Out-thought, out-fought and out-played for the whole game they struggled to resemble a team that was lifting this trophy only a few years back. It’s been a poor start for both teams but WSW do have the added boost that Seoul have never beaten them home or away, that might just play on the host’s minds.

Prediction : Home Win : Seoul 2 – WSW 1

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
JIANGSU (CHN) 2 2 0 0 3 1 2 6
JEJU UNITED (KOR) 2 1 0 1 4 2 2 3
GAMBA OSAKA(JPN) 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 3
ADELAIDE UNITED (AUS) 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

Adelaide United v Jeju United (Wednesday 19:30)

The final match of the round sees high-flying Jeju make the trip to Adelaide in another K-League v A-League clash. Jeju have surprised many this year with their performances both home and abroad, they were incredibly unlucky to lose the opening match against Jiangsu but more than made up for it by putting four past Gamba in Osaka. In the K-League they have won their opening two matches including a 3-0 victory over Ulsan. They are team playing with confidence right now and look like they can score every match, with goals coming from practically every area of the pitch. Adelaide are quite the mirror image of Jeju, falling first 3-0 at home to Gamba before losing 2-1 away in China. They got a lifeline with that unexpected Jeju victory in Japan but will need to be at their best to get one over Jeju in this match. You would imagine the visitors would settle for a draw with the idea of winning their remaining home ties.

Prediction : Away Win : Adelaide 1 – Jeju 2

Daejeon v Seongnam – The Clash of the Citizens

Seongnam’s Journey Back – Week 2 – Clash of the Citizens

So it’s safe to say that week one of Seongnam’s journey back to the Classic didn’t quite go according to plan as one flash of Lee Jeong Hyeop accompanied by one flash from Hwang Uijo’s 50p shaped head meant that all the marketing in the world couldn’t stop the boys in black from falling to a disastrous first week defeat. It was billed as a top of the table clash but in reality it unfortunately had the look and feel of two teams far disconnected  from their previous glories with those eleven titles between them looking as hazy as the morning after a Halla-San Soju-fest. Seongnam’s new coach, Park Kyung Hoon, has publicly taken the blame for the defeat citing both tactical errors and an injury list longer than an Itaewon McDonald’s queue. He will need to right the former rather quickly if he wants to remain in the black hotseat until December.

 

Sunday March 12th – 3pm Kick-off

Round 2 sees The Magpies facing easily one of the hardest away trips in the Challenge as they make their way to Daejeon to face their fellow ‘citizens’ in a match which might already have the Seongnam faithful contemplating 4pm KTX tickets. Daejeon themselves had a fairly underwhelming opening weekend as they fell to Korea’s newest team in a 2-1 defeat in Ansan. On paper Deajeon should have been winning that one every day of the week and this might just give Seongnam some hope that they are not quite fully ready. They do boast players such as Christian Danalache among their ranks and are a team who are generally capable of rising to the big occasion.

Seongnam rely, a little too much, on Hwang Uijo and if he isn’t performing to his best, see last week, then they do tend to look a little flat and lost. Last week new signing Paulo Sergio looked as much a footballer as the season-ticket selling ajumma at the East Gate, although in fairness she was at least able to pick out some of the players! It will take a much more cohesive, passionate, fluent and generally football-like performance this weekend to prevent Seongnam cementing their place at the bottom of the table.

The teams have met thirty-nine times in their history during which Daejeon have only won five times, it is on history alone a massive mis-match but this Seongnam team lack more than just skill at times and Daejeon might just see the chance to right a few wrongs come Sunday. 

Prediction : Score Draw : Daejeon 1 – Seongnam 1

K-League Classic 2017 Week 2 Predictions

Last week was the opening weekend of the 2017 K-League season and it raised several talking points from poor pitches to shocking strips, petulant players to fabulous free-kicks, disappointing draws to last-minute losers.  This week we have the first match ever to be played in a ski-jump resort, the battle of two high-flying ACL teams and the always eventful first trip to the Big Bird for Jeonbuk. It’s shaping up to be a cracker!!

The K-League Classic 2017 Round 2 – Previews

 

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Daegu vs. Incheon United @ 2pm

The early kick-off on Saturday sees newcomers Daegu welcome Incheon Unitd to town in a clash which is more than likely going to be regarded as a relegation dogfight in the final rounds of the season.  The match will mark Daegu’s first home Classic game in four years as they epitomize the struggles teams can face when they make the dreaded ‘drop down a division’. They lost last weekend against Gwangju as they fell to a first half strike from Cho Sung Jun but in fairness it was a pretty dire affair. They will need to put in a few sterling performances over the year if they are to avoid being the latest yo-yo club in Korea with home form being the key to putting up a challenge. Incheon also lost last weekend at home to Jeju in what was a lot closer a match than many had predicted. They will be another team that will need to get big results and you get the feeling that after being close the last couple of years this might just be their year for the playoffs. Daegu generally struggle in this tie and you have to go back five calendar years for their last victory.
Prediction: Away Win : Daegu 0 –  Incheon 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

Undoubtedly the game of the day on Saturday will take place at  Suwon World Cup Stadium as Jeonbuk come to town in what are generally close and hotly contested affairs. Bluewings visited Seoul last weekend in the ‘Super Match’ and will probably have been slightly disappointed that they drew 1-1 after leading for most of the first half courtesy of a Lee Min Woo strike. The normally reliable Johnathon had a bit of a nightmare match as he had more than a couple of chances to put Suwon out of sight but snatched at each one. They were prone to throwing away victories last season and that does look like it could haunt them again this year. Jeonbuk won the Jeolla Derby on Sunday on a ridiculously unplayable pitch, they led through Kim Jin Su but it took a last minute winner from The Wookie to seal the points after debut-boy Fecsezin had bundled the ball over the line to equalize for Jeonnam. It really was tough to judge them such was the state of the pitch so this one might give us more of an insight into how strong they’ll be this year. Jeonbuk had the upper hand in 2016 but then Bluewings were utterly honking for most of last season.

Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 2 – Jeonbuk 2

Jeju United vs. Ulsan Hyundai @ 3pm

Just like The Supermatch  last week we have another all Asian Champions League battle this week between arguably the two in-form Korean teams right now of Jeju and Ulsan. Jeju come into the match having won their opening game on their travels against a plucky  Incheon but it was by far their destruction of Gamba Osaka in Japan that has caught the eye. The winning goal last week came from new boy  Magno Cruz, but the victory was marred by the late sending off of Park Jin Po for a double yellow card. Ulsan also won last weekend beating Pohang with a Jung Jae Yong brace securing the win. Ulsan have looked impressive so far with new signing Orsic looking like he is going to have a major role in their tactics. The matches have been close over the last few years although Jeju have the slight upper hand and are always tough at home. There is a lot of firepower on both sides and this one could be a high-scoring affair.

Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Ulsan 1

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Gangwon vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The final match on Saturday is also the first of a kind as it will become the first  game of the season from the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium which will be the 2017 home of Gangwon FC. A lot of the close-season focus has been on Gangwon as they have brought in several key players so it was fitting that they won their opening game of the season beating the Army 2-1. That match saw Lee Keun-Ho score both goals against his old side either side of a Kim Ho Nam strike. With their ticket pricing being based on opposition it will be interesting to see how many fans make the trip. Seoul drew their opening game 1-1 in the Super Match against Suwon Bluewings and had ex-Suwon favorite Lee Sang Ho to thank as he pounced on a Yun Il Rok shot to poke the ball over the line. Seoul haven’t exactly been on fire so far this year and in fact look both slow and predictable in midfield and up front. They might struggle again today against a team who feel like they have a lot to prove in the season ahead. It’s been four years since they last met with Seoul the conquerors back then.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gangwon 1 – Seoul 1

There are also two matches being played on the Sunday.

 

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Jeonnam v Sangju

The first of Sunday’s games sees the two surprise teams of 2016 go head to head for the first time this year as Jeonnam Dragons welcome Sangju to town. Both teams had unexpected top-six finishes last year and it will be interesting to see if they can build on that this year. Jeonnam didn’t have the best of starts to 2017, losing the Jeolla Derby to Jeonbuk with virtually the last touch of the ball. They are pretty much the dark horse of the Classic, flying under the radar of big name signings but building a team that is often tough to beat. Sangju also lost 2-1 last week, falling at home to Gangwon. On paper though they seem to have a stronger squad than last season with some ‘big hitters’ opting for military service this year. They should be able to keep themselves up the table once they all find their feet…and their teammate. Over the years Jeonnam have had by far the upper hand in this fixture winning twenty-one of the thirty-five matches played, it wouldn’t be surprising for this one to follow that same pattern.

Prediction: Home Win : Jeonnam 2 – Sangju 1

 

Pohang v Gwangju 

The second game of the day comes from the Steelyard as probably the most disappointing team of 2016 gets set to welcome Gwangju to the POSCO grounds. Pohang cut a forlorn figure much of last year and given their opening weekend defeat to Ulsan it looks like they might yet again resemble the bridesmaid that can’t get a dance. They didn’t really seem at the races last week and given the size and stature of the club another year in the bottom six isn’t going to wash with fans and owners alike.  Gwangju won their opening match but it was against newly promoted and relegation favourites Daegu so it might not really be a sign of things to come.  The game won’t win ‘match of the day’ anytime soon and it was one of those games where the final whistle was welcomed with as big a cheer as the single goal. The Gwangju fixture might just be Pohang’s ‘goto match’ as they have lost only once in thirteen meetings and you have to go all the way back to 2006 for that solitary Gwangju victory, stranger things have happened in football….but not many.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 1 – Gwangju 0

K-League Classic 2017 Week 1 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

K-League Classic

Yesterday saw the first set of fixtures in the 2017 K-League season and it was victories for Ulsan, Gwangju and Gangwon as the results ran pretty much to form with the main talking point probably being a brace for Lee Keun Ho as Gangwon put the Army to the sword. Today we have the first Supermatch and Jeolla derbies of the year.

 

fc_seoul_transv_transbluewings_trans

FC Seoul vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 3pm

The season beings with the Korean version of the Charity Shield as the  league and FA cup winners clash, the fact that  this season its the  “Super Match” adds a little more spice to opening week. Seoul suffered a rather embarrassing defeat during the week in the Asian Champions League losing 5-2 to Urawa Reds in Japan. The defeat reinforced many’s opinion that goalkeeper Yoo Hyun is a liability between the sticks, it also showed a lack of guile in the middle of the pitch. Suwon Bluewings were a little more impressive as they fought to a 2-2 against Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande. They weren’t exactly on fire in that match but they look so much better than the team which struggled for most of last season, and could be in the title picture this season. Last time out it was Suwon who emerged as victors winning over 2 legs in the FA Cup final on penalties.
Prediction: Away Win : Seoul 0 – Suwon 1

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Incheon United vs. Jeju United @ 3pm

The second game of the day features a match which on paper should be a rather one-sided affair as high-flying Jeju come to Incheon. Incheon had a poor 2016 season, narrowly avoiding relegation in the last week. They have changed things up and their squad looks like it might be a little more competitive than last year although the loss of Kevin Oris could hit them hard as he was often the difference in 2016. However Jeju United looked very impressive during the week in the ACL easily beating Japanese side Gamba Osaka 4-1. That match will either have them on fire or might just have drained them a little. The sides have an even head-to-head record and  Incheon are generally strong at home, whereas Jeju tend to be a little erratic on their travels. .
Prediction: Away Win : Incheon 0 – Jeju 2
 

Jeonbuk Badgev_transJeonnam Badge

Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm

The final Classic game of the opening weekend is the Jeolla Derby as Jeonbuk welcome Jeonnam to town in what is always a hotly anticipated clash.  . Jeonbuk had a less than smooth 2016 having lost the title on the last week of the season after their points deduction. They went on to win the ACL but were then denied the opportunity to defend the crown after being kicked out at the last minute. They have a strong squad but have seen some key figures leave without replacements being brought in. Jeonnam were impressive last season and are more than capable of pulling off a shock in their day. The game will take in unfamiliar surroundings  at the Jeonju Civil Stadium as the World Cup Stadium is being used for the U20 World Cup.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Jeonnam 1

K-League Classic 2017 – Round 1 Previews (Saturday Fixtures)

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Live football is back!!!!!!!

 

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Ulsan vs. Pohang  @ 3pm

Ulsan must come into this match with more confidence then any other team in the league after their quite incredible mid-week destruction of Brisbane Roar in the Asian Champions League. In a pulsating 90 minutes they more than justified their place in the tournament as Jeonbuk’s replacements. They looked hungry, are match fit and in Orsic have a player who, on his day, is a match for anyone in the Classic. Many thought it would take them time to gel into a unit but the way dispatched their Australian counterparts was more than impressive. If that is them still meshing together then I pity the rest of the league come June.  Pohang are this season’s dark horses after a season they will want to forget last year. They have seen a few players leave with goalkeeper Shin Hwa Yong moving onto to Suwon Bluewings while Noh Dong Geon swapped places with him. They brought in Swedish defender Marcus Nilsson to shore things up at the back for them. It’s fair to say that the only way is up this season for the POSCO boys but they would probably have liked a simpler task to kick-start their rise from the ashes. The head-to-head record is pretty much honors even over the years but you just get a feeling that Ulsan have a little more about them at the moment.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Pohang 

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Gwangju vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The second game of the day features two sides who are most people’s picks to be involved in the relegation battle come the final rounds of 2017. Gwangju last year were buoyed by the rich vein of form of Jung Jo Gook but he has since departed for newcomers Gangwon and Gwangju have really struggled to replace him. They, on paper, look a weaker squad than the one that almost clinched a top 6 spot last year. They’ve kind of surprised most people the last two seasons but you get the feeling that this year they will probably struggle to keep their head above water. Daegu won promotion last season and have stuck with most of that squad although they did lose Paulo Sergio who decided to step down a division to join Seongnam. They will be very much the unknown quantity in the Classic and will certainly want to avoid the yo-yo effect as witnessed by both Daejeon and Suwon FC respectively. With other teams building on their squads for the most part I think many will feel it will come down to the meetings between these two to decide who falls into the Challenge next year. They last met in 2014 with Gwangju winning both their home ties that year, could we see more of the same now they are reunited?

Prediction: Draw : Gwangju  0 – Daegu 0

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Sangju Sangmu vs. Gangwon @ 3pm

The final game on Saturday features the teams most neutrals are interested in as the ever-changing Army team welcome the high-spenders of Gangwon in a match which could prove to be the game of the week. Sangju  had a pretty incredible 2016 as then manager Cho Jin Ho led them to a top 6 spot very much against all odds. Cho has left the club to manage Busan and the squad this year is significantly different from last. A quick look down their squad and you can’t help but think they have a more balanced and indeed skillful team now. Lim Chai Min, Yun Young Sun, Yun Ju Tae to name but a few all have Classic experience under their belt and in Joo Min Kyu they have the predator that lit up the 2015 Challenge season. Gangwon won their place in the top league courtesy of a victory over Seongnam in the relegation playoff and have strengthened their squad impressively during the off-season, Jung Jo-Gook, Lee Keun Ho and Hwang Jin Sun are all players capable of turning a match on its head.  A lot has made of Gangwon’s aspirations this year with lofty claims of ACL qualification being mentioned, only time will tell if those were attainable or if the fans will be be launching the players off that iconic ski jump come season’s end.
Prediction: Score Draw : Sangju 1 – Gangwon 1