This week sees the return of the Asian Champions League as we approach the halfway point of the Group Stages. It’s been a mixed bag for the K-League’s representatives as only Jeonbuk and Ulsan have come through the first two weeks unscathed with both Jeju and the Bluewings suffering home defeats.
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs Tianjin Quanjian
Jeonbuk will host Tianjin as the only Korean team to have amassed full points from the first two rounds as they easily dispatched Hong Kong’s Kitchee 6-0 away in the last round. Although not exactly raising eyebrows with that result they went about their business with a cut-throat attitude in a first half performance that saw them 5-0 up by half-time. Adriano was the hero on the night as he grabbed a hat-trick, with two coming from the penalty spot. In Tianjin of course, they will face much sterner opposition as the Chinese Super League team came back from Japan with a share of the points in Round 2. They had ex-Milan youth legend Alexandre Pato to thank for the draw as he equalized with 2 mins left on the clock. You have to go all the way back to 2012 for Jeonbuk’s last home defeat to a Chinese team, can they keep that incredible record intact for at least one more round?
Prediction : Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 Tianjin 1
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Jeju United
On paper this would have been the match that Jeju would have been looking forward to least as they make the trip to Guangzhou to face the “Galacticos” of Evergrande. Having lost their opening match to Cerezo it was imperative that they got a result in Thailand and they duly delivered as they returned from Buriram with all 3pts in the bag after a 2-0 win. They couldn’t have asked for a better start in that game as they took the lead after only 2 mins with what was literally the first attack of the match. They played FC Seoul in their opening K-League match last week which ended in a 0-0 draw and they do look like they lack that spark from last year. Evergrande have started their ACL campaign having drawn their opening two group games and lost in the Guangzhou derby at the weekend also. They don’t look like the formidable team of a few years ago and will need to start putting wins on the the table soon if they are to avoid crashing out early again. Jeju won the last time they headed to China as they defeated Jiangsu 2-1 last year, they might fancy their chances of returning from China with something again this time.
Prediction : Score Draw : Evergrande 1 Jeju 1
Wednesday March 7th
Suwon Bluewings vs Shanghai Shenhua
Suwon captured most, if not all, of the news in Round 1 when they easily brushed Sydney FC aside ‘down under’ but it was to be headlines of an unwanted nature a week later as they lost at home to Kashima Antlers as 1st Round hero Dejan turned villain as he missed an early penalty. If the swathes of positivity surrounding the Bluewings faithful began to bare threads that night they were royally crushed after the opening day of the K-League as they were inexplicably played off the park at home by Jeonnam Dragons. In Shanghai they face opposition who themselves are struggling for form having drawn both their ACL group matches and their opening fixture of the Chinese Super League. They drew 2-2 at home to Sydney in Round 2 with all four goals coming in a frantic first half of football. They’ll be able to take comfort in the fact that they look dangerous coming forward and Bluewings will need to defend better that they did against Jeonnam last week. Interestingly Suwon have never lost at home to Chinese opposition, with their attacking options they must feel confident of keeping that run going.
Prediction : Score Draw : Bluewings 1 Shanghai 1
Shanghai SIPG vs Ulsan Hyundai
The final match of Round 3 sees Ulsan make the trip to Shanghai to face table-toppers SIPG in what will undoubtedly be a tough encounter for the K-League boys. Shanghai have won both their opening group games and trounced Dalian 8-0 in the opening weekend in China. They built on their away win over Kawasaki Frontale by routing Melbourne Victory 4-1 in Round 2 as both Hulk and Oscar got on the scoresheet. Ulsan also had another positive result in Round 2 as they ran out 2-1 winners over Frontale courtesy of two fantastic strikes from Jung Jae Yong and Lee Yeong Jae. They did concede a late goal in the match which made for a rather nervy final five minutes but all in they did more than enough that night to deserve a full haul of the points. They unfortunately weren’t able to take that momentum into the Hyundai Derby and lost 2-0 to Jeonbuk in the Korean ‘Charity Shield’ on Thursday past. They were easily swept aside by Beijing Renhe the last time they made the trip over to China which was actually the start of a four game winless away streak and is obviously something they can’t afford to reignite given they still have a precarious trip to Japan to come.
Prediction : Home Win : Shanghai 2 Ulsan 0