Another set of blockbuster K-League One fixtures await us this weekend as title-hopefuls Ulsan FC get the weekend started with a home clash against Seongnam FC in the Saturday afternoon kick-off, before Jeonbuk welcome Incheon United to town as top hosts bottom. On Sunday we have the first game between the newly promoted teams as Gwangju FC host Busan IPark but for me the Match Of The Day is going to be down in Daegu as FC Seoul come to town.
Saturday, 13th June
Ulsan Hyundai (2nd) vs Seongnam FC (4th) – 16.30
After two draws in a row, Ulsan returned to winning ways last weekend….and then some as they exorcised the demons of 2019 with an emphatic victory over rivals Pohang. Lee Chung-yong scored twice in a resounding 4-0 victory away to Pohang, while K-League Player of the Month Junior continued his scintillating start to 2020 by bagging another goal. Ulsan sit 2nd in the league table but top the scoring charts with 13 goals, and a healthy goal difference of +9. They look to be back to their best after those draws and that can only spell disaster for their visitors this week.
Seongnam started the season unbeaten in their first four games but that run came to a shuddering end last weekend as they meekly surrendered at home to Daegu. Magpies coach Kim Nam-il chose to start with the experience of Yang Dong-hyun alongside the energy of 19yr old Hong Si-hoo but it was a partnership that never really clicked during a lackluster 90 mins from The Magpies. They took the lead through a rather soft penalty, Yang scoring from the spot but they conceded twice from set pieces as the defence failed to deal with Daegu’s aerial superiority. They have added the signing of international winger Na Sang-ho from FC Tokyo this week and the word on the streets around Tancheon is that he is the missing piece that Kim was looking for over the close season.
Prediction : It’s hard to see past an Ulsan win but it could be tight. Score : 2-1
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) vs Incheon United (12th) – 19:00
It’s top versus bottom as table-toppers Jeonbuk host bottom side Incheon United in a clash that always seems to have goals in it. Jeonbuk finally looked like Champions as they bounced back from last week’s Gangwon defeat to put four past FC Seoul with Lee Dong-gook scoring twice as they overwhelmed Seoul in a totally one-sided second-half. They took the lead at the end of the 1st half but only held on to it for around 60 seconds as Park Chu-young equalized, but whatever was said at the break worked as they came out determined in the 2nd half and Seoul couldn’t handle the onslaught. Jeonbuk sit top by a solitary point with a trip to Ulsan coming up soon.
Incheon United are still looking for their first win of 2020 and will need to play a lot better than they have so far if they are to somehow break their duck on Saturday. They started the season with two semi-credible 0-0 draws but have now lost their last three games and really do look like favourites for the drop this year. They have a pretty horrendous injury list with Nigerian striker Kehinde joining Bunoza and Mahazi on the treatment table. The normally talismanic Stefan Mugoša is still looking for his first goal of the season and as such the baton has been passed to Kim Ho-nam to supply the goals, which in fairness he has done scoring their only two goals of 2020.
Prediction : This has to be a ‘stick-on’ home win : Score 3-1
Sangju Sangmu (5th) vs Pohang Steelers (6th) – 19:00
For a team that is definitely being relegated, Sangju have started the season surprisingly well and came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw away to Busan last weekend, Moon Seon-min on the scoresheet for the Army. They have gone undefeated since that opening day humbling at the hands of Ulsan, with two draws following their two victories over Gangwon and Gwangju. They were without Seongnam’s Kim Min-hyeok for both those draws and while I’m unsure if he’s as important to Sangju as he was becoming for The Magpies last season he’s certainly a player they will want to have available as soon as possible.
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold and visitors Pohang will know if that is true after being utterly humiliated by their arch-rivals Ulsan last weekend as they lost 4-0. That drubbing at home will surely raise questions about Pohang’s defensive vulnerability, especially so soon after conceding two from corners in the match with Seoul. It will also, understandably, raise doubts about their ability to challenge for the title this season too. Pohang, on paper, have one of the best attacking squads in the league and they will need to regroup and bounce back quickly otherwise they could see both Hyundai clubs drift out of sight.
Prediction : Sangju were undefeated against ‘The Steelers’ in 2019, I can see another 1-1 this time around : Score 1-1
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (9th) vs Gangwon FC (3rd) – 19:00
The final match on Saturday sees Bluewings hope to somehow turn their disappointing start to the season around after a last-gasp defeat to newly-promoted Gwangju FC last weekend. Coach Lim Lae-sung continues to be the ‘unsackable man’ as it seems there are no limits to how much the Bluewings board of Directors will let him get away with. He cuts a dejected figure on the touchline most weeks as he continues to put faith in players like Yeom Ki-hun who so obviously needs a rest. So much of how Bluewings play relies on both Yeom and striker Adam Taggart and neither have delivered the goods this year with Taggart especially looking like a man with one eye on a move to the Middle East.
Gangwon came from behind to win at Incheon last weekend and that result hoisted them up to third in the table and with it even more praise for ‘Byung-soo ball’ as they continue to play the most attractive football in the K1. The ex-Pohang pairing of Kim Seung-dae and Ko Mu-yeol is reaping the rewards with Ko grabbing his 3rd goal in three games last week, albeit from the spot. They have an almost telepathic understanding and, currently, are forming the best partnership in the league. At the back they have Lim Chai-min beginning to show the kind of leadership and defensive awareness that earned him his International debut back in 2014. Byung-soo does tend to rotate his squads a little and they do have several players who can come off the bench to make a difference if need be.
Prediction : Has there ever been a better time to play Suwon Bluewings? Score : 2-0 Gangwon
Sunday, 14th June
Gwangju FC (10th) vs Busan IPark (11th) – 19:00
It’s been 5 years since both these teams faced each other in the K-League One but it’s finally here and it’s probably Gwangju FC who come into the game with their tails up after that win last weekend away to Bluewings. Brazilian striker Felipe, finally grabbed his first goal of 2020 with an injury time header to “steal” all 3pts from a game that Bluewings dominated. Gwangju finished streets ahead of Busan last year despite not actually being able to beat them all season, and in fact you need to go back to April 2018 for the last time they got the better of IPark. They sit 1pt above Busan and will be hoping to make home advantage count this time out to put some breathing space between them and the other relegation battlers.
Busan IPark, are still winless this season which borders on being heartbreaking given how well they have played at times against the biggest teams in the league. They were leading at half-time last week against Sangju but, yet again, were unable to complete the job and ended up having to settle for a share of the spoils. Last week’s conceded goal came courtesy of a goalkeeping mistake as the normally reliable Kim Jeong-ho lost concentration, whether he has done enough to impress coach Cho Deok-jae and keep his place we will find out on Sunday evening.
Prediction : A tough one to call but I’m going for a score draw. : Score 1-1
Daegu FC (8th) vs FC Seoul (7th) – 19:00
Daegu finally broke their 2020 duck as they came away from Seongnam with all 3pts after coming from behind to deservedly win 2-1. Jeong Tae-wook may very well have scored the winning goal but it was the sheer power of Edgar and the creativity of the hugely talented Cesinha that made all the difference. Edgar had ragdolled the Seongnam defence all game before his 66th minute equalizer from a Cesinha free-kick and could have had his name on the scoresheet twice were it not for a couple of rather tight VAR calls. Cesinha was involved in the winning goal also, putting in an inch-perfect cross for Jeong to head home and you do have to wonder, no disrespect to Daegu, why one of the bigger teams haven’t snapped him up, he is undoubtedly one of the top 3 or 4 players in the country at the moment.
If Daegu come into the game confident then their opponents surely couldn’t be feeling much lower after successive defeats at home with memories of their second-half collapse against Jeonbuk still fresh. Seoul have the worst defensive record in the league so far this season, with 9 goals conceded in the five games played and it clould have been more had Jeonbuk made more of their first half dominance. Strangely coach Choi Yong-soo dropped Park Chu-young and captain Go Yo-han to the bench last week which given the fact they were playing Jeonbuk and not Jeonnam is inexcusable. Seoul were never going to be title challengers this year but given the uncertainty surrounding the Asian Champions League resuming any time soon they are quickly looking at no Continental football until at least 2022.