Asian Champions League 2018 – Group Stages – Match 1
This week sees the first round of the Group Stages of the 2018 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”. As always expectations are high and following last year’s pretty embarrassing showing in the groups it will be interesting to see if we will see a bit more from the K-League representatives this year. Most Korean eyes will be on Jeonbuk and Suwon, with Jeonbuk having it all to prove after being kicked out at the last minute last year….will Tiago and Adriano be enough to se them throgh? Will Dejan be the talisman Suwon need to push for ACL glory? There’s not long to wait now until those questions are answered.
International football? Son Heung Min braces? All this will pale into insignificance come mid-week as the 2017 K-League Playoffs begin with Asan Mugunghwa FC welcoming Seongnam FC to town to see who has the pleasure of travelling to the Gudeok Stadium on Saturday to face runners-up and FA Cup finalists Busan FC. It’s been a long season for both teams and after an incredibly tense last round of fixtures it was Asan who secured 3rd place in the league with Seongnam securing the final spot as they claimed fourth. The playoffs have thrown up some fantastic matches of late such as Gwangju humbling Gyeongnam, the 3-3 Battle of Suwon and of course last year’s Tears in Tancheon as Seongnam were relegated….what will this year give us?
The K-League Classic Round 28 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures
Last week saw a rather surprising set of results as first Seoul fell to Incheon on Sunday before the all-conquering Jeonbuk crashed to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of the Army on Wednesday. Wednesday actually saw one of, if not THE, highest scoring round of fixtures in my time in Korea as 25 goals were scored in a set of fixtures which had some rather choice defending and some incredibly poor goalkeeping…. Shin Hwa Yong I’m looking at you.
This weekend sees another round of fixtures that could have huge implications at both ends of the table. On Saturday we have…..
Incheon United vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 6pm
First up we have a Derby match as Incheon welcome Suwon Bluewings to home in what are usually fiercely contested battles. Incheon, amazingly, are unbeaten in their last six matches and even more amazingly have only conceded the one goal which was against Sangju. They have chosen the exact right time to find form as they find themselves locked in a four-way battle to avoid the playoffs. They defeated rivals Seoul last Sunday, Song Si Woo being the last minute hero that day. Suwon have watched their slim title hopes dwindle away ever since Johnathan got injured against Seoul and have lost three of their last five with the most recent being a 3-2 defeat at home to Jeju United. That game witnessed one of the worst goalkeeping errors I’ve seen as a long punt up the pitch somehow bounced past the hapless Shin in goal. When you are missing the league’s best striker it’s not wise to give your opponents a goal of a start. Suwon haven’t lost this fixture this year and romped home 3-0 winners the last time they met….but then Johnathan scored a fantastic brace that day!
Prediction: Away Win : Incheon 1 – Suwon 2
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 6pm
Next up on Saturday is a match which should be as easy to predict as my drink of choice in a Soju tent in Yeouido as Ulsan and Jeonnam clash. Ulsan are strong at home and are enjoying a relatively solid patch of form with one the one defeat in the last two months, although it’s probably the draws that are hampering their title charge. They have found their shooting boots of late and you have to go all the way back to early July for the last time they failed to find the net. They sit just 6pts adrift of Jeonbuk and a win today could heap the pressure on them. Jeonnam are quite the the polar opposite of Ulsan, they have lost three in of their last five and in fact haven’t won since the start of August. They are getting dragged into the playoff battle but unlike Incheon and Daegu they don’t really look like tough opponents. Ulsan will definitely be favorites here even though Jeonnam destroyed them 5-0 earlier in the season.
Prediction: Home Win: Ulsan 2 – Jeonnam 0
Sangju Sangmu vs. Jeju United @ 7pm
The final match on Saturday sees Sangju Sangmu and Jeju United face off after both teams recorded vital victories midweek. Sangju dug deep to come back from 1-0 down at Jeonbuk as first Joo Min Kyu then Kim Ho Nam found the net to give them a much needed 3pts. Joo’s goal has seen the campaign to get him in the National Team getting mentioned again as he is beginning to find his feet in the army and ultimately the Classic. They still have a long way to go to secure a place at next season’s top table but that is now two wins in a row and an 11pt gap over Gwangju. Their opponents today though are THE in-form team of the moment, and have won eight and drawn two of their last ten games. It’s that kind of form that’s been needed to keep pace with Jeonbuk and after midweek Jeju find themselves only 3pts behind the league leaders. A win today would heap a whole lot of pressure on the boys from Jeonju and as we saw last year they don’t exactly excel under pressure. Jeju again had the form of Yoon Bitgaram to thank for their winning ways and the decision to bring him back in the summer is proving to be a cracking piece of business. Jeju have won the previous two meetings by three goals, 3-0 and 4-1 but today could be a little closer.
The K-League Classic Round 28 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures
With the split fast approaching we are entering that period where every point becomes a prisoner as some teams look to define their season by which half of the table they finish in. For Gangwon, failure to land a top six spot would be embarrassing after their pre-season wheelings and dealings, for Pohang it would confirm that last year wasn’t a blip and they are in fact no longer a giant of Korean football. Of course for others the split throws up different concerns with Jeonbuk aiming for a title and Gwangju aiming for survival.
This Saturday we see a massive clash at the bottom while Gangwon and Suwon have the chance to put some pressure on those teams above them.
Gangwon vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm
The early game on Saturday afternoon is between two of the sides that are vying for probably the final spot in the Championship Group as 6th placed Gangwon and 8th placed Jeonnam Dragons clash. Gangwon lost at the weekend to Jeonbuk Hyundai in what can only be described as a goal-fest as the fans were treated to a 4-3 win for the league leaders and an incredible seven minute hat-trick from Lee Seung Ki. Gangwon have continued their early season erratic form and have only two wins from their last five. They are still managerless and it’s safe to say the ‘Orange Experiment’ hasn’t exactly been a roaring success. They do sit 6pts clear in sixth place though and should really see themselves happy come the split. Jeonnam also lost last weekend as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Suwon Bluewings. Their form has been poor of late and they now have only one win from five. Jeonnam haven’t lost this year to Gangwon and there have been goals in both games, there should be more today.
Prediction: Home Win : Gangwon 2 – Jeonnam 0
Sangju Sangmu vs. Gwangju @ 7pm
The second game of the day, and one of the final evening kick-offs of 2017, is a huge match at the foot of the table as the bottom two teams meet. Sangju got yet another pasting last weekend as they were defeated 4-2 by Ulsan and you have to almost go back to the pre-Trump era to find their last win! They have been a real disappointment and now that they are beginning to drip feed players back to their parent clubs they can only get worse. Gwangju find themselves 5 pts below Sangju going into the match but at least managed to stop their losing streak when they drew last weekend vs. Incheon. They, like Sangju, have been woeful all season and you get the feeling that the players have resigned themselves to a season in The Challenge next year. Sangju have won both matches this year and might just have the mental edge….but then again Gwangju have Kim Hak Bum pulling the reins now and he doesn’t like to lose.
Prediction: Draw : Sangju 0 – Gwangju 0
Daegu vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm
The final game of the day is a clash which on paper should be a forgone conclusion but in reality has all the potential to see an upset as Daegu welcome The Bluewings to town. Daegu seem to have freed themselves, slightly, from the shackles of the relegation battle and Suwon are still hoping for a league and cup double however unlikely that may be. Daegu come into the match on the back of a huge victory over Pohang in a game with as many red cards as goals. They are undefeated in four games and their Brazilian coach Andre really has them difficult to beat while dangerous on the front foot. Bluewings got a much needed win last weekend what they skelped Jeonnam 3-0 with the diminutive Santos among the goals. There were huge concerns for the blue massive after Jonathan’s injury but the 2014 Golden Boot winner has stepped up to the plate to ease their fears. Bluewings won the last fixture 3-0 but this one should be closer.
After what feel like an eternity the K-League Classic is back. International breaks are a necessary evil in football, especially when Shin is picking the likes of Lee Dong Gook and Yeom Ki Hun, but there is nothing like good old fashioned domestic football to get the pulses racing…..okay in Korea maybe it garners a slight raise in blood flow. The Classic returns with some crackers as Jeju visit Seoul and Jeonbuk welcome Gangwon in matches which should have a huge say in both the title and ACL battles.
Moving on the weekend’s matches and below are the previews for the two Saturday games.
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 7pm
First up on Saturday is the clash between third placed Ulsan Hyundai and the struggling and relegation threatened Sangju Sangmu. Ulsan have slipped from second in the table after only managing the one win from their last five games, with the other four being draws. They have struggled to kill teams off of late and find themselves 6pts adrift of leaders Jeonbuk. They drew away at Seoul before the international break after taking an early lead and have only managed 28 goals in 27 games which is far cry from Jeonbuk’s 50. They really need to find that killer instinct again if they are to keep their ‘slimmer by the week’ title chances alive. Of course if you want to find your goal-scoring touch again then who better to play right now than Sangju? The army have been terrible of late, with a solitary point from the last five games. They look like a team that have resigned themselves to the relegation battle. As well as a lack of points there has been a lack of discipline and they’ve racked up a couple of red cards in recent weeks. They are a good team on paper but just seem to forget that when they cross the white line. Ulsan won the last encounter 3-1, a similar result could be on the cards this week.
Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Sangju 0
FC Seoul vs. Jeju United @ 7pm
The second game of the day has everything required to be the match of the round as Seoul welcome 2nd placed and ‘in-form’ Jeju to town. This one could go a long way in deciding the final ACL spots for 2018 as a defeat for Seoul could leave them 7pts behind the Bluewings come Monday morning. Seoul come into the game on the back of that draw against Ulsan and although they came from behind in the match they will still probably consider it 2pts dropped. It left them a whopping 12pts behind Jeonbuk and their title defence is almost certainly over. The biggest problem Seoul seem to have is a lack of pace upfront and have been heavily relying on Yun Il Rok for the creative burst from midfield. Jeju, on the other hand, are going through a purple patch and have won three in a row. They are looking very much like the only team that can stop Jeonbuk this year. They played last week when all the others had a rest and came back form Gwangju with a 1-0 victory. With a goal difference of +24 they are not exactly struggling to find the back of the net and seem capable of getting goals from anywhere and everywhere on the pitch. Seoul won the last clash 2-1, Jeju will be looking for revenge….
K League Classic 2017 Round 16 Previews (Sunday June 25th)
Yesterday’s matches produced a couple of hugely unpredictable results as we had victory for Incheon as they earned a huge 3 points down in Ulsan and a pretty comprehensive thumping for Pohang as they left Jeju on the end of a 3-0 battering. It also seen Jeonnam run out 2-1 victors in their match against Gwangju, Jair converting a penalty to secure the points.
Moving onto the day’s action and it’s time for some brief previews and predictions for this Sunday’s clashes.
Suwon Bluewings vs. Gangwon @ 6pm
The first game on Sunday evening is between Suwon Bluewings and Gangwon as 6th welcomes 5th to town in a match that will really test Gangwon’s credentials as a serious ACL contender. The Bluewings have been erratic of late having only won three from five losing to rivals Jeonbuk and more importantly Seoul in recent weeks. They have struggled to find any consistency and main striker Johnathon really needs to start playing less for himself and more for the team if they are to mount a title challenge. Gangwon, who had looked deadly of late, crashed to a crushing 4-1 defeat to Jeonbuk during the week which brought their five game winning run to a shuddering halt. They spent a lot of money during the close season and it will be interesting to see what they do now the summer transfer window has opened. Suwon won 2-1 earlier in the season but that was away from home where their best form seems to be.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Gangwon 1
FC Seoul vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 7pm
The second game of the day is a mid-table clash between FC Seoul and Sangju Sangmu in a match which has a draw written all over it before I even start to preview it. Seoul are a hard side to watch this year, lacking creativity and are really struggling to score so far this season. In fact their return of 18 goals in 15 games is really poor for a team aiming to retain their title. They let Adriano and Takahagi go in the close season and while ha Dae Sung’s return will make up for the latter there has been no sign of a replacement for Adriano. It is something they need to sort out and sort out fast. Sangju, after last season’s highs, are back looking like the army teams of old and are winless in seven games now. Their form this year is strange given that, on paper, their team should be stronger than last year’s. Seoul have had the better of their military counterparts for a long time now and even though they are in their own slump they should have enough to beat them again today.
Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 1 – Sangju 0
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Daegu @ 7pm
The final game on Saturday is another between two teams at opposite ends of the table as league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai take on 10th placed Daegu. Jeonbuk have won both of the games since returning from the international break and are beginning to look every bit the league winners having notched up an incredible seven goals in two games. I’m not sure what Choi Kang Hee said or did to Edu but he’s back finding the net again and with the return of Lopez they are looking formidable. They have been the best team in Korea for some time now and if it wasn’t for their points deduction last year they would be going for a record breaking ‘four in a row’ this year. Daegu haven’t really surprised many this year with their league position but they have definitely won some fans with their attacking style of play. In Leo they have a really dangerous striker who will punish you if given any room whatsoever. They’ve drawn their last two matches with a 0-0 draw away to Seoul the most recent. On paper this should be a walkover for Jeonbuk but they might just find it tougher than many think.
This weekend sees the first round of evening fixtures as the heat gets too much for running around in the afternoon, although based on some recent performances we could have delayed it a little longer.
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 6pm
First up is the clash between Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonnam Dragons as two of the best performing teams of late clash. Ulsan started their 2017 campaign rather poorly but have since mounted an assault on the top of the table and have mustered three wins in the last four. They draw 0-0 against Jeonbuk last weekend but continued their strong run of form midweek by dispatching runaway Challenge leaders Gyeongnam from the FA Cup. Jeonnam have stuttered a little in the league recently and fell to a crushing 3-1 home defeat to Suwon Bluewings last week. They did however win in the cup on Wednesday as they knocked Daejeon out courtesy of a 2-1 victory. Jeonnam utterly embarrassed Ulsan last time out as they battered them 5-0, Jair the hero that day.
Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Jeonnam 1
FC Seoul vs. Gangwon @ 7pm
The 1st of the 7 o’clock game comes from Seoul World Cup Stadium as FC Seoul host Gangwon in a match they hope will bring some much needed smile to their supporter’s faces. Out the ACL, trailing in the league, all eyes were on the FA Cup as they hoped to make it four finals in four years. Alas that wasn’t to be as they lost on penalties to a plucky Busan team to potentially consign themselves to a first trophy-less season since 2014. They come into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw away to Sangju in a match they twice came from behind in. Gangwon have begun to look a little better in the league over the past couple of weeks and have won two in a row, that ‘purple patch’ however was halted midweek as they crashed out of the cup at home to Seongnam FC. When the teams met in early March it was Seoul who emerged the victors as they came home with a 1-0 victory, a similarly tight contest again wouldn’t surprise anyone.
Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 1 – Gangwon 0
Sangju Sangmu vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm
Next up we have 8th versus 5th as Sangju Sangmu welcome Suwon Bluewings to town. Sangju slipped out of the top half of the table last weekend as they were held at home to Seoul, although in fairness that result did see them stop a two game losing streak becoming three. They gathered themselves together midweek to beat challenge side Bucheon and knock them out of the FA Cup in what was being tipped, by some, as a potential ‘giant killing’ for Bucheon. The Bluewings have won four from the last five in the league and find themselves above rivals FC Seoul in the table for the first time in quite a while. They won at Jeonnam last week as forgotten man Santos reminded Seo Jung Won exactly why he won the Golden Boot a mere three seasons ago. The last time the teams met it finished 0-0 and there really isn’t much between the two on paper.
Prediction : Draw : Sangju 1 Bluewings 1
Daegu vs. Jeju United @ 7pm
The final game on Saturday evening is a top v bottom clash as lowly Daegu host 2nd placed Jeju United. Daegu have now lost three games in a row and are firmly caught up in the relegation battle as many expected. They aren’t actually as poor a team as their league position would suggest and have scored twice the number of goals that 10th placed Gwangju have, but it’s their inability to keep the ball out of their own net that is costing them dearly. Jeju stumbled last weekend as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pohang. That was only their 2nd defeat of the season and will more than likely be seen by most as merely a blip. They are an incredibly dangerous team and given the aforementioned defensive frailties of Daegu, could run up the proverbial cricket score this weekend. The last time the teams met it was a rip-roaring 4-2 victory for Jeju with all six goals coming from foreign players.