The K-League Classic 2017 Round 23 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures
It’s been a crazy busy time in the K-League’s top division as we’ve seen midweek games for the last couple of weeks. This sudden flurry of fixtures has seen a slight gap open up at the top of the table as Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Suwon start to put some light between themselves and the chasing pack. We’ve also seen a resurgent Seoul team claw themselves back into the ACL contest just as we’ve seen Pohang free-fall down the table and into the relegation group.
This weekend sees a final round of fixtures before we take a short break in proceedings so moving onto the days action, below are some brief previews and predictions for this Saturdays upcoming clashes.
Gwangju vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 7pm
The first game of the weekend is between two relegation group teams, as bottom side Gwangju welcome Jeonnam to town. Gwangju have been having a nightmare of late and have now lost three games straight and are in the kind of trouble that most people expected them to be in the last two seasons. In order to bail them out they signed ex-Aberdeen and Celtic player Niall McGinn. He hasn’t really had any time to make an impact but he’ll need to be at his best soon if he is to drag them to safety. It’s not all rosy at Jeonnam either as they haven’t been doing much better with a solitary win in their last five games. They were easily beaten 4-1 at Suwon midweek as they were cut apart time and time again by the pace and guile of Yeom Ki Hun and Johnathan. Jeonnam have won the previous two clashes between the teams and on paper will have the edge, although a huge factor though will be if Jair is fit as he missed out against The Bluewings and they severely need him back.
Prediction: Away Win : Gwangju 1 – Jeonanm 2
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Incheon United @ 7pm
The second game of the day is a tussle between two teams having hugely contrasting seasons as high flying Ulsan and struggling Incheon United clash. Ulsan have won their last three games on the bounce although they haven’t exactly been against the toughest of opposition. Their last defeat was to league leaders Jeonbuk when they were royally spanked 4-0. Even though they sit 2nd in the table they have a goal difference of -1 which goes to prove that they are not exactly solid at the back, or consistent. Incheon come into the match after being hammered during the week as they fell 5-1 to FC Seoul, yet again. Reports from that match suggest that Incheon were pretty horrendous at the back throughout and will need to tighten up against a team like Ulsan if they are to avoid another heavy defeat. These sides played at the end of last month when Incheon ran out 2-1 winners, a repeat for them today would tend to be unlikely.
Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Incheon 0
Jeju United vs. Pohang Steelers @ 7pm
The final game on Saturday comes from Jeju and is between Jeju United and Pohang Steelers in a match which only a few months ago was a table topping clash. Jeju still seem to be struggling to find any real consistency although they have won two of their last three games but this was a team that at the start of the season looked real title contenders. They bounced back from losing at home to Seoul by defeating Sangju 3-0 away, Yoon Bitgaram netting his first goal since returning from China. Pohang, on the other hand have been dismal of late and have now lost their last three games, including a shock 3-0 defeat to 10th place Daegu midweek. They also brought back a former hero in the shape of Kim Seung Dae but you get the feeling it will take more than that to hoist them back up the table. Both teams have won their home clashes this season, could we see the same again?
K League Classic 2017 Round 16 Previews (Saturday June 24th)
The games in Korea’s top division are coming think and fast as the K-League Classic continues with the third set of matches in the space of a week. As teams begin to go clear at both ends of the table it’s fair to day that the mid-table group couldn’t be any closer as we approach the halfway stage of the season. With three matches on both Saturday and Sunday the standout game on the Saturday is Jeju United vs. Pohang Steelers as both teams battle to stay in touch with leaders Jeonbuk.
First up we have that ‘match of the day’.
Jeju United vs. Pohang Steelers @ 6pm
As mentioned above the match of the day for the neutrals will almost certainly be the top of the table clash between Jeju United and Pohang Steelers as both teams try and find a little bit of consistency. Jeju have lost both games since returning after the international break and added to their Asian Champions League exit they are looking like a shadow of the free-scoring team from early season. They lost away at Ulsan midweek and as if that wasn’t bad enough they also saw top scorer Marcelo depart for pastures new in the J-League. Jeju have a reputation of being able to pluck decent foreigner players from obscurity and so will probably be confident in replacing Marcelo over time but he will be a huge loss right now. Pohang on the other hand halted a run of two losses in a row when they defeated Incheon on Wednesday evening running out 3-0 winners. Yang Dong Hyun continued his fine scoring form as he scored two, although probably not knowing much about his first tbh. He is now the Classic’s top scorer and has been attracting interest from China although he seems keen to remain at Pohang for now. Pohang won the first clash of the season 2-1, goals from the aforementioned Marcelo and Yang, Jeju is a tough place to go though and they could just cancel each other out.
Prediction: Score Draw : Jeju 1 – Pohang 1
Gwangju vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 7pm
Next up we have a bottom of the table tussle between Gwangju and Jeonnam Dragons as eleventh place hosts ninth in a match that, on paper, isn’t going to threaten the KBO’s grip on it’s TV monopoly. Gwangju have been on a quite horrendous run and haven’t won in six games, their last victory being that hugely surprising win over Jeonbuk back in April. It’s not just a lack of winning though that’s worrying it’s their lack of ability to find the net, having incredibly only scored nine goals in the league all season. Jeonnam are a strange one this year, they either thump teams or get thumped by teams, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with them. In fact they drew for the first time this season during the week when they drew 1-1 with Sangju. In Jair though they do have a player more than capable of scoring as his 10 league goals will testify, and you get the feeling that if they could just plug the gaps at the back that they might be able to climb the table. The last time the teams met it was a resounding 5-0 victory for the Dragons, Jair with a hat-trick that day, it’s improbable that we’ll see a repeat of that scoreline this time around but you really never know with this Jeonnam team.
Prediction: Away Win: Gwangju 0 – Jeonnam 2
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Incheon United @ 7pm
Last up on Saturday we have a clash between two teams who’s fortunes couldn’t be more different as two sides at opposite ends of the table meet, 2nd placed Ulsan Hyundai and bottom side Incheon United. Ulsan have won an impressive six of their last eight in the league, drawing the other two in the process. They sit 3pts clear of third placed Pohang and only 3pts adrift of table toppers Jeonbuk and look like serious title challengers. They don’t have the world’s best goal difference (-1) but they do seem capable of grinding out results when most needed. Unlike other teams in the league they are also more of a team unit and don’t seem to rely on the performances of one talismanic player. Incheon have had a mare of a season and have only won once which was back in May when they won away in Sangju. They have been especially suspect at the back this year and this coupled with a lack of composure in front of goal is a recipe for automatic relegation. They really need to start putting points on the board, and soon, but it’s a tad unlikely that they’ll start down in Ulsan. Ulsan won the last encounter between the two as they ran out 2-1 victors, a similar scoreline this time around wouldn’t stun anyone.
This week we only have the two matches on Saturday as midweek saw the fifth round of the Asian Champions League and therefore the K-League entrants are given an extra day’s “rest” , although it should be noted that there shouldn’t be the need to do that for much longer! Saturday sees a resurgent Jeonnam play and also sees Pohang try to bounce back from their defeat in last weekend’s ‘retro match’ against table toppers Jeonbuk.
Jeonnam Dragons vs. Gangwon @ 3pm
The first game of the day comes from the Gwangyang Stadium as Jeonnam host Gangwon in a match which could see the hosts in the top six for the first time this year. Jeonnam started their season in the worse manner possible but have won their last two games after losing the first five. They destroyed Ulsan 5-0 last weekend and as a result are joint top scorers, it’s a far cry from the team who couldn’t buy a win in March. Gangwon have had mixed fortunes this season and have been hugely unpredictable. They have won twice and drawn twice but it’s losing three times that has really cost them. They lost 2-1 at home to The Bluewings last weekend and look rather shaky at the back at times. Gangwon have only won twice in nineteen meetings and the last encounter finished 4-0 to Jeonnam. Prediction: Home Win : Jeonnam 2 – Gangwon 0
Pohang Steelers vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm
The other Saturday game comes from the The Steelyard as Pohang Steelers host the Army as third host fifth. Pohang lost only their second league match of 2017 last weekend as they fell to Jeonbuk Hyundai in the heavily advertised “retro match”. They still occupy 3rd place in the league and are a side transformed from that which came within 90 minutes of a play-off spot last year. Sangju won last weekend and have only lost once this season and are looking like a strong team. Many wondered if they could replicate the good form of last year and early signs are that another top six finish is well within their means. This match is a tough one to call and should be a tight affair. Sangju had the better of their hosts last season winning two of the three battles, but the head to head is firmly stacked in Pohang’s favour. Prediction: Score Draw: Pohang 1 – Sangju 1
Last week in the Classic saw the Jeju Juggernaut finally come to a halt as Gwangju came from behind to snatch a share of the spoils. Suwon continued their poor form and much to the amusement of the Incheon fans managed to blow a 3-1 lead to end up drawing 3-3. The other big talking point was Seoul coming back from Jeonju empty-handed as Jeonbuk continued their quest for their third crown in four years.
K-League Classic 2017 Week 5 Predictions
First up we have the Saturday fixtures.
Gwangju vs. Ulsan Hyundai @ 3pm
Our first game of the day comes from Gwangju as they welcoome Ulsan Hyundai to town as 8th place take on 6th from the Guus Hiddink Stadium. Gwangju come into the match on the back of a hard-fought away draw last weekend against table toppers Jeju United. It was a rather surprising result although they did lead for most of their previous match against FC Seoul. Ulsan have been erratic this season but managed to pick up their second win of the season in the last round with an injury time winner against Gangwon. Ulsan have a lot of potential and if they could just gel quickly you get the feeling they could mount a challenge. Last time out they drew 1-1 towards the end of the summer although Ulsan did however win the other two matches last year and in fact have only ever lost once to Gwangju. On paper Ulsan should win although with the ACL next week they might just be a little distracted.
Prediction: Away Win : Gwangju 1 – Ulsan 2
FC Seoul vs. Jeju United @ 3pm
Next up we have the match of the round with Seoul World Cup Stadium the battleground as FC Seoul host Jeju United in an all ACL clash. Seoul lost for the first time this season last weekend against potential title rivals Jeonbuk 1-0 and put in yet another Jekyll and Hyde performance as it took them until half-time to kick into life.They definitely lack something compared to last season and look as if they are really struggling to cope with the losses of Adriano and Takahagi. Jeju are still undefeated this season, winning three and drawing that match against Gwangju, they look a team capable of scoring for fun and with their pace and guile up front could cause their hosts all kind of problems. Last time they met it was Seoul who emerged the victors with a 2-0 victory. Seoul used to have the beating of Jeju easy and have only lost four times to them although two of them were last season. This one will be a tough one for both teams.
Prediction: Away Win : Seoul 1 – Jeju 2
Suwon Bluewings vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm
The final 3 o’clock kick off on Saturday comes from The Big Bird in Suwon as The Bluewings host Army side Sangju. Suwon have started this year much like last year much to the disappointment of their passionate fans, incredibly drawing three of their games so far this season. Last weekend they let a two goal lead fall from their grasp away to Incheon United. This prompted the Incheon fans to hold aloft a banner with ‘Seo Time’ on it in reference to Seon Jung Won losing games in the last minute akin to ‘Fergie Time’. It must be beginning to be a worry for their fans who were full of title aspirations only a few weeks ago. Sangju have continued on from their impressive form last year and have won twice away this season although they have failed to mirror that at home having drawn and lost so far. Last time out they drew 1-1 with the other two clashes in 2016 finishing as Suwon victories. Prediction: Draw : Suwon 1 – Sangju 1
Gangwon vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 5pm
The final match on Saturday is the 5pm kick-off from the Ski Jumping home of Gangwon as they welcome Jeonbuk to town. Alex Ferguson once famously referred to Manchester City as their “noisy neighbours” and that is exactly how Gangwon are looking so far this year. They made some huge signings in the close-season but so far the experiment is blowing up in their faces as they languish in 7th spot. They won their opening game but have since only been able to pick up a single point. Jeonbuk on the other hand are joint top of the table with three wins and a draw from the opening rounds and look like a team on a mission. Last weekend they easily dispatched of FC Seoul without really breaking too much sweat. Kim Jin Su was the difference as he smashed home another peach of a free-kick. Without the ACL to distract them they definitely look like a team determined to reclaim their crown and it’s going to take something special to stop them. Prediction: Away Win : Gangwon 0 – Jeonbuk 1
Next up we have the Sunday fixtures.
Pohang Steelers vs. Incheon United @ 3pm
First up on Sunday and without a doubt the highlight match of the day sees Pohang take on Incheon at The Steelyard. Pohang are having a far better start to 2017 than they did last year and have only lost once so far this season and that was the opening game of the campaign against Ulsan. Since that early blip they’ve won twice and drawn once and sit in third place in the table. Incheon have yet again shown that they have a ‘never say die’ attitude first coming from behind against Daegu and then again last weekend against rivals Suwon Bluewings. They also managed a home draw against Jeonbuk and are a tough team to beat when they put their minds to it. Last time the teams met it was Incheon who emerged the victors, defeating The Steelers 3-2. It was honours even last year and on the head to head there isn’t much between the teams.
Prediction: Home Win: Pohang 2 – Incheon 1
Daegu vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm
The final game this Sunday afternoon has a bit of a relegation feel about it as early relegation candidates Daegu host Jeonnam. Daegu are still looking for their first win since returning to the Classic although that’s not to say that they’ve been cannon fodder for the big boys. They got a credible draw in Suwon and probably should have defeated Incheon at home. In Cesinha they have a player who knows where the goals are and he can turn a match on its head when called upon. To say Jeonnam have had a poor start is an understatement as they have lost all four of their games conceding ten goals in the process. They are in desperate need of getting something positive from a match and might just see Daegu as their easiest foes. They last played each other in 2013 with Jeonnam just edging the head to head.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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
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 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 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.