K-League Challenge 2017 Playoffs – Match 1 Preview

 

K-League Challenge 2017 Playoffs

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?

 

Asan v Seongnam (Wed @ 7pm)

 

Overview

All eyes will be on the Yishunshin Stadium on Wednesday night as 3rd placed Asan will prepare for the visit of 4th placed Seongnam for the first of this year’s playoff fixtures. Hosts Asan come into the match on the back of a 1-1 away draw at Busan where they fought back from a goal behind courtesy of a 67th minute Lee Jae An penalty. They have won four of their last six fixtures during which time they lost to Champions Gyeongnam and drew with Runners-up Busan, that’s the kind of run that must fill a team with some degree of confidence. They may very well feel like they have a point to prove after missing out on automatic promotion last year and having to watch from the sidelines stole their glory.

Seongnam on the other hand have had a less than stellar run-in with only two victories in the last six, although one of them was against Asan. As bad as that run sounds their only defeat did come at the hands of Gyeongnam on the final day with the other three matches being draws. Now for the uninitiated it is important to remember that in the playoffs the home team has the advantage with a draw being enough to see them through to the next round. So you can understand a certain amount of fear sneaking into the visitors as they exit the tunnel come 7pm. Seongnam boast a proud history and there is the fear that a second season in the Challenge could see that consigned to memory.

 

Head to Head

The head to head is firmly stacked in Seongnam’s favour with three wins and one draw for the boys in black this year. They won both their home matches 1-0, goals from Park Sung Ho and Kim Dong Chan respectively. The fixtures in Asan finished 1-1 and 2-0 with Hwang Euijo scoring his final goal for the club in the first clash, albeit from the penalty spot. So on the back of that the boys from Tacheon should be coming into the match feeling relatively comfortable although as mentioned above on recent form they shouldn’t be approaching any match with confidence. It should also be noted that the 1-1 draw in the first meeting of the year would result in Asan packing their toothbrushes for Busan and Park Kyung Hoon being told to pack his bags permanently.

Prediction

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This is one of those ‘heart or head’ situations which makes it a doubly difficult match to call. On form even the most optimistic of Seongnam fans, and there aren’t many,  would have to call Asan favorites whereas on paper Seongnam do have the stronger squad. As obvious as this may sound a lot will boil down to how well the key players perform. Seongnam will obviously look for big performances from Kim Dong Chan and Park Sung Ho but for me a lot could rest of the guile and skill of their Slovakian winger Filip Hlohovsky. He’s been off the boil since he missed a penalty down in Suwon but, as was evident against Bucheon, there is no denying he can be a match winner. Asan will of course be hoping that top-scorer Han Eui-Kwon has brought his shooting boots on the day and he will be their main target man over the 90 minutes.

It’s going to be a close and defintely tense affair that’s for certain and a lot will come down to who draws first blood. If Seongnam score first and Asan have to chase the game we could well see Hlohovsky and Kim Dong Chan exploit the gaps, if Asan score first I fear that Seongnam will retreat into their shell and try ‘route one football’ with punts up the pitch to Park Sung Ho.

Prediction : The head wins : Score Draw : Asan 1 Seongnam 1 

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K-League Classic Round 2017 25 Previews – (Saturday Fixtures)

The K-League Classic 2017 Round 25 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures

After another round of mid-week fixtures Jeonbuk are beginning to open a gap at the top which while not unassailable just yet definitely puts them well on their way to another K-League crown. On a ridiculously hot and humid night they coasted to a 3-1 victory in Incheon while nearest challengers, Suwon and Ulsan, played out a 1-1 draw. There were also victories for Jeju, Seoul and Jeonnam on a surprisingly well-attended night in the Classic.

Moving onto the weekend’s action, below are some brief previews and predictions for Saturday’s clasehes.

Daegu vs. FC Seoul @ 7pm

The first game of the day comes from Daegu Stadium where Daegu host a rather resurgent FC Seoul in what has become a tight contest between the teams this year. Daegu lost on Wednesday, falling 2-0  away to Jeju, but had won their two games prior to that. They have however lost the creative presence of Leo after his move to Busan and this could start to hit them going into the final stretch.  They find themselves in the thick of the relegation battle and every point right now is a prisoner.  They have done well against this weekend’s visitors however and did indeed defeat Seoul at home earlier this season. FC Seoul bounced back from their defeat at the hands of Jeonbuk by easily defeating Gangwon 3-1 at home on Wednesday, which makes it four wins from their last five games. Much has been made of Dejan’s recent form but it would also seem that Yun Il Lok is finally beginning to show the potential that almost won him a move to Europe a few years ago. As mentioned earlier, the two previous encounters this year have been close but you get the feeling that Seoul have the bit between their teeth now in their pursuit of the final ACL spot for 2018.

Prediction: Away Win : Daegu 0 – Seoul 1

Incheon United vs. Jeju United @ 7pm

The second game of the day is between the two Uniteds as Incheon and Jeju meet in a hugely important match for both sides as bottom meets fourth. Incheon have been woeful of late and have only managed to win three times all season. They were, yet again, easily beaten on Wednesday by leaders Jeonbuk as a Conor Chapman OG was followed by an Edu brace before a late Kim Young Hwan consolation. They look shaky at the back, stagnant in the middle and impotent upfront and are seriously in danger of surrendering their place at the top table.  Jeju continued their recent run of form by beat Daegu on Wednesday for their third win on the bounce which kept them 3pts clear of Seoul. They can thank Yoon Bitgaram for their return to form as he has been instrumental since returning from China, which kind of begs the question of just how unstoppable Jeonbuk could’ve been if they had snared him as planned. These matches are generally tight and this will be another close one.

Prediction:  Away Win : Incheon 1 – Jeju 2

Gwangju vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm

The final game on Saturday is a practice run for next week’s FA Cup Quarter Finals as  Suwon Bluewings head South to face Gwangju. Gwangju put up a brave showing midweek and were unlucky to lose on their visit to The Steelyard to play Pohang. They look like a team that are ready to battle to stay in the Classic and won’t go down without a fight. In saying that they have lost four of their last five matches. Bluewings on the other hand are in fantastic form winning four and drawing one of their last five games. They drew away from home against third placed Ulsan on Wednesday and will maybe feel that they should have sneaked full points towards the end. In Jonathan they have a prolific, if a little selfish, striker and although most things go through him they do have threats in other areas.  They’re generally pretty solid away from home and easily won the last clash between the teams. Another Jonathan-inspired victory wouldn’t be a surprise this weekend.

Prediction: Away Win: Gwangju  0 – Suwon 2

K-League Classic 2017 Round 23 Previews (Saturday Fixtures)

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?

Prediction: Home Win: Jeju 2 – Pohang 1

K-League Classic 2017 Round 16 Preview – Saturday Fixtures

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.

The K-League Classic Table after Round 15

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.

Prediction:  Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Incheon 0

K-League Classic 2017 – Round 8 Sunday Fixtures

Due to some heavy commitments there isn’t much time for full previews so below are my score predictions for today’s Super Sunday fixtures.

Jeonbuk to continue their good form in the league.

Away Win : Gwangju 0 – Jeonbuk 1

Jeju had a good result midweek and could just have too much for Bluewings.

Home Win : Jeju 2 – Bluewings 1

Daegu have been performing better than expected and Seoul have been poor.

Score Draw : Daegu 1 – Seoul 1

Both teams have been struggling of late. This has all the potential for a borefest or scorefest.

Away Win : Incheon 1 – Ulsan 2

K-League Classic 2017 Round 8 – Saturday Previews

K-League Classic Round 8 – Saturday Previews

 

 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

K-League Classic 2017 Week 5 Predictions

 

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.

Prediction: Draw : Daegu 1 – Jeonnam 1