ACL 2018 Group Stages – Round 1 Preview

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.

First up we have the two matches on Tuesday…

Continue reading


K-League Classic Round 11 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

Now that the Asian Champions League is all but over for Korea this year it’s time to turn all eyes to the bread and butter of the K-League Classic. Today sees four games featuring all the teams from the midweek ACL matches.

Sangju Sangmu vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The first game of the day sees the army team of Sangju Sangmu host FC Seoul in a match which sees two teams lacking somewhat in confidence clash. Sangju have been poor of late losing their last two games and dropping down into the Relegation Group as they currently occupy 8th spot. Seoul have also been poor this year and lack the creative spark in the middle of the pitch needed. They did however beat Urawa Reds in  a ‘dead rubber’ in the ACL during the week but I think fans of both teams would’ve struggled to name more than a handful of players on either team such were the sweeping changes made. There were some epic clashes between the two last year so here’s hoping for another cracker today.

Prediction: Score Draw : Sangju 1 – Seoul 1

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

Next up is the first Hyundai Derby of 2017  between Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonnam Hyundai in a match which has slightly more importance this year than last. Ulsan have recently found some decent league form winning three games on the bounce and picking up a confidence booster midweek as they defeated Brisbane in the ACL. Jeonbuk, by contrast, have been rocky of late and  won for the first time in three games last weekend beating Daegu and are currently joint top with early leaders Jeju. It was almost impossible to separate the two teams last year and today could be another close affair.
Prediction:  Score Draw : Ulsan 1 – Jeonbuk 1

Pohang Steelers vs. Jeju United @ 3pm

The third and final 3pm kick off comes from the confines of the POSCO Steelyard as Pohang Steelers welcome league leaders Jeju United to town in what must be the game of the week. Pohang ended a losing run of three games by coming back from two goals behind to beat a beleaguered FC Seoul. Seoul did find themselves down to 10 men in the match but considering they’ve been on the end of many a favourable decision of late they can’t complain too much. Table toppers Jeju were the only K League side to progress from the ACL group stages and have been having a pretty perfect season so far. They look dangerous on all fronts and almost always look in control. They’ve scored a pretty incredible 8 goals in their last two league games beating both Jeonbuk and Sangju easily. Jeju thrashed Pohang twice last year but Pohang are a different team in 2017.

Prediction: Away Win : Pohang 1 – Jeju 2

Jeonnam Dragons vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 5pm

The final Sunday afternoon game is between two mid-table sides as Jeonnam Dragons host Suwon Bluewings in the 5pm kick-off. Jeonnam have bounced back from a nightmare start to 2017 and have won four from the last five in the league and  utterly destroyed  Gwangju last weekend running out 5-0 winners with Jair taking the match ball home with him. The Bluewings have been disappointing in the opening rounds and even though they went on a 3 game winning run they, rather predictably, lost to Ulsan last Saturday. Last year there was a 3-0 thrashing for Suwon sandwiched between two draws, this year it’s too tough to call.

Prediction:  Score Draw : Jeonnam 2 – Suwon 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

ACL 2017 Round 3 Previews


Asian Champions League Round 3 – Previews

As we approach round 3 and the halfway stage in this year’s ACL it’s safe to say that it’s not been all plain sailing for the Korean teams, I’m looking at you FC Seoul, and there is still a lot of work to be done if we are to have an interest beyond the summer months. It’s not been all doom and gloom though and there have been a couple of stand-out results with Jeju and Ulsan catching the eye in Round 2



MUANGTHONG UNITED (THA) 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
KASHIMA ANTLERS (JPN) * 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
ULSAN HYUNDAI FC (KOR) * 2 1 0 1 6 2 4 3
BRISBANE ROAR (AUS) 2 0 1 1 0 6 -6 1

Ulsan v Muangthong United (Tuesday 19:30)

Ulsan come into the match on the back of a resounding hammering of Brisbane Roar in the last round, a 6-0 hammering to be precise. That was one of those matches where everything just seems to click and that coupled with some suicidal defending meant it was an easy night for the Koreans. They unfortunately got a taste of their own medicine at the weekend as Jeju sent them packing with a 3-0 victory on the island. Muangthong followed up their draw in Australia with a hard-fought 2-1 home victory a 95th minute strike from Xisco sending the home players and fans into a frenzy. They look a tough team to beat and Ulsan can’t have it as easy again as when Roar came to town.

Prediction : Home Win : Ulsan 1 – Muangthong 0


SUWON BLUEWINGS (KOR) 2 0 2 0 3 3 0 2
KAWASAKI FRONTALE (JPN) 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
EASTERN FC (HK) 2 0 1 1 1 8 -7 1

Eastern FC v Suwon Bluewings (Tuesday 20:00)

Suwon Bluewings seem to have started the K-League and indeed the ACL exactly like they did in 2016, looking unable to hold on to victory and see a match out. They were leading against both Seoul and Evergrande this season before throwing both matches away and having to settle for a share of the points. On Sunday they were outplayed at home by Jeonbuk and lost 2-0 and are already making fools of pre-season tips for the title. They seem to rely heavily on Jonathon and he has been misfiring so far, although he did score their second against Evergrande in Round 2. You would on paper think that this match should be one that they should sail through with relative ease but then it’s the Bluewings and easy doesn’t seem to come naturally for them. Eastern bounced back from their 7-0 humbling in China in Round 1  to record their first goal and points in the ACL, a Bleda penalty, it will be interesting to see if they can put another heroic show tonight.

Prediction : Away Win : Eastern 0 – Bluewings 2


URAWA RED DIAMONDS (JPN) 2 2 0 0 9 2 7 6
SUHANGHAI SIPG (CHN) 2 2 0 0 6 1 5 6
FC SEOUL (KOR) 2 0 0 2 2 6 -4 0

FC Seoul v Western Sydney Wanderers (Wednesday 19:30)

In a match that could almost be billed as a damp squib even this early in the tournament we see Seoul welcome WSW to home in what can only be a ‘must-win’ match for both teams after their woeful starts. Seoul were swept aside easily in the first half in Japan against a rampant Urawa team who scored four goals in the first 21 minutes in their Round 2 encounter. Seoul looked devoid of ideas in that match although it was the performance or rather a lack of one from Yoo Hyun in goals which made all the headlines. He looked like both a rabbit caught in headlights and a cat being thrown a ball (thanks Paul Neat for that last comment) as he flapped at and jumped over every ball that came his way. It truly was a night to forget for Seoul’s number 1. Seoul do come into the match unbeaten after two games in the K-League and that might just give them the belief this week. If Seoul’s defeat in Japan was bad WSW’s home thrashing by SIPG was horrendous. Out-thought, out-fought and out-played for the whole game they struggled to resemble a team that was lifting this trophy only a few years back. It’s been a poor start for both teams but WSW do have the added boost that Seoul have never beaten them home or away, that might just play on the host’s minds.

Prediction : Home Win : Seoul 2 – WSW 1


JIANGSU (CHN) 2 2 0 0 3 1 2 6
JEJU UNITED (KOR) 2 1 0 1 4 2 2 3
GAMBA OSAKA(JPN) 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 3
ADELAIDE UNITED (AUS) 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

Adelaide United v Jeju United (Wednesday 19:30)

The final match of the round sees high-flying Jeju make the trip to Adelaide in another K-League v A-League clash. Jeju have surprised many this year with their performances both home and abroad, they were incredibly unlucky to lose the opening match against Jiangsu but more than made up for it by putting four past Gamba in Osaka. In the K-League they have won their opening two matches including a 3-0 victory over Ulsan. They are team playing with confidence right now and look like they can score every match, with goals coming from practically every area of the pitch. Adelaide are quite the mirror image of Jeju, falling first 3-0 at home to Gamba before losing 2-1 away in China. They got a lifeline with that unexpected Jeju victory in Japan but will need to be at their best to get one over Jeju in this match. You would imagine the visitors would settle for a draw with the idea of winning their remaining home ties.

Prediction : Away Win : Adelaide 1 – Jeju 2

K-League Classic 2017 – Round 1 Previews (Saturday Fixtures)

Live football is back!!!!!!!



Ulsan vs. Pohang  @ 3pm

Ulsan must come into this match with more confidence then any other team in the league after their quite incredible mid-week destruction of Brisbane Roar in the Asian Champions League. In a pulsating 90 minutes they more than justified their place in the tournament as Jeonbuk’s replacements. They looked hungry, are match fit and in Orsic have a player who, on his day, is a match for anyone in the Classic. Many thought it would take them time to gel into a unit but the way dispatched their Australian counterparts was more than impressive. If that is them still meshing together then I pity the rest of the league come June.  Pohang are this season’s dark horses after a season they will want to forget last year. They have seen a few players leave with goalkeeper Shin Hwa Yong moving onto to Suwon Bluewings while Noh Dong Geon swapped places with him. They brought in Swedish defender Marcus Nilsson to shore things up at the back for them. It’s fair to say that the only way is up this season for the POSCO boys but they would probably have liked a simpler task to kick-start their rise from the ashes. The head-to-head record is pretty much honors even over the years but you just get a feeling that Ulsan have a little more about them at the moment.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Pohang 


Gwangju vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The second game of the day features two sides who are most people’s picks to be involved in the relegation battle come the final rounds of 2017. Gwangju last year were buoyed by the rich vein of form of Jung Jo Gook but he has since departed for newcomers Gangwon and Gwangju have really struggled to replace him. They, on paper, look a weaker squad than the one that almost clinched a top 6 spot last year. They’ve kind of surprised most people the last two seasons but you get the feeling that this year they will probably struggle to keep their head above water. Daegu won promotion last season and have stuck with most of that squad although they did lose Paulo Sergio who decided to step down a division to join Seongnam. They will be very much the unknown quantity in the Classic and will certainly want to avoid the yo-yo effect as witnessed by both Daejeon and Suwon FC respectively. With other teams building on their squads for the most part I think many will feel it will come down to the meetings between these two to decide who falls into the Challenge next year. They last met in 2014 with Gwangju winning both their home ties that year, could we see more of the same now they are reunited?

Prediction: Draw : Gwangju  0 – Daegu 0


Sangju Sangmu vs. Gangwon @ 3pm

The final game on Saturday features the teams most neutrals are interested in as the ever-changing Army team welcome the high-spenders of Gangwon in a match which could prove to be the game of the week. Sangju  had a pretty incredible 2016 as then manager Cho Jin Ho led them to a top 6 spot very much against all odds. Cho has left the club to manage Busan and the squad this year is significantly different from last. A quick look down their squad and you can’t help but think they have a more balanced and indeed skillful team now. Lim Chai Min, Yun Young Sun, Yun Ju Tae to name but a few all have Classic experience under their belt and in Joo Min Kyu they have the predator that lit up the 2015 Challenge season. Gangwon won their place in the top league courtesy of a victory over Seongnam in the relegation playoff and have strengthened their squad impressively during the off-season, Jung Jo-Gook, Lee Keun Ho and Hwang Jin Sun are all players capable of turning a match on its head.  A lot has made of Gangwon’s aspirations this year with lofty claims of ACL qualification being mentioned, only time will tell if those were attainable or if the fans will be be launching the players off that iconic ski jump come season’s end.
Prediction: Score Draw : Sangju 1 – Gangwon 1

ACL 2017 Round 2 Previews


After a hugely disappointing first round in the ACL Group Stages in which the four K-League representatives amassed the measly total of a single point it’s time for Round 2 and for some a week of must-win matches await. The first round was somewhat of a disaster for the Korean teams as both Seoul and Jeju succumbed to 1-0 home defeats while Ulsan returned from Japan with a 2-0 defeat. Suwon Bluewings were the only team who could hold their head up high after battling to a 1-1 draw with Kawasaki although even that scoreline came about as a result of an own-goal for the Korean FA Cup holders. There is no time to rest for the ACL teams as round 2 is already upon us so with no further ado let’s look at who the Korean teams face this week.


Ulsan Hyudai v Brisbane Roar (Tues Feb 28th)

Ulsan welcome Brisbane Roar to town sitting rather unpretty at the bottom of the table after falling to two second half goals in Japan last week. That result probably wasn’t wholly unexpected and you would imagine that Kashima will probably run out eventual winners of Group E without breaking too much sweat. Ulsan will have had another week to blood new signings Orsic and Lee Jong Ho into the team and when they settle and hit form they will undoubtedly be a force. Their opponents, Brisbane, weren’t able to build on their emphatic play-off win over Shanghai Shenhua and could only manage a home draw with Thailand’s Muangthong United. With Kashima looking strong it will come down to the matches between the others to decide who is ‘best of the rest’ which in turn means that a result at home this week is essential for Ulsan. Interestingly back in 2012 when Ulsan won their solitary ACL crown they were drawn with Brisbane in the group stages. Both matches that year ended in draws, 1-1 in Ulsan and 2-2 in Brisbane so maybe just maybe history will repeat itself.

Prediction Home Win – Ulsan 2 Brisbane 1



Urawa Red Diamonds v FC Seoul (Tues Feb 28th)

Of all the K-League teams in action last week FC Seoul will probably be the most disappointed as they lost to Shanghai SIPG at home in a match which they had a good amount of the play in. They seemed to have their tactics spot on for large parts of the match and managed to contain both Oscar and Hulk for the most part although it was the latter who won the tie with a truly outstanding strike (see video clip below). Seoul missed a penalty at 1-0 after Dejan had spectacularly thrown himself to the ground under a challenge from He Guan and to be honest for all their good play that was the most clear cut chance they had. Urawa on the other hand, come into the game on the back of a spectacular 4-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers which has put them in pole position in the group. Last year Seoul knocked Urawa out in the first knockout stage on penalties, they lost the away leg 1-0, a similar result in Round 2 could see them really struggle to get out of the group this year. They really need to return from Japan with a share of the spoils and hope they can get maximum points from the WSW double header. It’s going to be a tough ask though.

Prediction : Away Win : Urawa 1 – Seoul 0



Swuon Bluewings v Guangzhou Evergrande (Wed March 1st)

Suwon Bluewings might have returned from Japan with a point last week but this week will definitely prove to be more of a challenge as they welcome the mighty Evergrande to town in one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of this year’s tournament. Bluewings’ goal in the last round came courtesy of a Taniguchi own goal in a fairly even match that could have swung either way to be honest. The match marked the debuts of Shin Hwa Young and Park Ki Dong with the latter coming off the bench in the final stages. Suwon are generally a tough team to beat at home but they will need to be at their best if they are to get a result against their opponents this time. Evergrande ran out 7-0 winners against the minnows of Eastern Sports Club who played most of the match with only nine men. It’s difficult to really judge how good a result that is due to the dismissals but it does look as if the Chinese champions mean business this year after a woeful campaign last year. The Bluewings’ away draw means they probably could afford to lose this match as long as they win the home clash with Kawasaki in April.

Prediction : Score Draw : Bluewings 1 Evergrande 1


Gamba Osaka v Jeju United (Wed March 1st)

Jeju will get set for the short hop across to Osaka safe in the knowledge that they gave their all against Choi Yong Soo’s Jiangsu Sunning only to lose out to a 90th minute Ramires strike. They hit the woodwork twice against the Chinese runners-up in what was, if nothing else, a brave display. Ex-Seongnam skipper Park Jin Po made his debut for the Islanders with Frederic Mendy coming off the bench in the last minute for his first outing in orange. They will definitely feel hard done by but can definitely go to Osaka with their heads held a little high. Gamba on the other hand, will have more then the proverbial spring in their step as they trounced Adelaide United 3-0 in Australia in a rather one-sided affair. Gamba are now without star striker Takashi Usami but they seem to be adjusting to his loss quite quickly. This group was always going to be a tough one for Jeju but given how well their Japanese counterparts have started it does mean that a point really needs to be coming back with them on the plane if they are to have any chance of qualification. Gamba have a relatively decent record against Korean teams although Suwon Bluewings did go there and win last year which should give Jeju a glimmer of hope.

Prediction : Home Win : Gamba 2 – Jeju 1

ACL 2017 Round 1 Previews



This week sees the first round of the Group Stages of the 2017 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”. With last year’s winners Jeonbuk being thrown out of the tournament all Korean eyes will be on ACL regulars Seoul and Suwon Bluewings to see if they can keep the trophy in Korea.


FC Seoul v Shanghai SIPG (Tuesday 21st Feb)

FC Seoul start their Asian Champions League campaign with a home match against Andre Villa Boas’ Shanghai SIPG in what is generally regarded as one of the toughest ACL groups in recent years. Where SIPG are bolstered by players such as Hulk, Carvalho and Oscar, Seoul have seen their squad somewhat depleted with Adriano leaving for pastures new over the close season. Adriano had a fantastic group stage last year and will be undoubtedly be greatly missed with his replacement, Maurinho, hardly an eye-catching capture . With the other two members of the group being Urawa and Western Sydney Wanderers its fair to say that every point is a prisoner and neither team can afford a slow start. Shanghai came through the playoff stage with a rather routine 3-0 win over Sukhothai, Seoul haven’t exactly set the world on fire with their pre-season friendlies, it could all come too quick for the K-League Champions.

Prediction : Draw : Seoul 1 – Shanghai SIPG 1



Kashima Antlers v Ulsan Hyundai (Tuesday 21st Feb)

The second Korean team involved in this year’s ACL are Ulsan Hyundai who found themselves the main beneficiaries of the ACL decision to prohibit Jeonbuk playing in this year’s tournament. Ulsan were promoted to the play-off stage after Jeju automatically moved up to take Jeonbuk’s place. They had a rather tense affair against Kitchee when the match went to penalties, this really was a match that they should be winning without too much huff and puff but I guess you can excuse them as they really didn’t get a whole lot of time to prepare. Ulsan make a welcome return to the ACL having last competed in 2014 when they failed to qualify from the group stages. They start their campaign with a tough trip to Japan to face J-League title holders and Fuji Xerox Cup winners Kashima Antlers. The main talking point of the match will undoubtedly be Kwon Sun Tae making his first appearance against a Korean team since his winter transfer from Jeonbuk. Ulsan themselves have seen a few new faces arrive in the close season with Mislav Orsic and Lee Jong Ho being two huge additions to their squad. As mentioned they did struggle against Kitchee and Kashima will be a tough nut to crack away. Brisbane Roar and Muangthong United make up the rest of Group E so they might just view this one as being “loseable”

Prediction: Home Win : Kashima 2 – Ulsan 0 



Kawasaki Frontale v Suwon Bluewings (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Korean cup winners Suwon Bluewings will head to Japan to start their ACL campaign and must be hoping for a better showing in the group stages this year than last year when they lost out on away goals to Melbourne Victory. They have strengthened quite a bit over the close season and seem to be building a team for an assault on the K-League title, signings such as Matt Jurman and Shin Hwa Young should more than compliment the squad which clinched the FA Cup to end the 2016 season. They seem to have managed to keep the prolific Jonathon in their ranks and on his day he is one of the deadliest in the K-League. This match will see Jung Sung Ryong line up against his old team for the first time since his J-League switch.  Kawasaki finished 3rd in the J-League last year and will be no pushovers and considering the other teams making up the group are Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande and Hong Kong’s Eastern it will almost certainly come down to the head-to-head between these two. Hopefully Bluewings will have learned from last year’s harsh lessons and be a little more focused in their home matches.

Prediction : Draw : Bluewings 1 – Kawasaki 1 



Jeju United v Jiangsu FC (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

Our final Korean team in action are Jeju United who embark on relatively unknown territory as they make only their second ever appearance in the ACL, the first of which was back in 2011.They qualified courtesy of finishing third in the K-League and then were moved into Jeonbuk’s place after they were expelled. They had a good season last year and will be hoping to build on a rather surprising third place spot this year. They strengthened their squad by adding Frederic Mendy from Ulsan whilst bringing Aleksander Jovanovic back from China. They also signed the experienced Park Jin Po from Seongnam which should add some steel to their often leaky defence. In Jiangsu FC, they face a tough opening game against such big names as Ramires, Martinez and Teixeira as well as continuing the ex-player theme by coming face to face with Hong Jeong Ho. Add in Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka and they have a really tough group which they will do well to get even close to qualification from to be honest. They are difficult to beat on the island in the domestic scene but bringing that form into the ACL is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Prediction : Away Win : Jeju 1 – Jiangsu 3