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.
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.
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….
The K-League Classic 2017 Round 25 Previews – Sunday Fixtures
Saturday saw both Jeju and Seoul throw away points in their pursuit for the title as both drew away from home in matches, on paper, they should have been winning every day of the week. Jeju drew 0-0 at Incheon while Seoul twice surrendered the lead in Daegu to finish 2-2. Suwon Bluewings did manage to win to keep the pressure on Jeonbuk, Jonathan yet again the hero.
Sunday sees another three matches played with undoubtedly the game of the day taking place in Jeonju as 1st welcomes 3rd.
Pohang Steelers vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 7pm
The first game of the day comes from the POSCO Steelyard as two teams in the bottom half of the table clash in a match that both will hope will provide a much needed boost up the table. Pohang starred in the game of the round on Wednesday as they came from behind to beat Gwangju, in turn breaking a rather miserable four game losing streak. They had Lulinha mainly to thank for the victory as the powerful Brazilian put in a virtuoso performance. Pohang have been hugely frustrating at times this season and have lurched from title challengers to a spent force within the space of a few weeks. They do however look like a team that maybe just need a confidence boost to drive themselves up the league. Jeonnam also won during the week, beating a rather poor looking Sangju 2-0, which was their 2nd win in four games. That victory was pretty comfortable for The Dragons and you don’t think they’ll get it quite so straightforward this week. Neither side is exactly playing well and home advantage might just be the deciding factor. The last time the teams met it finished 1-1
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Jeonnam 1
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Ulsan Hyundai @ 7pm
The second game of the day is the Hyundai derby, and match of the round, as Jeonbuk Hyundai and Ulsan Hyundai clash in an eagerly anticipated game. League leaders Jeonbuk swatted Incheon aside 3-1 on Wednesday which took their winning run to four games. The star of the match was the much maligned Edu who it would appear is beginning to finally find some form. He scored a brace in this match, albeit with one from the spot. As mentioned above the results on Saturday mostly went Jeonbuk’s way and it is going to take something special to stop them running away with the title yet again. Ulsan on the other hand drew against Suwon midweek and seem to lack the consistency to really push for the title. They are a good team on their day and will give Jeonbuk a game of it but they’ll need all their key players to put in a performance if they are to have any hope. Ulsan have failed to score against Jeonbuk in their last three attempts and last time out they were resoundingly beaten 4-0.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Ulsan 0
Sangju Sangmu vs. Gangwon @ 7pm
The final game on Sunday is down in Sangju as The Army welcome Gangwon to town as 9th take on 6th. Sangju have not been having the best of luck recently and have now lost four games in a row which is surprising as many neutrals thought they had a better all round squad than last year. They lost 2-0 away to Jeonnam midweek and currently sit with the 2nd worst goal difference in the league. They aren’t quite in danger of surrendering their place in the Classic just yet but they will need to start putting some points on the table and soon. Gangwon have also been struggling recently and have now lost their last three games. Given they drew the two before that they have now only managed 2pts from a possible 15. They lost 3-1 at Seoul on Wednesday and looked a pale shadow of the team who won there back in May. Both teams will be looking for the result that will break the slump and might just give them a much needed confidence boost for the remaining 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.
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.