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.
Yesterday was ‘Derby Day’ in the K-League as we had the Jeolla Derby and The Supermatch with the former finishing in a 1-1 draw. The Supermatch was played in front of almost 30,000 at Suwon World Cup Stadium with a rather embarrassing Kwak Kwang Seon OG giving FC Seoul the victory. There was also a much-needed 2-1 victory for Incheon United as they won away at Sangju in a result which pulls the Army team right into the relegation fight
Moving onto today’s action below are brief previews and predictions for this Sunday’s clashes.
Gwangju vs. Daegu @ 7pm
The first game of the day is a huge relegation battle between bottom side Gwangju and tenth placed Daegu in what will undoubtedly be a tense affair. Gwangju crashed out of the cup mid-week after taking Suwon Bluewings to extra time and will certainly be less rested than their opponents. In the league they’ve been incredibly poor and have only managed the one win in the last five or so. They signed Irishman Niall McGinn to help keep them in the Classic but he hasn’t featured since their victory over Jeonnam. They will need to find inspiration and soon if they are to avoid facing E-Land and Daejeon next year. Daegu have been playing reasonably well of late and have picked up seven points from their last four games including a hard-fought draw against FC Seoul last weekend. They are a good team on their day but tend to keep those performances for teams with a bigger reputation, it will be interesting to see if they can raise their game for the trip to Gwangju and indeed they lost here earlier in the season.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gwangju 1 – Daegu 1
Ulsan Hyundai vs. Pohang Steelers @ 7pm
The second game of the day is also the highlight game as Ulsan welcome Pohang to town in what is, I guess, a Southern Derby. Ulsan are performing better this year than last and are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup after knocking Sangju out midweek. In the league they are also looking strong and inflicted defeat on leaders Jeonbuk in the Hyundai Derby last weekend, Lee Jong Ho scoring against his old team. They have a good squad and unlike other teams in The Classic they do tend to play as a unit more than relying on individuals. As commented many times on here Pohang are all over the place right now and have only one win in six which was a victory over Gwangju. They drew 1-1 at home with Jeonnam last weekend and look a team that is lacking confidence and belief. They also lost Kim Seung Dae to a rather ridiculous five match suspension after he was red carded against Jeonnam. It’s safe to day nothing is going right for The Steelmen right now. Ulsan have both the clashes so far this season and on current form a repeat would certainly seem the logical bet today.
Prediction: Home win : Ulsan 2 – Pohang 1
Gangwon vs. Jeju United @ 7pm
The final game on Sunday comes from the the Ski jumping slopes of Gangwon as 6th place hosts 4th in a clash which might just go some way towards the final ACL spots. Gangwon finally put an end to their losing run as they defeated the much maligned Sangju (I feel everyone has beaten Sangju in the last month) and as a result they still occupy a place in The Championship Group. They are so inconsistent this year that you wouldn’t put money on them still being there come the split. Jeju have found form again and have now won three of their last four games although were unable to beat a dogged Incheon last weekend. They are still sniffing around the ACL spots and after yesterday’s results might just feel they have a chance at the title yet. Both these clashes have ended in 2-1 victories for Gangwon, could today be Jeju’s turn for revenge?
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.
K League Classic 2017 Round 16 Previews (Sunday June 25th)
Yesterday’s matches produced a couple of hugely unpredictable results as we had victory for Incheon as they earned a huge 3 points down in Ulsan and a pretty comprehensive thumping for Pohang as they left Jeju on the end of a 3-0 battering. It also seen Jeonnam run out 2-1 victors in their match against Gwangju, Jair converting a penalty to secure the points.
Moving onto the day’s action and it’s time for some brief previews and predictions for this Sunday’s clashes.
Suwon Bluewings vs. Gangwon @ 6pm
The first game on Sunday evening is between Suwon Bluewings and Gangwon as 6th welcomes 5th to town in a match that will really test Gangwon’s credentials as a serious ACL contender. The Bluewings have been erratic of late having only won three from five losing to rivals Jeonbuk and more importantly Seoul in recent weeks. They have struggled to find any consistency and main striker Johnathon really needs to start playing less for himself and more for the team if they are to mount a title challenge. Gangwon, who had looked deadly of late, crashed to a crushing 4-1 defeat to Jeonbuk during the week which brought their five game winning run to a shuddering halt. They spent a lot of money during the close season and it will be interesting to see what they do now the summer transfer window has opened. Suwon won 2-1 earlier in the season but that was away from home where their best form seems to be.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Gangwon 1
FC Seoul vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 7pm
The second game of the day is a mid-table clash between FC Seoul and Sangju Sangmu in a match which has a draw written all over it before I even start to preview it. Seoul are a hard side to watch this year, lacking creativity and are really struggling to score so far this season. In fact their return of 18 goals in 15 games is really poor for a team aiming to retain their title. They let Adriano and Takahagi go in the close season and while ha Dae Sung’s return will make up for the latter there has been no sign of a replacement for Adriano. It is something they need to sort out and sort out fast. Sangju, after last season’s highs, are back looking like the army teams of old and are winless in seven games now. Their form this year is strange given that, on paper, their team should be stronger than last year’s. Seoul have had the better of their military counterparts for a long time now and even though they are in their own slump they should have enough to beat them again today.
Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 1 – Sangju 0
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Daegu @ 7pm
The final game on Saturday is another between two teams at opposite ends of the table as league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai take on 10th placed Daegu. Jeonbuk have won both of the games since returning from the international break and are beginning to look every bit the league winners having notched up an incredible seven goals in two games. I’m not sure what Choi Kang Hee said or did to Edu but he’s back finding the net again and with the return of Lopez they are looking formidable. They have been the best team in Korea for some time now and if it wasn’t for their points deduction last year they would be going for a record breaking ‘four in a row’ this year. Daegu haven’t really surprised many this year with their league position but they have definitely won some fans with their attacking style of play. In Leo they have a really dangerous striker who will punish you if given any room whatsoever. They’ve drawn their last two matches with a 0-0 draw away to Seoul the most recent. On paper this should be a walkover for Jeonbuk but they might just find it tougher than many think.
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.
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.