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

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K-League Classic 2017 Week 4 Predictions

The K-League Classic returns this weekend following the international break while matches are coming thick and fast for the Challenge players after their mid-week FA Cup exertions. It’s been a good start for the ‘Super J’s’ of Jeju and Jeonbuk and yet another disappointing opening from the Bluewings. This weekend sees old foes Jeonbuk and Seoul go head to head for the first time this year and sees the aforementioned Bluewings head to Incheon Stadium for a warm-up before their 4th round FA Cup clash.

 

 

Incheon United vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 3pm

The game of the day on Saturday comes from Incheon Stadium as Suwon Bluewings come to town for the first of two visits this month, the FA Cup 4th Round tie being on April 19th. Incheon haven’t looked great in their opening games of the season although they do sit above their rather more illustrious opponents in the table.  They were able to hold Jeonbuk to a goalless draw two weeks ago and are often a tough nut to crack at home. Kim Dae Kyung grabbed a brace in round 2 against Daegu and given the void created by the departure of Kevin Oris it’s going to take someone to step up to the plate. Suwon Bluewings are level on points with Incheon but sit below them on goal difference.  After a positive pre-season flurry of transfers its safe to say that the Bluewings are yet again underachieving. They drew 1-1 at home to new boys Daegu last time out and that equalizer came courtesy Johnathon scoring from the rebound after his penalty was saved.  Bluewings won 3-2 last November and have amazingly won this tie twenty-one times although last season they certainly found it tough going with three draws to go with that November victory.
Prediction: Score Draw : Incheon 2 – Bluewings 2

 

Jeonnam Dragons vs. Pohang Steelers @ 3pm

Next up we have a trip to Gwangyang Stadium for Pohang as Jeonnam welcome them to town after what has been a miserable start for the Dragons. Jeonnam have started their 2017 campaign by losing all three of their games so far and they also have the worst defensive record in the league to boot conceding seven goals in three games. Both their goals thus far have come from their new signing Feczesin. He also came close in the last round as they succumbed to a free-flowing Jeju team. They have looked incredibly shaky at the back at times and need to plug those gaps ASAP.  Pohang have started 2017 like they played all thru 2016, erratic and unpredictable. So far they have managed one win, one draw and one defeat, which is obviously not the hat-trick they were hoping for. They drew 2-2 in Gwangju in the last round after fighting from a goal down to take the lead and then surrender it again.  The head to head is fairly even although the Steelers did fail to beat Jeonnam last year, losing two and drawing one. Is 2017 to be the year of revenge?

Prediction: Away Win : Jeonnam 1 – Pohang 2

 

Sangju Sangmu vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The final 3 o’clock kick off on Saturday comes from the Sangju Stadium, where Sangju Sangmu host Daegu. Sangju lost their opening game of the season to Gangwon , but have since gone from strength to strength and have won their last two matches with Joo Min Kyu and Kim Ho Nam looking sharp. The army team currently occupies fourth place in the table and you have to imagine that they will be there or there about  come season end. They come into the match on the back of a 1-0 away win down in Ulsan and look like a team that is beginning to gel. Daegu have drawn their previous two matches against both Incheon and Suwon Bluewings with the latter being a tad unexpected. They actually took the lead at The Big Bird, Cessinha the hero, but were undone by a Johnathon penalty. In the match against Incheon they also threw away a lead and that must be a worry for their fans and manager alike. The head to head in this one is interesting as Daegu have by far the upper hand but then there have been some utterly honking Army teams down the years, this one definitely isn’t.

Prediction: Home Win : Sangju 2 – Daegu 1

Next up we have the Sunday fixtures with the highlight undoubtedly being down in Jeonju as FC Seoul come to town.

Jeonbuk Motors vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

Last years title rivals clash for the first time this season as Seoul make the trip South to Jeonju albeit to the rather unfamiliar surroundings of the Jeonju Civil Stadium. Jeonbuk have made a good start to the season and sit in second place 2pts adrift of league leaders Jeju. They had a minor slip up in the last round when they drew 0-0 at Incheon but in fairness they did everything but score that day. Their first big test of the season should have been against Suwon Bluewings at the Big Bird but the hosts never really turned up that day so it’ll be interesting to see how they do against a Seoul team who also look a pale shadow of last year’s Champions. Seoul come into the match on the back of a rather fortuitous double penalty victory over Gwangju in a match which resulted in an indefinite ban for the referee. They have really failed to impress this season and although often tagged as “slow starters” you wonder if they possess the quality in their ranks to really be a force. In Dejan and Go Yo Han they have players capable of winning matches from nowhere and new recruit Lee Sang Ho looks a good addition. It is at the back though that they look as frail as me the morning after a Yeouido tent. The pitch in the Civil Stadium was shocking last time out and that might impact again this week but you do get the feeling that Jeonbuk just have the edge.

Prediction : Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Seoul 1

 

Ulsan Hyundai v Gangwon FC @ 3pm

Our second match on Sunday is a clash between two teams that were being hotly tipped for success in the close-season only to disappoint come the real thing. Ulsan started brightly enough and we can talk all day about their annihilation of Brisbane Roar in the ACL but it is closer to home where they have been found lacking. They lost in the last round at home to Sangju and that was their second defeat on the bounce after losing to Jeju. It will be the lack of goals in those two matches that you would imagine would be of most concern to manager Kim Do Hoon. His team has many an attacking outlet and so to go 180 mins without a goal should set alarm bells ringing. Gangwon are also not living up to their lofty and often arrogant assertions of where they would finish in the table. They won their opening match but have since lost and drawn at home to Seoul and Pohang respectively. They did come from behind in the last round to steal a point from The Steelers (see what I did there) and that might give them a little extra confidence travelling to Ulsan. Ulsan are quite a bit ahead on the head to head and you get the feeling that if they can click they will be a force.

Prediction : Home Win : Ulsan 1- Gangwon 0

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Jeju United v Gwangju FC @ 3pm

The final match on Sunday sees league leaders Jeju host Gwangju FC in a match which on paper should be as predictable as a Stephen King novel (spoiler alert it’s always aliens). Jeju have been a revelation this year with their cavalier and often free-flowing football. They won 2-0 against Jeonnam in the last round but it could have been any number of goals as wave after wave of orange shirts caused havoc. They seem to be capable of scoring from anywhere on the pitch and with Park Jin Po rampaging up the left flank they pose a real threat. It should be noted though that they are yet to concede a goal so it’s not all just about the attacking power they have. Gwangju are sitting in seventh in the table but are on a two game losing streak, although they really should have got something at Seoul in the last round. They do look a little naive in defence and without Jung Jo Gook up front they also lack that killer instinct needed to secure a win. They seemed to have the measure of Jeju last year, winning twice and also knocking them out the FA Cup. That could all be a distant memory come 5pm on Sunday though.

 

Prediction : Home Win : Jeju 2 – Gwangju 0

K-League Classic 2017 Week 3 Predictions

 

Week 2 of the K-League saw the Super J’s of Jeonbuk and Jeju United continue on their winning ways with huge wins over the Bluewings and Ulsan respectively, even at this early stage they do both look a cut above the rest in the league. Seoul came back from the ski jump resort with a win and Jeonnam had another dismal day at work as they fell to a confidence-sapping 3-1 defeat at home to the Army with Joo Min Kyu netting his first goal of his military service.

 

Son Heung Min excited about Week 3 of the K-League

K-League Classic 2017 Week 3 Previews and Predictions

 

Gangwon vs. Pohang Steelers @ 3pm

Depending on where you look this match may or may not be postponed but I’ll preview it just in case, it’s our second trip of the season to the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium as Gangwon welcome Pohang to the Korean Alps. Last weekend didn’t go according to plan for the newly promoted Classic team as FC Seoul came to town and left with all 3pts. A lot of the talk was about the goings on off the pitch as there were more than one or two issues for those hoping to see their heroes. On the pitch it was a pretty dour affair and neither team could have complained about a scoreless draw. Yet again a poor pitch played a huge part in the proceedings and with an extra week (or more if the match is truly postponed) hopefully things will be better. Pohang grabbed their first points of 2017 with a 2-0 home victory over Gwangju courtesy of a Yang Dong Hyun brace. Last year they were woefully inconsistent, they will need to rectify that if they want to avoid another year in the doldrums of the Relegation Group.  The head to head is totally in Pohang’s favour, with the last two matches seeing them rack up seven goals with no reply.

Prediction: Away Win : Gangwon 1 – Pohang 2

Incheon United vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

The other match on Saturday sees a rather fragile and shaky looking Incheon host Jeonbuk in what will probably be a ‘backs to the wall’ performance from the home team. Incheon haven’t looked great in their opening two games of the season, but, just like last season, they showed their spirit with a  comeback from 2 goals down against Daegu last week. They’ve looked like leaking goals almost every time a team attacks them but are definitely capable of grabbing the odd goal themselves. Last week they had Kim Dae Kyung to thank for saving their blushes as his last minute penalty sent them back up the road with a point. Jeonbuk have had a perfect start to the 2017 season beating both Jeonnam and Suwon Bluewings, with the latter barely requiring them to break sweat. They easily brushed Bluewings aside at The Big Bird with goals from Kim Bo Kyung and Lee Jae Sung making even the most ardent Leonardo fan begin to forget him. The match was marred by a shocking challenge on Lee Seung Ki, but Jeonbuk do look every bit the title challengers and it’s already looking like it will take something special to stop them marching to the title. Last time out Jeonbuk beat Incheon 3-1 however over the years the head-to-head record is pretty even.

Prediction: Away Win : Incheon 1 – Jeonbuk 2

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm

The first game of ‘Super Sunday’ comes from Ulsan as they take on the Army side of Sangju Sangmu as 8th hosts 4th. Ulsan come into the match short of confidence having lost 3-0 last weekend in the league against Jeju United and then drawing at home to Muangthong United in the ACL. That annihilation of Brisbane Roar is already paling into the background and it is exactly this inconsistency which plagued their fans last year. It has now been over 180 mins since they last hit the net and although not exactly time to run panicking into the night it is something of a concern.  Sangju are level on points with Ulsan after bouncing back from losing week one by romping Jeonnam 3-1 last weekend with the highlight being that Joo Min Kyu strike.  The two teams are evenly matched and it could be a really tight match. Ulsan have had it easy over their previous meetings with 24 wins from 36 matches but interestingly it was honors even last year, one thing is for sure there should be goals as both teams have lethal forwards.

Prediction: Score Draw : Ulsan 1 – Sangju 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Daegu @ 3pm

Next up we have our second visit of the season to Suwon World Cup Stadium as The Bluewings take on Daegu in a match which on paper the hosts should be winning every time. Suwon, like 2016, have had a poor start to their league season drawing the ‘Super Match’ in week 1 and then losing at home last weekend to Jeonbuk. They beat Eastern in the ACL 1-0 during the week but even that was somewhat closer than it should have been and took the introduction of Johnathan and Yeom from the bench to garner the win. They were incredibly pedestrian against Jeonbuk last weekend and look as though the same ailments from last season are still afflicting them. Daegu lost their opening game and then last weekend let a 2 goal lead slip to draw against Incheon to draw 2-2. Their goals came from Leo and Cesinha but it will be that lapse at the back which will be playing on their minds come kick-off. Suwon won 2-0 back in August 2013 when they last met and over the head to head haven’t lost since 2009.
Prediction: Home Win : Bluewings 2 – Daegu 0

FC Seoul vs. Gwangju @ 3pm

The final 3 o’clock kick off on Sunday comes from the Seoul World Cup Stadium, and features FC Seoul versus  Gwangju. FC Seoul rught now look a team devoid of confidence, creativity and guile as they suffered a 3rd straight ACL defeat mid-week and all but resigned themselves to crashing out of the group stages.  In the league they’ve notched up four points from their opening two games but have impressed nobody in either game. Dejan was the hero last week down in Gangwon and he is always going to be Mr. Reliable but it is the performance of Yoo Hyun in goals that is proving costly to the Champions. Gwangju won their opening game but lost last weekend down in The Steelyard and although they are a plucky team they do lack that killer ball and little bit of imagination that wins matches. Seoul won all four games last year and even though they are struggling for form it would be folly to look beyond them repeating the same feat this year too.
Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 2 – Gwangju 0

Jeju United vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 5pm

Rounding off the weekend we have the late afternoon Sunday game from the Jeju World Cup Stadium between Jeju United and Jeonnam Dragons. Jeju traveled to Adelaide during the week on ACL duty and came back with a credible draw although having led twice in the match they might feel that it was more two points lost than one gained. They’ve had a perfect start to the Classic this year with two wins from two and look very much like the only team who will push Jeonbuk for the title. Not only are they scoring for fun but they are still to concede in the league. It is going forward though they they look incredible and are capable of scoring from almost anywhere on the pitch.  Jeonnam are the complete mirror image of that and have had the worst possible start to the season with two defeats from two. They might have felt bad after losing the Jeolla Derby in the last minute but losing 3-1 at home to Sangju was unacceptable and they rightly languish at the foot of the table. The head to head is reasonably split with Jeju just edging it, last time out though it was Jeju who emerged the victors winning 5-3 back in October.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Jeonnam 0

K-League Classic 2017 Week 2 Predictions

Last week was the opening weekend of the 2017 K-League season and it raised several talking points from poor pitches to shocking strips, petulant players to fabulous free-kicks, disappointing draws to last-minute losers.  This week we have the first match ever to be played in a ski-jump resort, the battle of two high-flying ACL teams and the always eventful first trip to the Big Bird for Jeonbuk. It’s shaping up to be a cracker!!

The K-League Classic 2017 Round 2 – Previews

 

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Daegu vs. Incheon United @ 2pm

The early kick-off on Saturday sees newcomers Daegu welcome Incheon Unitd to town in a clash which is more than likely going to be regarded as a relegation dogfight in the final rounds of the season.  The match will mark Daegu’s first home Classic game in four years as they epitomize the struggles teams can face when they make the dreaded ‘drop down a division’. They lost last weekend against Gwangju as they fell to a first half strike from Cho Sung Jun but in fairness it was a pretty dire affair. They will need to put in a few sterling performances over the year if they are to avoid being the latest yo-yo club in Korea with home form being the key to putting up a challenge. Incheon also lost last weekend at home to Jeju in what was a lot closer a match than many had predicted. They will be another team that will need to get big results and you get the feeling that after being close the last couple of years this might just be their year for the playoffs. Daegu generally struggle in this tie and you have to go back five calendar years for their last victory.
Prediction: Away Win : Daegu 0 –  Incheon 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm

Undoubtedly the game of the day on Saturday will take place at  Suwon World Cup Stadium as Jeonbuk come to town in what are generally close and hotly contested affairs. Bluewings visited Seoul last weekend in the ‘Super Match’ and will probably have been slightly disappointed that they drew 1-1 after leading for most of the first half courtesy of a Lee Min Woo strike. The normally reliable Johnathon had a bit of a nightmare match as he had more than a couple of chances to put Suwon out of sight but snatched at each one. They were prone to throwing away victories last season and that does look like it could haunt them again this year. Jeonbuk won the Jeolla Derby on Sunday on a ridiculously unplayable pitch, they led through Kim Jin Su but it took a last minute winner from The Wookie to seal the points after debut-boy Fecsezin had bundled the ball over the line to equalize for Jeonnam. It really was tough to judge them such was the state of the pitch so this one might give us more of an insight into how strong they’ll be this year. Jeonbuk had the upper hand in 2016 but then Bluewings were utterly honking for most of last season.

Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 2 – Jeonbuk 2

Jeju United vs. Ulsan Hyundai @ 3pm

Just like The Supermatch  last week we have another all Asian Champions League battle this week between arguably the two in-form Korean teams right now of Jeju and Ulsan. Jeju come into the match having won their opening game on their travels against a plucky  Incheon but it was by far their destruction of Gamba Osaka in Japan that has caught the eye. The winning goal last week came from new boy  Magno Cruz, but the victory was marred by the late sending off of Park Jin Po for a double yellow card. Ulsan also won last weekend beating Pohang with a Jung Jae Yong brace securing the win. Ulsan have looked impressive so far with new signing Orsic looking like he is going to have a major role in their tactics. The matches have been close over the last few years although Jeju have the slight upper hand and are always tough at home. There is a lot of firepower on both sides and this one could be a high-scoring affair.

Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Ulsan 1

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Gangwon vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The final match on Saturday is also the first of a kind as it will become the first  game of the season from the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium which will be the 2017 home of Gangwon FC. A lot of the close-season focus has been on Gangwon as they have brought in several key players so it was fitting that they won their opening game of the season beating the Army 2-1. That match saw Lee Keun-Ho score both goals against his old side either side of a Kim Ho Nam strike. With their ticket pricing being based on opposition it will be interesting to see how many fans make the trip. Seoul drew their opening game 1-1 in the Super Match against Suwon Bluewings and had ex-Suwon favorite Lee Sang Ho to thank as he pounced on a Yun Il Rok shot to poke the ball over the line. Seoul haven’t exactly been on fire so far this year and in fact look both slow and predictable in midfield and up front. They might struggle again today against a team who feel like they have a lot to prove in the season ahead. It’s been four years since they last met with Seoul the conquerors back then.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gangwon 1 – Seoul 1

There are also two matches being played on the Sunday.

 

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Jeonnam v Sangju

The first of Sunday’s games sees the two surprise teams of 2016 go head to head for the first time this year as Jeonnam Dragons welcome Sangju to town. Both teams had unexpected top-six finishes last year and it will be interesting to see if they can build on that this year. Jeonnam didn’t have the best of starts to 2017, losing the Jeolla Derby to Jeonbuk with virtually the last touch of the ball. They are pretty much the dark horse of the Classic, flying under the radar of big name signings but building a team that is often tough to beat. Sangju also lost 2-1 last week, falling at home to Gangwon. On paper though they seem to have a stronger squad than last season with some ‘big hitters’ opting for military service this year. They should be able to keep themselves up the table once they all find their feet…and their teammate. Over the years Jeonnam have had by far the upper hand in this fixture winning twenty-one of the thirty-five matches played, it wouldn’t be surprising for this one to follow that same pattern.

Prediction: Home Win : Jeonnam 2 – Sangju 1

 

Pohang v Gwangju 

The second game of the day comes from the Steelyard as probably the most disappointing team of 2016 gets set to welcome Gwangju to the POSCO grounds. Pohang cut a forlorn figure much of last year and given their opening weekend defeat to Ulsan it looks like they might yet again resemble the bridesmaid that can’t get a dance. They didn’t really seem at the races last week and given the size and stature of the club another year in the bottom six isn’t going to wash with fans and owners alike.  Gwangju won their opening match but it was against newly promoted and relegation favourites Daegu so it might not really be a sign of things to come.  The game won’t win ‘match of the day’ anytime soon and it was one of those games where the final whistle was welcomed with as big a cheer as the single goal. The Gwangju fixture might just be Pohang’s ‘goto match’ as they have lost only once in thirteen meetings and you have to go all the way back to 2006 for that solitary Gwangju victory, stranger things have happened in football….but not many.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 1 – Gwangju 0

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

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Live football is back!!!!!!!

 

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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 

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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

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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

The Walking K-League Dead – Episode 3

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Last week’s  episode yet again witnessed Suwon Bluewings showing their fragility in the cut-throat world of the K-League Apocalypse. Having looked like they were coasting through the episode at the first break they then ran out of steam and were caught by a rather tricky and nifty-looking herd of POSCO zombies and ended up rather happy that they were able to make it back to the safety of The Big Bird changing rooms without losing more than just their pride.

 

This week we look at one of the newest characters in TKWD ….

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Staring Suwon FC as Carl

 

carl

Just like Carl, or Coral depending on whether you think Brit actor Andrew Lincoln is able to pull off a Georgia accent or not, Suwon FC are the youngest member of our cast and just like everyone’s favourite cowboy hat wearing brat they are also able to frustrate their fellow cast members with almost relative ease. Having made an almost instantly forgettable debut appearance in Episode 1 at the home of Jeonnam they then had a starring role in Episode 2 where they decided to host a house-warming party and invited those plucky fellows from nearby Seongnam with both groups turning out in force to mark the occasion.  The event passed without many incidents of note and although it was a tad frustrating for the more established survivors in black I think was entertaining for most who attended.

As we know Carl has now survived being shot twice, once in the eye,  and I think most fans of TKWD would have been excused for thinking that Suwon FC had shot themselves in the foot when they let free-scoring Japa leave after last year’s season finale. It does however look like they also will get over this wound and they are already back up on their feet and making all the right noises. Suwon FC, like Carl, don’t have the guiding hand of a mothering chabeol which makes there growth all the more impressive.   It is early days yet in the new world and there are still battles with more established characters that lie in wait for them but you do feel that if they can continue to grow as a club as quickly as Carl can grow his hair then they might just be around for a while longer than some first predicted.

The evolution of Suwon FC
The evolution of Suwon FC