K-League Challenge 2017 Playoffs – Match 1 Preview

 

K-League Challenge 2017 Playoffs

International football? Son Heung Min braces? All this will pale into insignificance come mid-week as the 2017 K-League Playoffs begin with Asan Mugunghwa FC welcoming Seongnam FC to town to see who has the pleasure of travelling to the Gudeok Stadium on Saturday to face runners-up and FA Cup finalists Busan FC. It’s been a long season for both teams and after an incredibly tense last round of fixtures it was Asan who secured 3rd place in the league with Seongnam securing the final spot as they claimed fourth. The playoffs have thrown up some fantastic matches of late such as Gwangju humbling Gyeongnam, the 3-3 Battle of Suwon and of course last year’s Tears in Tancheon as Seongnam were relegated….what will this year give us?

 

Asan v Seongnam (Wed @ 7pm)

 

Overview

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

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

 

Head to Head

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

Prediction

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

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

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

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K-League Classic 2017 Round 31 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures.

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.

Prediction:  Away Win : Sangju 1 – Jeju 2

K-League Classic 2017 Round 29 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures

The K-League Classic Round 28 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures

With the split fast approaching we are entering that period where every point becomes a prisoner as some teams look to define their season by which half of the table they finish in. For Gangwon, failure to land a top six spot would be embarrassing after their pre-season wheelings and dealings, for Pohang it would confirm that last year wasn’t a blip and they are in fact no longer a giant of Korean football. Of course for others the split throws up different concerns with Jeonbuk aiming for a title and Gwangju aiming for survival.

 

This Saturday we see a massive clash at the bottom while Gangwon and Suwon have the chance to put some pressure on those teams above them.

Gangwon vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm

The early game on Saturday afternoon is between two of the sides that are vying for probably the final spot in the Championship Group as 6th placed Gangwon and 8th placed Jeonnam Dragons clash.  Gangwon lost at the weekend to Jeonbuk Hyundai in what can only be described as a goal-fest as the fans were treated to a 4-3 win for the league leaders and an incredible seven minute hat-trick from Lee Seung Ki. Gangwon have continued their early season erratic form and have only two wins from their last five. They are still managerless and it’s safe to say the ‘Orange Experiment’ hasn’t exactly been a roaring success. They do sit 6pts clear in sixth place though and should really see themselves happy come the split. Jeonnam also lost last weekend as they crashed to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Suwon Bluewings. Their form has been poor of late and they now have only one win from five. Jeonnam haven’t lost this year to Gangwon and there have been goals in both games, there should be more today.

 

Prediction:  Home Win : Gangwon 2 – Jeonnam 0

Sangju Sangmu vs. Gwangju @ 7pm

The second game of the day, and one of the final evening kick-offs of 2017,  is a huge match at the foot of the table as the bottom two teams meet. Sangju got yet another pasting last weekend as they were defeated 4-2 by Ulsan and you have to almost go back to the pre-Trump era to find their last win! They have been a real disappointment and now that they are beginning to drip feed players back to their parent clubs they can only get worse. Gwangju find themselves 5 pts below Sangju going into the match but at least managed to stop their losing streak when they drew last weekend vs. Incheon. They, like Sangju, have been woeful all season and you get the feeling that the players have resigned themselves to a season in The Challenge next year. Sangju have won both matches this year and might just have the mental edge….but then again Gwangju have Kim Hak Bum pulling the reins now and he doesn’t like to lose.

 

Prediction:  Draw : Sangju 0 – Gwangju 0

Daegu vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm

The final game of the day is a clash which on paper should be a forgone conclusion but in reality has all the potential to see an upset as Daegu welcome The Bluewings to town. Daegu seem to have freed themselves, slightly, from the shackles of the relegation battle and Suwon are still hoping for a league and cup double however unlikely that may be. Daegu come into the match on the back of a huge victory over Pohang in a game with as many red cards as goals. They are undefeated in four games and their Brazilian coach Andre really has them difficult to beat while dangerous on the front foot.  Bluewings got a much needed win last weekend what they skelped Jeonnam 3-0 with the diminutive Santos among the goals. There were huge concerns for the blue massive after Jonathan’s injury but the 2014 Golden Boot winner has stepped up to the plate to ease their fears. Bluewings won the last fixture 3-0 but this one should be closer.

Prediction: Away Win: Daegu 1 – Bluewings 2

K-League Classic 2017 Round 28 Predictions – Saturday Fixtures

 

 

K-League Classic 2017 Round 28 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

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.

 

The international break is over!!

 

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….

Prediction:  Away Win : Seoul 1 – Jeju 2

K-League Classic 2017 Round 26 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

K-League Classic 2017 Round 26 Previews – Sunday Fixtures

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?

Prediction:  Score Draw : Gangwon 1 – Jeju 1

K-League Classic 2017 Round 25 Preview – Sunday Fixtures

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.

 

Prediction:  Away Win : Sangju 1 – Gangwon 2

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

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

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

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

Daegu vs. FC Seoul @ 7pm

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

Prediction: Away Win : Daegu 0 – Seoul 1

Incheon United vs. Jeju United @ 7pm

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

Prediction:  Away Win : Incheon 1 – Jeju 2

Gwangju vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm

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

Prediction: Away Win: Gwangju  0 – Suwon 2