K-League Classic 2017 Round 12 Previews – Saturday Fixtures

The K-League Classic 2017 Round 12 Previews

This weekend sees the first round of evening fixtures as the heat gets too much for running around in the afternoon, although based on some recent performances we could have delayed it a little longer.

The League table going into Week 12

 

Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 6pm

First up is the clash between Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonnam Dragons as two of the best performing teams of late clash. Ulsan started their 2017 campaign rather poorly but have since mounted an assault on the top of the table and have mustered three wins in the last four. They draw 0-0 against Jeonbuk last weekend but continued their strong run of form midweek by dispatching runaway Challenge leaders Gyeongnam from the FA Cup. Jeonnam have stuttered a little in the league recently and fell to a crushing 3-1 home defeat to Suwon Bluewings last week. They did however win in the cup on Wednesday as they knocked Daejeon out courtesy of a 2-1 victory. Jeonnam utterly embarrassed Ulsan last time out as they battered them 5-0, Jair the hero that day.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan  2 – Jeonnam 1

FC Seoul vs. Gangwon @ 7pm

The 1st of the 7 o’clock game comes from Seoul World Cup Stadium as FC Seoul host Gangwon in a match they hope will bring some much needed smile to their supporter’s faces. Out the ACL, trailing in the league, all eyes were on the FA Cup as they hoped to make it four finals in four years. Alas that wasn’t to be as they lost on penalties to a plucky Busan team to potentially consign themselves to a first trophy-less season since 2014. They come into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw away to Sangju in a match they twice came from behind in. Gangwon have begun to look a little better in the league over the past couple of weeks and have won two in a row, that ‘purple patch’ however was halted midweek as they crashed out of the cup at home to Seongnam FC. When the teams met in early March it was Seoul who emerged the victors as they came home with a 1-0 victory, a similarly tight contest again wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Prediction:  Home Win : Seoul 1 – Gangwon 0

Sangju Sangmu vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 7pm

Next up we have 8th versus 5th as Sangju Sangmu welcome Suwon Bluewings to town. Sangju slipped out of the top half of the table last weekend as they were held at home to Seoul, although in fairness that result did see them stop a two game losing streak becoming three. They gathered themselves together midweek to beat challenge side Bucheon and knock them out of the FA Cup in what was being tipped, by some, as a potential ‘giant killing’ for Bucheon. The Bluewings have won four from the last five in the league and find themselves above rivals FC Seoul in the table for the first time in quite a while. They won at Jeonnam last week as forgotten man Santos reminded Seo Jung Won exactly why he won the Golden Boot a mere three seasons ago. The last time the teams met it finished 0-0 and there really isn’t much between the two on paper.

Prediction : Draw : Sangju 1 Bluewings 1

 

Daegu vs. Jeju United @ 7pm

The final game on Saturday evening is a top v bottom clash as lowly Daegu host 2nd placed Jeju United. Daegu have now lost three games in a row and are firmly caught up in the relegation battle as many expected. They aren’t actually as poor a team as their league position would suggest and have scored twice the number of goals that 10th placed Gwangju have, but it’s their inability to keep the ball out of their own net that is costing them dearly. Jeju stumbled last weekend as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Pohang. That was only their 2nd defeat of the season and will more than likely be seen by most as merely a blip. They are an incredibly dangerous team and given the aforementioned defensive frailties of Daegu, could run up the proverbial cricket score this weekend.  The last time the teams met it was a rip-roaring 4-2 victory for Jeju with all six goals coming from foreign players.

Prediction : Away Win : Daegu 1 – Jeju 3

K-League Classic 2017 Week 6 Previews

 

If there is one thing that we learned form Round 5 it’s that when football sucks it REALLY sucks as we witnessed only two wins last weekend with all four matches on the Saturday finishing with the points shared. The hotly anticipated Seoul/Jeju match in particular did more to increase alcohol sales then any 4 for 10,000W GS promo could never achieve. 

There are only two matches being played on the Saturday this weekend due to the midweek ACL exertions. 

Incheon United vs. Jeonnam Dragons @ 3pm

First up on Saturday is a trip to Incheon Football Stadium where Incheon United welcome bottom side Jeonnam Dragons to town in a battle of the ‘winless’. Incheon have lost twice and drawn three times so far this season but have played better than their record would suggest to be honest. They have shown a battling quality when needed but unfortunately have also been suicidal at the back at times. They lost 2-0 down at Pohang last Sunday although they played the whole 2nd half with ten men. Han Suk Jong was sent off in controversial circumstances and that red card has since been rescinded.  Jeonnam  have had an alarmingly poor start to the season losing all of their matches so far, shipping twelve goals in the process. Last weekend they lost in Daegu which could have been so much worse if Incheon hadn’t also lost. Last season Jeonnam were undefeated in this fixture and the head to head says they are pretty much on a par.
Prediction: Draw : Incheon 1 – Jeonnam 1

 

Pohang Steelers vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The second game of the day comes from The Steelyard as a resurgent Pohang Steelers host new boys Daegu. Pohang seem to have have managed to put last year’s horrendous season behind them and have had a pretty sweet start to the season winning three games while being the league’s highest scorers to boot with ten goals in five games. A lot of their success comes down to the goal scoring exploits of Yang Dong Hyun who has hit the net four times already. Daegu have surprised more than a few people this year with their performances so far and are undefeated since the opening game of the season with three draws before their victory over Jeonnam last weekend. They currently occupy 7th spot, only the solitary point adrift of Ulsan in 6th. Pohang won the last four meetings between the teams and in fact have only lost five times in thirty-two matches.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Incheon 1

Quickly on to the Super Sunday and we have Jeonbuk joining the four ACL teams in what should be a fantastic day of football….well unless like me you are at Tancheon!

 

Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu @ 3pm

The first 3 o’clock kick off on Sunday comes from the Jeonju Civil Stadium as Jeonbuk play host to Sangju. Jeonbuk have started the season well and have won three and drawn two of their opening five  games as they bid to reclaim their crown. They have been blessed by some stellar performances from full-back Kim Jin Su who has made the official K-League ‘Team of the Week’ four out of the five so far. He has definitely been the ‘buy of the season’. They drew last week with The Wookie scoring, Kim Jin Su the supplier.  Sangju are replicating their fine 2016 form and are currently sitting pretty in 4th place after going undefeated since losing their opening match. They drew 0-0 at The Big Bird last weekend and definitely have players capable of pulling something special out the bag. Jeonbuk won both home ties last year with an emphatic 4-1 victory towards the end of the season

Prediction: Home Win : Jeonbuk 1 – Sangju 0

Jeju United vs. Gangwon @ 3pm

Next up we travel to the island paradise of Jeju and to Seogwipo, as Jeju United host Gangwon as league leaders take on 8th place. Jeju looked almost unbeatable in the early weeks of the season winning their opening three games also looking impressive in the ACL and it’s unfair to say the wheels have come off but their form of late hasn’t been great. They have drawn their last two league matches albeit against Jeonbuk and Seoul respectively but they lost 3-1 at home to Adelaide in the ACL midweek.  Gangwon haven’t won since the opening game of the season and all that pre-season bluster seems to be blowing up in their face. Last time the teams met was in 2013 with Gangwon winning 3-0 that day, although the head to head is slightly in Jeju’s favour.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Gangwon 1

Suwon Bluewings vs. Gwangju @ 3pm

Our third Super Sunday battle comes from The Big Bird of Suwon World Cup Stadium, where Suwon Bluewings welcome Gwangju. For a team predicted by many to be title contenders The Bluewings have been woeful in the league and are still searching for that elusive first league win. The have drawn four times and lost the other. However their ACL form has been much better with them hammering Hong Kong’s Eastern 5-0 during the week. Gwangju are one of those footballing enigmas, they aren’t great but the aren’t bad either, they are more than capable of pulling off an upset when they are on their game. They came from behind last weekend to snatch a point against Ulsan and might just have enough about to get something in this one too. They drew three times last year with Gwangju winning the fourth clash.

Prediction: Draw : Suwon 1 – Gwangju 1

Ulsan Hyundai vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm

The final game of the day and probably the highlight of the weekend comes from Ulsan as two ACL teams go head to head in the battle of 6th v 5th. Ulsan have had yet another mixed bag of a season, retching from the sublime to the downright ordinary.  They come into the match on the back of a 1-1 league draw at home to Gwangju and a confidence-destroying 1-0 defeat in Thailand in the ACL. With the players at their disposal there is no hiding from the fact they are under performing. Seoul  have also struggled this year and were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Jeju last weekend. They did come back from Australia with all 3pts after defeating WSW 3-2 but even that victory was marred as they conceded two late goals. Even though Dejan scored a brace in the match it was his Brazilian strike partner Maurinho who took all the plaudits as he put in a performance that could and should see him start this one. Seoul had the upper hand over their hosts last season wining twice, with both teams midweek exploits we could see a couple of tired teams on the pitch.
Prediction: Draw : Ulsan 1 – Seoul 1

ACL 2017 Round 3 Previews

 

Asian Champions League Round 3 – Previews

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

 

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
MUANGTHONG UNITED (THA) 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
KASHIMA ANTLERS (JPN) * 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
ULSAN HYUNDAI FC (KOR) * 2 1 0 1 6 2 4 3
BRISBANE ROAR (AUS) 2 0 1 1 0 6 -6 1

Ulsan v Muangthong United (Tuesday 19:30)

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

Prediction : Home Win : Ulsan 1 – Muangthong 0

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE FC (CHN) 2 1 1 0 9 2 7 4
SUWON BLUEWINGS (KOR) 2 0 2 0 3 3 0 2
KAWASAKI FRONTALE (JPN) 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
EASTERN FC (HK) 2 0 1 1 1 8 -7 1

Eastern FC v Suwon Bluewings (Tuesday 20:00)

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

Prediction : Away Win : Eastern 0 – Bluewings 2

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
URAWA RED DIAMONDS (JPN) 2 2 0 0 9 2 7 6
SUHANGHAI SIPG (CHN) 2 2 0 0 6 1 5 6
FC SEOUL (KOR) 2 0 0 2 2 6 -4 0
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 2 0 0 2 1 9 -8 0

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

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

Prediction : Home Win : Seoul 2 – WSW 1

 

Teams P W D L GF GA GD PTS
JIANGSU (CHN) 2 2 0 0 3 1 2 6
JEJU UNITED (KOR) 2 1 0 1 4 2 2 3
GAMBA OSAKA(JPN) 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 3
ADELAIDE UNITED (AUS) 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

Adelaide United v Jeju United (Wednesday 19:30)

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

Prediction : Away Win : Adelaide 1 – Jeju 2

ACL 2017 Round 2 Previews

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

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Ulsan Hyudai v Brisbane Roar (Tues Feb 28th)

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

Prediction Home Win – Ulsan 2 Brisbane 1

 

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

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

Prediction : Away Win : Urawa 1 – Seoul 0

 

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Swuon Bluewings v Guangzhou Evergrande (Wed March 1st)

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

Prediction : Score Draw : Bluewings 1 Evergrande 1

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Gamba Osaka v Jeju United (Wed March 1st)

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

Prediction : Home Win : Gamba 2 – Jeju 1

ACL 2017 Round 1 Previews

 

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This week sees the first round of the Group Stages of the 2017 ACL and for many of the teams it’s that much awaited first competitive match of the season and the chance to showcase the new additions to the squad. The first round has a couple of matches which even at this early stage could go a long way to deciding who gets out the group and who gets to “focus on the domestic scene”. With last year’s winners Jeonbuk being thrown out of the tournament all Korean eyes will be on ACL regulars Seoul and Suwon Bluewings to see if they can keep the trophy in Korea.

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FC Seoul v Shanghai SIPG (Tuesday 21st Feb)

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

Prediction : Draw : Seoul 1 – Shanghai SIPG 1

 

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Kashima Antlers v Ulsan Hyundai (Tuesday 21st Feb)

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

Prediction: Home Win : Kashima 2 – Ulsan 0 

 

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Kawasaki Frontale v Suwon Bluewings (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

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

Prediction : Draw : Bluewings 1 – Kawasaki 1 

 

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Jeju United v Jiangsu FC (Wednesday 22nd Feb)

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

Prediction : Away Win : Jeju 1 – Jiangsu 3

K-League Classic Round 38 Previews – Relegation Group

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K-League Classic Relegation Group Previews

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This weekend sees the final matches in the K-League Classic in what has been one of the most unpredictable seasons I can remember. We’ve had points deducted, ‘giants’ being slain while others implode plus the emergence of a new face at the party. The K-League have split the fixtures over two two days with the Relegation Group being on Saturday and the Championship Group on Sunday.

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The Relegation Group going into the final round.

In the relegation round the biggest match  is that between Incheon United and Suwon FC as they battle to see who can avoid automatic relegation.  Suwon FC need to defeat Incheon by more than three goals if they are to survive until the playoffs at least. The other important match sees Pohang host Seongnam and both will be hoping Incheon don’t win otherwise one of them would slip into the playoffs.

With more potential twits and turns than an episode of Sherlock it is going to be an exciting 90 mins for sure. 

 

young soccer supporter man with ball and beer bottle watching football game on television sitting at home couch looking dejected sad and disappointed for failure or defeat wearing team jersey
Someone will be crying into their Soju night ….but who?

 

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Incheon United vs. Suwon FC

After all the football played over the season the relegation battle will come down to these final 90 mins at Incheon Stadium as the bottom two face off in a winner takes all battle. Incheon had been in outstanding form recently having won five of their last ten or so matches but then they went and lost to Suwon Bluewings midweek. That defeat ensured the Bluewings survival and coupled with a surprise  Suwon FC win in Seongnam threw the relegation battle wide open again. Incheon have a fantastic ‘never say die’ attitude and have managed several last minute winners over the year. They also boast match-winners like Kevin in their squad and he will be a key man in this match too. Suwon have also surprised many and although they sit bottom of the table they have been more than competitive. Unfortunately thought their inconsistency goes hand in hand with their passion and desire and that is why they find themselves where they are.  They too have key men who they’ll need to be at their best and probably none more so than Australian defender Adrian Leijer who was a rock midweek against Seongnam. It might not be a pretty match but it will be exciting and could just go all the way to the final kick of the ball.

Prediction: Score Draw : Incheon 2 – Suwon 2

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Pohang Steelers vs. Seongnam FC

Football has seen many a team fall from grace down the years, Blackburn Rovers, Parma to name but two and the K-League is of course not immune to this but it has to be said nobody could have predicted that these two clubs would be potentially 90 mins from a playoff spot to stay in the Classic. It is quite incredible that they find themselves in this position and no doubt both of these sides will have half an eye on the game over in Incheon where a draw would see them survive to regroup next year. Pohang come into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw with Gwangju in a match that they yet again threw away a lead. They have been incredibly erratic from day one of the season and even after they brought in several new recruits in the summer were still unable to stabilise things. Seongnam’s season has been slightly more dramatic as they have gone from sitting comfortably in the top three to 9th in the table. They had a great opportunity to effectively finish their season midweek when Suwon FC visited town but yet again they fell short. They did however get their first goal since the split and in fairness did pepper the Suwon goal for the majority of the 2nd half . It should be a close match but the last time they met Pohang ran out easy 4-1 winners and that might just be in both team’s heads come kick-off.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 2 – Seongnam 1

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Suwon Bluewings vs. Gwangju

The final game is a bit of a ‘dead rubber’ as both sides are safe from relegation and therefore have only pride to play for, there is also the added fact that Bluewings have an FA Cup final coming up in a couple of weeks and might just decide to rest key players such as Yeom Ki Hun and Jonathon. Bluewings have had a nightmare season but have managed to get the results when they needed them and  have won three matches in a row. Their fans may have been blocking buses and screaming ‘blue murder’ for most of the season but if they bring the elusive FA Cup home to The Big Bird all will be forgiven. Gwangju yet again have secured their place at the top table and surely there come a time soon when we stop referring to them as the “surprise package” of the league. As they showed midweek they do love a comeback and  have a habit of finding late goals when they most need them. With nothing to play for this one could go either way.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Gwangju 1

 

K-League Classic Round 37 Previews & Predictions

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K-League Classic Round 37 Previews & Predictions

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The end of the 2016 K-League Classic is almost upon us as Wednesday sees the penultimate round of matches in what has been one of the tightest leagues of the last few years . Most eyes will be on the key games in the Championship Group featuring the top two of Jeonbuk and Seoul to see if anything will give before they meet in the final game at the weekend. It’s only goals scored that separates them after some big wins last weekend.

In the Relegation Group the big one is probably the battle between Suwon Bluewings and Incheon United as the two in-form teams of the bottom six go head to head in a game that will have ramifications for the other four teams. Suwon FC will be relegated if they lose to Seongnam and Incheon fail to see off the Bluewings.

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The K-League Classic League Table

This round of games take place with matches kicking off in  the evening at either 7 or 7.30pm, with temperatures plummeting in Korea it’s going to make it especially frosty for those fans who find themselves on the losing side.

Wednesday November 2nd 2016:

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Jeonbuk Hyundai vs. Sangju Sangmu (7pm) – Championship Round

First up we have the match involving league leaders and defending champions Jeonbuk against the surpside package of 2016 Sangju, the hosts will  come into this game knowing that if they match FC Seoul’s result on the night then they will be in complete control of their own destiny come the final game on Sunday. They’ve only lost once all season which was to Jeju but they have come close on several occasions and have definitely looked shaky in recent weeks, although they did look every bit champion material last weekend as they routed local rivals Jeonnam. Sangju, although impressive in the early stages have been pretty rank rotten of late and haven’t won since mid August although they did put in a battling performance recently against FC Seoul with a 2-2 draw. They’ve ran Jeonbuk close in their meetings all season and have drawn twice with the leaders so this is anything but the easy home win it might look on paper.

Prediction: A hard fought home win : Jeonbuk 2 – Sangju 1

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FC Seoul vs. Jeonnam Dragons (7.30pm) – Championship Round

FC Seoul will host their final league match of the season perhaps wondering if they should be sitting atop the table after surprisingly dropping two points in their last home game against Sangju a couple of weeks ago. Since then though they have made it to the FA Cup final where they have a two-leg ‘Supermatch’ final to look forward to and stopped their poor run of form against Jeju by flying back from the island paradise with all 3pts in the bag. Jeonnam’s fortunes have not been quite so lofty and they will still be licking their wounds after that humping at the hands of  their Jeolla neighbors. They lost in the FA Cup to Seoul on a penalty shootout and that might make them want revenge in the league but they’ll need to up their performances of late if they wish to get anything from a tough match.  With Jeonbuk having put five past Jeonnam last weekend Seoul will need to rack up the goals in this one too.

Prediction: Home Win : Seoul 2 – Jeonnam 0

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Ulsan Hyundai vs. Jeju United (7.30pm) – Championship Round

The final game in the Championship Round is a battle for third and that all important final ACL place for 2017 (although recent rumors regarding Jeonbuk’s 2017 place being in jeopardy could change things). Jeju had looked in pole position to claim third going into last weekend but a defeat at home to Seoul coupled with an Ulsan victory has thrown the cat among the pigeons slightly. Jeju had been on a pretty good run of late, notching up four wins in a row and it was a little surprising to see them halted by Seoul and especially without finding the back of the net. Ulsan on the other hand, managed their first win in five as they defeated Sangju away. There is not a whole lot between the two teams and with so much at stake it could come down to who handles the occasion best. They have one win apiece so far this season but they’ve all been close affairs.
Prediction: Score Draw : Ulsan 1 –Jeju 1

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Gwangju vs. Pohang Steelers (7pm) – Relegation Round

The first match to preview in the Relegation Group should really be a ‘dead rubber’ as only a few weeks ago these sides looked in zero danger of losing their place at the top table. Now with 2 games to go they, like the whole bottom six, are firmly in the battle to avoid the dreaded relegation playoffs. Both teams have been hugely inconsistent this year and they have both only managed to record two victories in their last ten matches. Gwangju come into the match after holding Seongnam to a goalless draw, their second match in a row where they have failed to score as top scorer and MVP nominee Jung Jo Gook has struggled to maintain his fine early season form. Pohang were surprising losers in the last round as they fell 3-2 away to Incheon as the hosts snatched all 3 pts with a 95th minute goal. That made it two defeats in a row for The Steelers, and they look like a team really struggling with the situation they find themselves in. A win for Gwangju would guarantee their safety, a defeat for Pohang could see them having to win at The Steelyard on the final day to avoid having to battle it out in the playoffs.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gwangju 1 – Pohang 1

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Suwon Bluewings vs. Incheon United (7.30pm) – Relegation Round

This one is probably the biggest game of the round and arguably the biggest game of the season for both teams as they’ll know that a win for either would really impact on the relegation battle but a defeat could be disastrous. Bluewings have found some end of season form and won three games straight to give themselves a little breathing space as they move up to 8th place. Pretty much of all their positives have come from Jonathon, who after arriving in the summer transfer window has completely transformed their fortunes. He may have taken a few games to get used to his team mates but there is no denying the impact that he has had. Much like Adriano at Seoul last year he has become an integral part of their team and could just be the man who delivers them the FA Cup when the final comes around.   As impressive as Bluewing’s form has been recently it does pale when compared to Incheon who are having their own purple patch having won five and drawn three of their last eight matches. They have been pulling results out of nowhere at times and have shown incredible fight and resilience as last weekend’s victory showed. This is a team who is not going to go without a fight and are more than capable of putting in a performance in the big matches. All three matches between them this year have ended with a share of the points, this looks like it will go the same way.


Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 1 – Incheon 1

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Seongnam FC vs. Suwon FC (7.30pm) – Relegation Round

The final game of this week’s previews sees Seongnam host Suwon FC in the final installment of the ‘flag wars’ saga and if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite it could potentially see Suwon relegated or Seongnam with the proverbial mountain to climb come next weekend. It is quite difficult to fathom quite how Seongnam have got themselves into their current fix, after all this was a team that was flirting with the table leaders as the trees were beginning to bloom. They have had a dismal run and  have only one win in eleven games and to make matters worse for them their goals look to have completely dried up. In form players such as Pitu have looked exhausted of late and the pressure of the ‘lone goal scorer’  has taken its toll on Hwang Uijo. They look like a team just begging for the season to end to regroup. Suwon FC have been a joy to have in the Classic at times this year with their battling spirit and never say die approach. They lost the Suwon Derby at the weekend but again should that same fight and passion throughout. They have players who are too good to be plying their trade in the Challenge and you get the feeling they would bid farewell to one or two of them if and when they drop back down. This is an almost impossible game to call, Suwon need something to keep their dreams alive and Seongnam will not want to have to travel to Pohang needing a win.


Prediction: Score Draw : Seongnam 1 – Suwon 1