This midweek sees a full card of fixtures in both the Classic and Challenge leagues of course in their usual well-thought-out manner the KFA have decided to schedule both sets of matches on the same day which of course will impact on crowds. The highlight of the Classic’s matches is undoubtedly the Pohang v Jeonbuk match but due to how tight the table is (excluding Jeonbuk and Daejeon obviously) pretty much every game takes on more importance than usual. Amazingly only 3pts separate 3rd and 10th places in the table.
Busan v Ulsan (7pm)
If ever there were two teams desperately in need of a confidence-boosting win its these two. Between them they have lost six of their last ten matches and if it wasn’t for the poor form of other teams in the league they could well find themselves in even more precarious situations than they currently do. Busan were easily brushed aside by Jeonnam at the weekend and have now seen a clear gap open up between them and the rest of the table. They, unlike Ulsan, have managed to record a couple of victories recently but both those came away from home and in fact they have now lost six home matches in a row including an FA Cup defeat to Gangwon. They are obviously struggling in front of their own fans and now have to face welcoming Ulsan to town on Wednesday. Ulsan who started the season so well have gone on the kind of bad run that gets horses sent to pasture. Three victories in four matches has been followed by a run of nine matches without a win. They have gone from title contenders to league pretenders in just over a month. They have at least stopped the run of defeats but if they don’t find inspiration soon they could be playing their football in the wilderness come the split. The last time the teams met it finished 1-1. More of the same has to be expected.
Prediction: Busan 1 Ulsan 1
Jeonnam v Gwangju (7pm)
Both teams come into this match on the back of victories, Jeonnam 3-1 victors over Busan and Gwangju putting Jeju to the sword 1-0. Jeonnam’s victory put them back in the top six albeit by 1 pt over stuttering Ulsan. They made pretty easy going of the match against Busan, running out comfortable 3-1 winners with Stevo notching his third goal of the season from the penalty spot. They are a decent enough side Jeonnam and it’s their inconsistency that prevents them from seeing the fruits of their labour, well that and a penchant for shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity. If they can put a run of results together they might just be able to cement a place in the top six. Gwangju also got back to winning ways at home against Jeju, another team with a desire to be their own worst enemy. Lee Jong Min’s fifth minute penalty enough to ensure all 3pts. Amazingly that goal was Gwangju’s first in four matches which is hard to believe when you consider how freely they were finding the net at the start of the season. That victory saw them leapfrog into 9th place on goal difference, can they keep up momentum this time? I guess we’ll find out soon. The last time the teams met it was a 3-2 cracker. Could be more fireworks this time too.
Prediction: Jeonnam 2 Gwangju 1
Pohang v Jeonbuk (7:30pm)
It’s incredible to think that 12 pts separate these two teams after only thirteen matches played but such is the gulf this year between Jeonbuk and the rest of the table. Pohang were being tipped by many as one of the main title challengers but like Suwon, Ulsan and Jeju they have contrived to slip up throughout the first round of matches. Pohang came from behind against Daejeon at the weekend in a match that was as one-sided as they come (well that was until I went to Seongnam v Jeonbuk on Sunday). Although Daejeon took the lead it was Pohang who had made all the running and were creating all the chances and in the end ran out deserved 2-1 winners. Pohang’s biggest problem this season has been an inability to turn possession into points and that is why they find themselves struggling to mount a believable challenge this year. Jeonbuk on the other hand showed that are human after all by crashing to a 2-1 defeat at home to Seongnam. The match was billed as Kim Hak Bum v Choi Kang Hee and there is no doubt that Kim won this round. Jeonbuk were on the ropes for the majority of the game and had it not been for some terrible home goalkeeping would have been on the end of an even worse result. You would expect them to dust themselves down and come back out fighting and that could be the last thing Pohang need. The last time the two teams met it was an Edu goal that separated them.
Prediction: Pohang 1 Jeonbuk 1
Daejeon v Suwon (7:30pm)
Bottom club Daejeon take on 2nd placed Suwon in a match that would normally be regarded as a stick-on away win but then it wasn’t that long ago that Daejeon stunned both Suwon and themselves by pulling off their only victory of the season at the Big Bird late last month. Of course Daejeon have since lost three of their four matches since then and are firmly rooted at the bottom some 6pts shy of Busan. Also in that time they have parted company with their manager, with some unsure as to whether he jumped or was pushed. They have, however,managed to start finding the net a little more frequently than before and this must give them a little more of a boost going into matches from now on. Suwon responded to crashing out of the ACL by drawing away at Incheon United, considering they failed to properly capitalize on Jeonbuk losing at Seongnam this ended up being a poor result for them especially given the fact they were ahead in the match too. With Jeonbuk having a tough trip to Pohang to contend with Suwon will need to make sure they don’t slip up again if they want to keep pressure on the champions. Suwon have more than enough firepower to outscore most teams in the Classic and when they do fire on all cylinders then are impressive.
Prediction: Daejeon 1 Suwon 2
Seoul v Incheon (7:30pm)
FC Seoul couldn’t have had a worse start to the season if the Suwon fans and @kingkenny1967 got together and planned it out. Sitting 10th in the league and out of the ACL isn’t what Seoul fans were expecting to see when we kicked off away back in March. Add in the nightmare of being taken apart by your rivals and in the words of one-hit wonders D:Ream “Things can only get better” …… although I’m not sure the next line of the song is “Once you fire Choi”. It looked like they had maybe turned the table a little in the league after stringing together a couple of victories but a rather spiritless 0-0 draw with Ulsan at the weekend suggests not. Matches against Incheon, especially at Sangnam, do tend to have goals in them and Choi will be hoping this one is no different. Incheon saw themselves fall out of the top 6 at the weekend but this was at the hands of Suwon and in a match they came from behind in. They have been impressive against the ‘big’ teams this season and although Seoul can hardly be considered that this season this is still a big fixture for them. They also seem one of a couple of teams who have been regularly getting decent attendances this season and I think the decent football they are playing is bringing more fans out than before. Last time out the two teams drew 1-1 with Park Chu Young grabbing his first goal back in the K-League.
Prediction: Seoul 2 Incheon 1
Jeju v Seongnam (8pm)
Jeju host Seongnam in our final midweek kick-off. Before the season began who would have thought this match would be a fight to see who goes clear in fourth spot. Jeju, like most of last year’s top 6 teams have been up and down this season as last week’s defeat at Gwangju showed. I have watched them three or four times so far and the have looked like the kind of team who could easily win games if they actually wanted to. They just seem to continually fall short of doing enough to grab the 3 pts. Although it does have to be said they are a real force at home winning all but one of their home matches this season so far. The coach has dyed his hair orange after some bet about crowd attendances, it will be interesting to see if Kim Hak Bum will have him tearing it out on Wednesday. Seongnam are having a fantastic season so far, their ACL run was impressive and their league form has also been solid hence why they find themselves in 5th. On Sunday they never let Jeonbuk get a minute on the ball and completely outplayed them when they were in possession. This was a similar tactic to the one that defeated Buriram at home. If they can keep injury free and keep supplying Hwang Uijo with the ammunition they might just be in and around the ACL spots later in the season. The teams drew 1-1 last time out.
Prediction: Jeju 1 Seongnam 1