K-League Classic Matchday 22 – Saturday Preview
This weekend sees the completion of the second round of league fixtures and now that every team had played each other twice we should, in theory, have a good idea of who the main players will be this season. The fixtures have been coming thick and fast recently and most players, and some fans, will be glad of the mini-break the East Asian Cup will provide. A full round of fixtures on Wednesday night threw up a couple of interesting results with Jeonbuk slipping up at home to Gwangju, Ulsan thumping Daejeon and Pohang shipping three goals in three minutes to Jeju being the main talking points of the round. I took in the Seongnam v Seoul match at Tancheon, a rundown of which will be in next week’s ‘Groundhopping’ post.
So on to this weekend’s fixtures and on Saturday we see the Edu-less Jeonbuk travel to Jeju, Pohang come to Seoul and a rather tasty one between Ulsan and Gwangju.
Jeju v Jeonbuk
Both teams had pretty contrasting results midweek in preparation for this tussle. Jeju came from a goal behind and went on a three goals in three minute scoring spree to destroy Pohang while Jeonbuk let a 1-0 lead slip at home to Gwangju. Much is often made of Jeju’s ability to ‘grind’ out results but there have been times this season when they have really clicked and have looked devastating. Amazingly they have scored more than three goals on five occasions in the league this season which kind of makes you wonder why they are sitting in a lowly 8th position in the table but then a quick look at their goals against column shows that they also like to concede a fair amount of goals too. Jeonbuk have been sitting atop the table from pretty much the get go but have been less than impressive recently, with the news that both Eninho and Edu have bid farewell you wonder if they will start to see teams clawing points back on them. The loss of Han Kyo Won for his ridiculous assault has also had a huge impact on their form and they must have been counting down the days to his return. A huge match for both teams, this one has the potential to either confirm Jeonbuk as more than a ‘one-man team’ or really throw the cat among the pigeons both for the title and the fight for a top-six place. A Leonardo goal was all that separated the two teams last time out.
Prediction : Jeju 2 Jeonbuk 2
Seoul v Pohang
Two of the pre-season’s hotly tipped title challengers go head to head at Seoul World Cup Stadium tonight, although both teams must be disappointed by how their campaigns have shaped up. Set to meet each other in the QF of the FA Cup on July 22nd this could serve up as an example of what is to come in what must be their only real hope of silverware this year. Seoul, in third, currently sit 2pts clear of Pohang in sixth such is how ridiculously close the middle of the table is this year although you get the feeling that things are going to start opening up soon. Seoul come into the match on the back of two draws as opposed to Pohang who have lost their last two. Seoul also have had the added distraction of the “will he won’t he” actions of manager Choi who performed the footballing equivalent of the ‘hokey cokey’ with his left foot in the Jiangsu Sainty job only to pull it back again and I do know of at least one of the Suhoshin who would like to “shake him all about”. With neither team particularly firing on all cylinders and temperatures to hit 35 today one imagines that only the die hard fans will be in attendance tonight. I am torn between a night on the terraces or a night in a cool air-conditioned CGV watching Terminator, I reckon I’ll be up to my armpits in the popcorn by half-time. But not to fear FC Seoul I will be back. (sorry I really couldn’t resist that awful pun). Pohang won the last meeting 2-1.
Prediction : Seoul 1 Pohang 1
Ulsan v Gwangju
The final match on Saturday pits under-achieving Ulsan against the erratic Gwangju (I really need to be careful typing as that did come out as “erotic Gwangju” and I’m not sure that’s an image any of us want). Ulsan managed to bag their first win in a while midweek against Daejon courtesy of a Kim Seung Jun and Kim Shin Wook double each. With all the transfer rumours surrounding the club it will be interesting to see who, if any, of their star players they can hold on to. The main target seems to be Kim Shin Wook with clubs in Holland, Turkey and even Korea circulating like a scene out of Sharknado 3. If they are to eventually offload ‘the Wookie’ it could spell a long and rather dark period for the Ulsan faithful. Gwangju came back from a goal down at Jeonbuk to hold the champions to a point and although that in itself is an impressive result it does mean it’s now six in a row without a victory for them. They have probably now set their sights on making sure they don’t fall back into a playoff battle instead of trying to push for a top six spot and unless they have a spectacular breakdown they should comfortably guarantee themselves being in the Classic next season. Ulsan were 2-0 victors last time the teams met.
Prediction : Ulsan 2 Gwangju 1