K-League Classic Matchday 31
As we enter the final few games before the league splits there are still several teams battling it out for the right to play in the top six and the potential of claiming the final ACL spot for next season. This weekend will go a long way to deciding who’ll make it and who’ll have the joy of a cold evening trip to Busan. With five matches on Saturday including the ‘Supermatch’ and one on Sunday as Jeonbuk lick their wounds from the heartbreak in Osaka it is shaping up for a good weekend of K-League Classic action.
Incheon v Busan (2pm)
Last season at this time this match wouldn’t have sparked much interest as both teams were languishing in the bottom of the table with nothing to play for or fear. This season though it’s a different story, Busan are playing for their top flight survival while Incheon are looking to finish the season in the top six as well as being in the FA Cup semi finals. Incheon have seen their form dip of late, losing their last two matches and will need to stop the rot if they are to avoid falling out the top half of the table. They have proven a tough team to beat at home this season and will probably feel confident going into a match against arguably the unluckiest team in the league. Busan need to start winning if they are to peg Ulsan back and avoid the playoffs, three draws in a row hasn’t helped their cause any. Incheon have won both encounters so far this season including a 3-1 victory last time Busan came to town. You would put your house on a similar outcome again this time around.
Prediction : Incheon 2 Busan 0
Next up is the oddly timed 15:05 kick-off between Korea’s version of Tom and Jerry…
Suwon v Seoul (15:05)
Saturday sees the third ‘Supermatch’ of the season, the first two finishing in a 5-1 thumping for Seoul away and then a rather lame 0-0 in Seoul World Cup Stadium. Suwon fans will be hoping for a repeat of that first meeting where they ran rings around their rivals although they are obviously minus the influential Chong Tae Se who that day wasn’t so much a thorn in Seoul’s side as a full florist full of roses. Both teams come into the game on the back of less than impressive form with them only recording four victories in total from the last ten matches. Suwon have probably finally given up the idea of wrestling the title away from Jeonbuk and will now be focusing on making sure they don’t slip out of the ACL spots as the season draws to a close. The main man to watch in this game will be ‘wonderkid’ Kwon Chang Hoon who will surely see himself back in the starting lineup for this one. Seoul will want to bounce back from their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Jeonbuk although that scoreline did flatter the champions. How well Adriano handles his first derby could be go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match.
Prediction : Suwon 2 Seoul 1
Seongnam v Gwangju (4pm)
Seongnam are another team who have suffered a bit of a blip in their run of form recently, having put together a decent string of wins to get within touching distance of 2nd placed Suwon they have lost two of their last three and now sit 4th 2pts adrift of Pohang and that coveted 3rd place. Last weekend they started against Pohang minus Hwang Uijo and Kim Do Heon, 10 mins in I think most Seongnam fans were wishing they had started without Park Jun Hyuk in goals as yet again he flapped at the ball and conceded a soft goal. The memory of his heroics at the Big Bird last month are fading quickly. Gwangju were held to a goalless draw at home by Busan last weekend which was their 11th draw of the season. Given the fact that Seongnam have notched up 12 draws this year one could be forgiven for predicting another share of the spoils come 6pm on Saturday. The two previous encounters have finished with honours even but I think this time a victory might just mean a little more to Seongnam than Gwangju.
Prediction : Seongnam 1 Gwangju 0
Jeju v Pohang (4pm)
If it weren’t for the Supermatch this would be the biggest match of the weekend, not in terms of fan attendance but the prize at stake. A string of three victories in a row has manged to claw Jeju back to within touching distance of 6th place in the table. Knocked out the FA Cup by Incheon, finishing in the top half really is all Jeju have left to play for this year. It would be a shock, though not a disappointment, if they were to finish in the bottom half of the table. They will be looking for Yoon Bitgaram and Fernando Caranga to continue their recent form to help them leapfrog Incheon. After four draws in a row Pohang finally claimed all 3pts last weekend with a 2-1 home victory over Seongnam, albeit a victory aided by suicidal defending from the boys in black. They will be looking to increase the gap over Seongnam and Seoul especially given that both teams play each other next Wednesday. Jeju v Pohang tends to produce some cracking games. Both teams are capable of scoring goals and playing some decent football and in fact the last time they met it finished 4-3 to Jeju in the Steelyard. Here’s hoping for another cracker this weekend.
Prediction : Jeju 2 Pohang 2
Ulsan v Jeonnam (5pm)
The final match on Saturday sees 10th placed Ulsan host 7th placed Jeonnam in another match that will go a long way to deciding the fate of more than just the two teams playing. Ulsan look to have put enough light between themselves and Busan at the bottom of the table and you feel it would take a disaster for them to slip back into the playoff battle with the boys from the beach. Ulsan came from behind last weekend against Jeju, a stunning Sever Djeparov free-kick earning them a share of the points and showed that their is still some fight left in the old dog yet. Jeonnam are on a drawing streak the Italian national team of the 90s would be proud off having drawn four in a row. They currently sit in 7th behind Incheon although only on goal difference. If they are able to start turning those draws into wins they should have enough about themselves to merit a top six finish with their Croatian striker Orsic likely to play a huge part in any success they have. Jeonnam won the last meeting 2-1 at home another tight match probably awaits us.
Prediction : Ulsan 1 Jeonnam 1
Last up we have Sunday’s showdown between top and bottom as Jeonbuk welcome Daejeon. An incredible 50pts and 52 goals separate the two teams which highlights not only the gulf in class and size of the two teams but also just how poor Daejeon’s season back in the top flight has been. Jeonbuk at one point looked like they might run away with the title and have it wrapped up before the leaves started to fall from the trees but that hasn’t been the case and a run of surprising results and poor form has prevented them from doing so. They are still head and shoulders above the rest of league on their day but as their midweek exit from the ACL shows they seem to suffer from a lack of concentration at times. Daejeon have kept some of their best performances for matches against the top teams and have managed to give Jeonbuk a scare twice this season even though they lost both matches in the end. Can they capitalize on Jenobuk’s result midweek? Will they pull off a shock or will it all go to script.
Prediction : Jeonbuk 2 Daejeon 0