K-League Classic 2017 – Round 1 Previews (Saturday Fixtures)

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Live football is back!!!!!!!

 

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Ulsan vs. Pohang  @ 3pm

Ulsan must come into this match with more confidence then any other team in the league after their quite incredible mid-week destruction of Brisbane Roar in the Asian Champions League. In a pulsating 90 minutes they more than justified their place in the tournament as Jeonbuk’s replacements. They looked hungry, are match fit and in Orsic have a player who, on his day, is a match for anyone in the Classic. Many thought it would take them time to gel into a unit but the way dispatched their Australian counterparts was more than impressive. If that is them still meshing together then I pity the rest of the league come June.  Pohang are this season’s dark horses after a season they will want to forget last year. They have seen a few players leave with goalkeeper Shin Hwa Yong moving onto to Suwon Bluewings while Noh Dong Geon swapped places with him. They brought in Swedish defender Marcus Nilsson to shore things up at the back for them. It’s fair to say that the only way is up this season for the POSCO boys but they would probably have liked a simpler task to kick-start their rise from the ashes. The head-to-head record is pretty much honors even over the years but you just get a feeling that Ulsan have a little more about them at the moment.

Prediction: Home Win : Ulsan 2 – Pohang 

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Gwangju vs. Daegu @ 3pm

The second game of the day features two sides who are most people’s picks to be involved in the relegation battle come the final rounds of 2017. Gwangju last year were buoyed by the rich vein of form of Jung Jo Gook but he has since departed for newcomers Gangwon and Gwangju have really struggled to replace him. They, on paper, look a weaker squad than the one that almost clinched a top 6 spot last year. They’ve kind of surprised most people the last two seasons but you get the feeling that this year they will probably struggle to keep their head above water. Daegu won promotion last season and have stuck with most of that squad although they did lose Paulo Sergio who decided to step down a division to join Seongnam. They will be very much the unknown quantity in the Classic and will certainly want to avoid the yo-yo effect as witnessed by both Daejeon and Suwon FC respectively. With other teams building on their squads for the most part I think many will feel it will come down to the meetings between these two to decide who falls into the Challenge next year. They last met in 2014 with Gwangju winning both their home ties that year, could we see more of the same now they are reunited?

Prediction: Draw : Gwangju  0 – Daegu 0

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Sangju Sangmu vs. Gangwon @ 3pm

The final game on Saturday features the teams most neutrals are interested in as the ever-changing Army team welcome the high-spenders of Gangwon in a match which could prove to be the game of the week. Sangju  had a pretty incredible 2016 as then manager Cho Jin Ho led them to a top 6 spot very much against all odds. Cho has left the club to manage Busan and the squad this year is significantly different from last. A quick look down their squad and you can’t help but think they have a more balanced and indeed skillful team now. Lim Chai Min, Yun Young Sun, Yun Ju Tae to name but a few all have Classic experience under their belt and in Joo Min Kyu they have the predator that lit up the 2015 Challenge season. Gangwon won their place in the top league courtesy of a victory over Seongnam in the relegation playoff and have strengthened their squad impressively during the off-season, Jung Jo-Gook, Lee Keun Ho and Hwang Jin Sun are all players capable of turning a match on its head.  A lot has made of Gangwon’s aspirations this year with lofty claims of ACL qualification being mentioned, only time will tell if those were attainable or if the fans will be be launching the players off that iconic ski jump come season’s end.
Prediction: Score Draw : Sangju 1 – Gangwon 1

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