Last week was the opening weekend of the 2017 K-League season and it raised several talking points from poor pitches to shocking strips, petulant players to fabulous free-kicks, disappointing draws to last-minute losers. This week we have the first match ever to be played in a ski-jump resort, the battle of two high-flying ACL teams and the always eventful first trip to the Big Bird for Jeonbuk. It’s shaping up to be a cracker!!
The K-League Classic 2017 Round 2 – Previews
Daegu vs. Incheon United @ 2pm
The early kick-off on Saturday sees newcomers Daegu welcome Incheon Unitd to town in a clash which is more than likely going to be regarded as a relegation dogfight in the final rounds of the season. The match will mark Daegu’s first home Classic game in four years as they epitomize the struggles teams can face when they make the dreaded ‘drop down a division’. They lost last weekend against Gwangju as they fell to a first half strike from Cho Sung Jun but in fairness it was a pretty dire affair. They will need to put in a few sterling performances over the year if they are to avoid being the latest yo-yo club in Korea with home form being the key to putting up a challenge. Incheon also lost last weekend at home to Jeju in what was a lot closer a match than many had predicted. They will be another team that will need to get big results and you get the feeling that after being close the last couple of years this might just be their year for the playoffs. Daegu generally struggle in this tie and you have to go back five calendar years for their last victory.
Prediction: Away Win : Daegu 0 – Incheon 1
Suwon Bluewings vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai @ 3pm
Undoubtedly the game of the day on Saturday will take place at Suwon World Cup Stadium as Jeonbuk come to town in what are generally close and hotly contested affairs. Bluewings visited Seoul last weekend in the ‘Super Match’ and will probably have been slightly disappointed that they drew 1-1 after leading for most of the first half courtesy of a Lee Min Woo strike. The normally reliable Johnathon had a bit of a nightmare match as he had more than a couple of chances to put Suwon out of sight but snatched at each one. They were prone to throwing away victories last season and that does look like it could haunt them again this year. Jeonbuk won the Jeolla Derby on Sunday on a ridiculously unplayable pitch, they led through Kim Jin Su but it took a last minute winner from The Wookie to seal the points after debut-boy Fecsezin had bundled the ball over the line to equalize for Jeonnam. It really was tough to judge them such was the state of the pitch so this one might give us more of an insight into how strong they’ll be this year. Jeonbuk had the upper hand in 2016 but then Bluewings were utterly honking for most of last season.
Prediction: Score Draw : Bluewings 2 – Jeonbuk 2
Jeju United vs. Ulsan Hyundai @ 3pm
Just like The Supermatch last week we have another all Asian Champions League battle this week between arguably the two in-form Korean teams right now of Jeju and Ulsan. Jeju come into the match having won their opening game on their travels against a plucky Incheon but it was by far their destruction of Gamba Osaka in Japan that has caught the eye. The winning goal last week came from new boy Magno Cruz, but the victory was marred by the late sending off of Park Jin Po for a double yellow card. Ulsan also won last weekend beating Pohang with a Jung Jae Yong brace securing the win. Ulsan have looked impressive so far with new signing Orsic looking like he is going to have a major role in their tactics. The matches have been close over the last few years although Jeju have the slight upper hand and are always tough at home. There is a lot of firepower on both sides and this one could be a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeju 2 – Ulsan 1
Gangwon vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm
The final match on Saturday is also the first of a kind as it will become the first game of the season from the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium which will be the 2017 home of Gangwon FC. A lot of the close-season focus has been on Gangwon as they have brought in several key players so it was fitting that they won their opening game of the season beating the Army 2-1. That match saw Lee Keun-Ho score both goals against his old side either side of a Kim Ho Nam strike. With their ticket pricing being based on opposition it will be interesting to see how many fans make the trip. Seoul drew their opening game 1-1 in the Super Match against Suwon Bluewings and had ex-Suwon favorite Lee Sang Ho to thank as he pounced on a Yun Il Rok shot to poke the ball over the line. Seoul haven’t exactly been on fire so far this year and in fact look both slow and predictable in midfield and up front. They might struggle again today against a team who feel like they have a lot to prove in the season ahead. It’s been four years since they last met with Seoul the conquerors back then.
Prediction: Score Draw : Gangwon 1 – Seoul 1
There are also two matches being played on the Sunday.
Jeonnam v Sangju
The first of Sunday’s games sees the two surprise teams of 2016 go head to head for the first time this year as Jeonnam Dragons welcome Sangju to town. Both teams had unexpected top-six finishes last year and it will be interesting to see if they can build on that this year. Jeonnam didn’t have the best of starts to 2017, losing the Jeolla Derby to Jeonbuk with virtually the last touch of the ball. They are pretty much the dark horse of the Classic, flying under the radar of big name signings but building a team that is often tough to beat. Sangju also lost 2-1 last week, falling at home to Gangwon. On paper though they seem to have a stronger squad than last season with some ‘big hitters’ opting for military service this year. They should be able to keep themselves up the table once they all find their feet…and their teammate. Over the years Jeonnam have had by far the upper hand in this fixture winning twenty-one of the thirty-five matches played, it wouldn’t be surprising for this one to follow that same pattern.
Prediction: Home Win : Jeonnam 2 – Sangju 1
Pohang v Gwangju
The second game of the day comes from the Steelyard as probably the most disappointing team of 2016 gets set to welcome Gwangju to the POSCO grounds. Pohang cut a forlorn figure much of last year and given their opening weekend defeat to Ulsan it looks like they might yet again resemble the bridesmaid that can’t get a dance. They didn’t really seem at the races last week and given the size and stature of the club another year in the bottom six isn’t going to wash with fans and owners alike. Gwangju won their opening match but it was against newly promoted and relegation favourites Daegu so it might not really be a sign of things to come. The game won’t win ‘match of the day’ anytime soon and it was one of those games where the final whistle was welcomed with as big a cheer as the single goal. The Gwangju fixture might just be Pohang’s ‘goto match’ as they have lost only once in thirteen meetings and you have to go all the way back to 2006 for that solitary Gwangju victory, stranger things have happened in football….but not many.
Prediction: Home Win : Pohang 1 – Gwangju 0