The K-League Classic returns this weekend following the international break while matches are coming thick and fast for the Challenge players after their mid-week FA Cup exertions. It’s been a good start for the ‘Super J’s’ of Jeju and Jeonbuk and yet another disappointing opening from the Bluewings. This weekend sees old foes Jeonbuk and Seoul go head to head for the first time this year and sees the aforementioned Bluewings head to Incheon Stadium for a warm-up before their 4th round FA Cup clash.
Incheon United vs. Suwon Bluewings @ 3pm
The game of the day on Saturday comes from Incheon Stadium as Suwon Bluewings come to town for the first of two visits this month, the FA Cup 4th Round tie being on April 19th. Incheon haven’t looked great in their opening games of the season although they do sit above their rather more illustrious opponents in the table. They were able to hold Jeonbuk to a goalless draw two weeks ago and are often a tough nut to crack at home. Kim Dae Kyung grabbed a brace in round 2 against Daegu and given the void created by the departure of Kevin Oris it’s going to take someone to step up to the plate. Suwon Bluewings are level on points with Incheon but sit below them on goal difference. After a positive pre-season flurry of transfers its safe to say that the Bluewings are yet again underachieving. They drew 1-1 at home to new boys Daegu last time out and that equalizer came courtesy Johnathon scoring from the rebound after his penalty was saved. Bluewings won 3-2 last November and have amazingly won this tie twenty-one times although last season they certainly found it tough going with three draws to go with that November victory.
Prediction: Score Draw : Incheon 2 – Bluewings 2
Jeonnam Dragons vs. Pohang Steelers @ 3pm
Next up we have a trip to Gwangyang Stadium for Pohang as Jeonnam welcome them to town after what has been a miserable start for the Dragons. Jeonnam have started their 2017 campaign by losing all three of their games so far and they also have the worst defensive record in the league to boot conceding seven goals in three games. Both their goals thus far have come from their new signing Feczesin. He also came close in the last round as they succumbed to a free-flowing Jeju team. They have looked incredibly shaky at the back at times and need to plug those gaps ASAP. Pohang have started 2017 like they played all thru 2016, erratic and unpredictable. So far they have managed one win, one draw and one defeat, which is obviously not the hat-trick they were hoping for. They drew 2-2 in Gwangju in the last round after fighting from a goal down to take the lead and then surrender it again. The head to head is fairly even although the Steelers did fail to beat Jeonnam last year, losing two and drawing one. Is 2017 to be the year of revenge?
Prediction: Away Win : Jeonnam 1 – Pohang 2
Sangju Sangmu vs. Daegu @ 3pm
The final 3 o’clock kick off on Saturday comes from the Sangju Stadium, where Sangju Sangmu host Daegu. Sangju lost their opening game of the season to Gangwon , but have since gone from strength to strength and have won their last two matches with Joo Min Kyu and Kim Ho Nam looking sharp. The army team currently occupies fourth place in the table and you have to imagine that they will be there or there about come season end. They come into the match on the back of a 1-0 away win down in Ulsan and look like a team that is beginning to gel. Daegu have drawn their previous two matches against both Incheon and Suwon Bluewings with the latter being a tad unexpected. They actually took the lead at The Big Bird, Cessinha the hero, but were undone by a Johnathon penalty. In the match against Incheon they also threw away a lead and that must be a worry for their fans and manager alike. The head to head in this one is interesting as Daegu have by far the upper hand but then there have been some utterly honking Army teams down the years, this one definitely isn’t.
Prediction: Home Win : Sangju 2 – Daegu 1
Next up we have the Sunday fixtures with the highlight undoubtedly being down in Jeonju as FC Seoul come to town.
Jeonbuk Motors vs. FC Seoul @ 3pm
Last years title rivals clash for the first time this season as Seoul make the trip South to Jeonju albeit to the rather unfamiliar surroundings of the Jeonju Civil Stadium. Jeonbuk have made a good start to the season and sit in second place 2pts adrift of league leaders Jeju. They had a minor slip up in the last round when they drew 0-0 at Incheon but in fairness they did everything but score that day. Their first big test of the season should have been against Suwon Bluewings at the Big Bird but the hosts never really turned up that day so it’ll be interesting to see how they do against a Seoul team who also look a pale shadow of last year’s Champions. Seoul come into the match on the back of a rather fortuitous double penalty victory over Gwangju in a match which resulted in an indefinite ban for the referee. They have really failed to impress this season and although often tagged as “slow starters” you wonder if they possess the quality in their ranks to really be a force. In Dejan and Go Yo Han they have players capable of winning matches from nowhere and new recruit Lee Sang Ho looks a good addition. It is at the back though that they look as frail as me the morning after a Yeouido tent. The pitch in the Civil Stadium was shocking last time out and that might impact again this week but you do get the feeling that Jeonbuk just have the edge.
Prediction : Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 – Seoul 1
Ulsan Hyundai v Gangwon FC @ 3pm
Our second match on Sunday is a clash between two teams that were being hotly tipped for success in the close-season only to disappoint come the real thing. Ulsan started brightly enough and we can talk all day about their annihilation of Brisbane Roar in the ACL but it is closer to home where they have been found lacking. They lost in the last round at home to Sangju and that was their second defeat on the bounce after losing to Jeju. It will be the lack of goals in those two matches that you would imagine would be of most concern to manager Kim Do Hoon. His team has many an attacking outlet and so to go 180 mins without a goal should set alarm bells ringing. Gangwon are also not living up to their lofty and often arrogant assertions of where they would finish in the table. They won their opening match but have since lost and drawn at home to Seoul and Pohang respectively. They did come from behind in the last round to steal a point from The Steelers (see what I did there) and that might give them a little extra confidence travelling to Ulsan. Ulsan are quite a bit ahead on the head to head and you get the feeling that if they can click they will be a force.
Prediction : Home Win : Ulsan 1- Gangwon 0
Jeju United v Gwangju FC @ 3pm
The final match on Sunday sees league leaders Jeju host Gwangju FC in a match which on paper should be as predictable as a Stephen King novel (spoiler alert it’s always aliens). Jeju have been a revelation this year with their cavalier and often free-flowing football. They won 2-0 against Jeonnam in the last round but it could have been any number of goals as wave after wave of orange shirts caused havoc. They seem to be capable of scoring from anywhere on the pitch and with Park Jin Po rampaging up the left flank they pose a real threat. It should be noted though that they are yet to concede a goal so it’s not all just about the attacking power they have. Gwangju are sitting in seventh in the table but are on a two game losing streak, although they really should have got something at Seoul in the last round. They do look a little naive in defence and without Jung Jo Gook up front they also lack that killer instinct needed to secure a win. They seemed to have the measure of Jeju last year, winning twice and also knocking them out the FA Cup. That could all be a distant memory come 5pm on Sunday though.
Prediction : Home Win : Jeju 2 – Gwangju 0