This week sees the return of live top-table league football in Korea under the newly named K-League One division and not a moment too soon as I’m not sure many of us can take much more of people falling over when nobody near them and all too frequent bizarre refereeing decisions…..oh wait Short Track Skating IS the K-League on ice!!
With the opening “day” of matches actually spread across three days due to a Korean holiday on Thursday March 1st there will be a chances aplenty for fans to take in a game or two with most neutral eyes probably casting a glimpse towards Jeonju World Cup Stadium and what should be a fantastic clash between Jeonbuk and Ulsan in the first ‘Hyundai Derby’ of 2018.
2018 K-League One ~ Match Day 1 – ‘Match of the Day’
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs Ulsan Hyundai
For the Hyundai teams this is of course not their first competitive match of the year with both coming into the game flying high on the back of impressive Asian Champions League matches. Visitors Ulsan sit pretty in second spot in Group F on 4pts from six after defeating Kawasaki Fontale 2-1 at home to add to their impressive point in Melbourne. Jeonbuk come into the match on 100% points having humbled Kitchee 6-0 in Hong Kong in a match which resembled a training session at points and sit atop Group E.
Both teams have strengthened their squads for the season ahead with Jeonbuk, of course, making the biggest noises during the close season with some huge signings including ex-Seoul poacher Adriano, ex-Seongnam talisman Tiago and international defender Hong Jeong Ho joining his brother from Jiangsu Suning. It’s fair to say that Jeonbuk have built from a position of strength and are almost certainly looking towards Asian Champions League glory more than domestic dominance with their additions. Ulsan have not been lazy either, adding to their strike force with the signing of Yohei Toyoda, the 32yr old striker from the J-League’s Sagan Tosu and more notably Borussia Dortmund’s attacking full-back Park Joo Ho who has the added carrot of a place in the National team at stake to push him.
Ulsan were one of the few teams to put a dent in the Jeonbuk juggernaut last season as they managed to take 4 pts off the runaway champions, although that did include them getting trounced 4-0 in Jeonju in the summer with Kim Shin Wook (pictured left) on the scoresheet that day. ‘TheWookie’ has been in scintillating form for the National team of late and will be hoping to carry that on into his club form which has been patchy at best since making the switch from Ulsan to Jeonbuk. Ulsan will be looking towards their midfield to get a stranglehold on the game early and in particular will more than likely be hoping that their Croatian playmaker Mislav Orsic (pictured right) will get as much time on the ball as possible as on his day he can hurt the best of teams. The teams have faced each other 58 times with Jeonbuk winning 24 of those clashes. Ulsan have in fact only won two of the last seventeen matches between the two but Jeonbuk showed in their 3-2 comeback over Kashiwa Reysol that they are vulnerable at the back, the question is can Ulsan exploit that?
Prediction : Home Win : Jeonbuk 2 Ulsan 1
Also in K-League One this weekend we have …..
Suwon Bluewngs v Jeonnam ~ Prediction 2-0
Jeju United v Seoul ~ Prediction 1-0
Pohang v Daegu ~ Prediction 1-1
Gangwon v Incheon ~ Prediction 1-0
Gyeongnam v Sangju ~ Prediction 1-1