This weekend sees the final round of games before the split and we really are no closer to finding out who our Champions will be and who we will be bidding farewell to for a year or so. It’s been a season of surprises, highs, lows and of course some questionable VAR decisions but finally come 4pm on Sunday we will know who will make up our Championship and Relegation Groups, there will be surprises in both.
As it’s the last set of matches before the split they will all kick-off at 2pm on Sunday. There is a ‘Supermatch’ in Suwon, an East-Coast Derby in Pohang and that huge bottom of the table clash in Jeju.
Pohang v Ulsan
Pohang come into the game in the middle of something of a ‘purple patch’ which has seen them win four of the last five matches they’ve played although they have played Jeju and Gyeongnam in the last two and Ulsan will definitely provide a sterner challenge. Their steady climb up the table has been propelled by the, quite simply incredible goal-scoring exploits of their summer recruit Stanislav Iljutchenko, with the German having scored seven goals in thirteen games since joining (only two shy of Jeonbuk’s Lopes for the WHOLE season). The rumours are that he will miss this match and that would be a huge blow for the hosts. Ulsan finally managed to get their noses in front at the top of the table after they defeated Gangwon 2-0 midweek in the match rescheduled due to a typhoon the week before. Junior was yet again on the score-sheet for the Horangi and he now tops the ‘Golden Boot’ charts alongside Bluewings’ Adam Taggart. There’s nothing between the two teams in the ‘head-to-head’ and it will be tight but if Iljutchenko is missing then I think that will swing it Ulsan’s way.
Jeju United vs Gyeongnam FC
When the 2019 fixture list first came out all those months ago there would have been few K-League followers out there who would’ve placed one of these teams in the relegation battle nevermind both. Sure Gyeongnam had lost Marcao but they had brought in Luc and Jordan Mutch and Jeju, well Jeju are always sniffing around the Asian Champions League spots and would surely be doing the same again. This year though both have been nothing short of honking at times, there have been highlights like Jeju’s thrashing of Seoul but for the most part both teams have labored their way through the fixture list. They come into this week’s game with only the solitary win between them in the last five rounds of games. Jeju drew 2-2 away to Daegu last weekend, throwing away a 2-0 lead in the process while Gyeongnam got a far more credible draw at home to Jeonbuk with Kim Joon-beom scoring in the last minute to earn them an invaluable point. This season has seen a 2-2 draw and a 2-0 home win for Jeju so there could be more goals again this weekend. Neither team can afford to lose and with Incheon playing Jeonbuk a draw might suit both teams.
Suwon Bluewings vs FC Seoul
When your manager comes out after an FA Cup 1st leg defeat to a lower league team and claims that he’ll “resign if we don’t win the cup” you know there are some major problems with your club. Suwon Bluewings have now been taken to penalties in the FA Cup by both Gyeongju and Hwaseong and have been made to more than work for their place in November’s final where they’ll face another lower league foe in Daejeon Korail. Closer to home in the K-League they have disappointed while their bitter rivals have exceeded all pre-season expectations. They do boast one of the best, if not the best, strikeforces in the country but all too often fail to capitalize on that. They currently sit 8th in the table and this will be 2019’s last Supermatch as they cannot finish in the top 6. You do get the feeling that not even an FA Cup win in November won’t cool the flames of the fans who want the manager sacked.
If Bluewings have been poor then what can be said of Seoul who have punched above their weight akin to that of a Samsung employee dating an Instagram model. I have been predicting the impending ‘bursting of their bubble’ all season and it never really seemed to materialize until recently. They come into the game with one win in eight but still somehow sit third in the table occupying the automatic ACL slot. They are quite a one-dimensional team and rely heavily on Ko Yo-han to create and Persic or Park Chu-young to convert. With Daegu chasing down their throats in pursuit of that ACL slot they do need to steady themselves and start getting back to winning ways, they haven’t lost a Supermatch since the FA Cup final in 2016 so where better to start?