The games are played, the split has been made and the groups are final and in this year’s Relegation Group (I can’t get behind Final Round Group B) we have two teams already safe, three teams battling to avoid relegation and Seongnam hoping to avoid a repeat of 2015 when they imploded in the last five games.
All three Relegation Group games are being played on Sunday as only 5pts separate the bottom three teams in the relegation battle with Gyeongnam holding the advantage sitting 2pts clear of the playoffs.
Bluewings may have had a poor season in terms of their K-League One performances but they can sleep easy in the knowledge that they won’t be ‘doing a Seoul’ in the final weeks as they have already secured their survival this year. They, of course, have the FA Cup final against Daejeon Korail to look forward to next month which, if all goes to plan, will see them qualify for next year’s Asian Champions League. It’s been a frustrating season for the boys in blue and it’s hugely unlikely that coach Lee Lim-saeng will still have his initials on a Wenger jacket come the end of the year. Gyeongnam have struggled for both form and consistency all season and never really looked like hitting the dizzy heights of 2018. They picked up their first win since August last time out as they handed Jeju a hammer blow by winning 2-1 on the island. Ironically that win in August was a 2-0 victory over Bluewings and given that their hosts might be looking elsewhere it’s not impossible to see Gyeongnam return to Changwon undefeated.
Seongnam go into the this match knowing that a win will see them book their slot at the top table next year, the fact that this is exactly the same conditions as the opening set of games of 2015’s Relegation Group has not been lost on the majority of The Magpie’s fans. Seongnam have probably exceeded the expectations of most fans as they’ve looked relatively safe for the majority of the season. Brazilian striker Eder has often been the man they’ve turned to for that moment of brilliance and he is rumored to be knocking on the door of returning to the first team. They lost 2-1 at home to Daegu last time out after taking the lead through a Seo Bo-min penalty. A combination of bad luck and poor defending has plagued them all season but a win against Incheon would allow them to enjoy the rest of the season. Incheon occupy the playoff spot and come into the game on back of a 0-0 draw with Jeonbuk and a 2-2 draw with Gangwon. In that Gangwon game they battled back from 2-0 down and it’s that fighting spirit that could be the difference between automatic relegation and living to fight another day against the best of the rest in K-League Two. There’s been one goal in the three meetings between the teams this season, don’t expect this one to suddenly be all fireworks!
Sangju, like Bluewings, are playing for nothing more than pride as they get ready to host a beleaguered Jeju United. Only ‘goals for’ separated Sangju and 6th placed Gangwon as the Army team came close to finishing in the top six again. They’ve seen a few of their players return to their parent clubs with Yoon Bitgaram probably being one of the biggest losses for them, the fact he’ll be lining up against them this week for Jeju makes it all the worse. Sangju still have dangerous players in the shape of Park Yong-ji and Song Si-woo, who recently put FC Seoul to the sword, and will be a threat. To say Jeju need a win is an understatement, they’ve lost three of their last five games conceding six in the last three. They still boast a squad that is far stronger than their position and performances suggest but they lack self-belief and that is quickly killing any hopes they have of maintaining their K1 status.