After the All-Star break, the K League is roaring back to life with 6 intriguing fixtures for the weekend’s play. We’ll delve into those, while recapping transfer news – the biggest story is the return of Lee Keunho to Korean shores. Reports indicate he will sign for Jeonbuk Hyundai on loan from El-Jaish, in Qatar.
A quite surprising story that popped up today was the return of Lee Keunho to South Korea. After transfering last summer to El Jaish in Qatar, upon completing his military service with Sangju Sangmu, the former Asian Player of the Year scored just 2 goals with the Qatar Super League side in 18 appearances. For reasons yet unclear, the former Ulsan Hyundai player is now in talks to be loaned out to Jeonbuk Hyundai. Perhaps he wanted to stay fit during the Qatari off-season, or the club saw him as surplus to requirements (which is strange, seeing how one of their top strikers, Mohammed Muntari, was shipped off to rival Lekhwiya in the off-seaon…).
In any case, the hard-working forward will join an already talented attacking force that includes newly signed Basque centre forward Urko Vera. Vera scored 17 goals for Mirandes in the Segunda Division last season, and is surely one of the more impressive signings K League clubs have been able to pull off. The money from the Edu and Eninho transfer/releases have allowed this to hapen.
With Leonardo recently committing to two years at Jeonbuk Hyundai and Lee Donggook still banging in the goals for the Jeollabukdo-side, don’t be surprised to see the Green Machine push for an Asian Champions League title with these marquee signings.
Meanwhile, another Korean national team player (former or not) is rumoured to be joining the K League. Cho Youngcheol, recently released by Qatar SC, is in discussions with Japanese and South Korean clubs. Cho has not played professional football in South Korea, but nonetheless there is interest from Ulsan Hyundai, who also recently signed Croatian striker Ivan Kovacec.
With the money from the Jong Taese transfer to Shimizu S-Pulse, Suwon Samsung have also delved into the market to replace their striker void. With Kaio injured and no real back-up centre forward option, Seo Jungwon’s team have signed Bulgarian striker Iliyan Mitsanski. The Bulgarian international, often called up to represent his native land on international breaks, scored 40 goals in 58 games back in 2010-2012 in the Polish league, but insight from Jun Kim on twitter reveals that he hasn’t “really made it in Germany”.
Meanwhile, FC Seoul are also making a move to keep up with their big market rivals, with reports that they are to sign former Daejeon Citizen striker Adriano. The Brazilian was key to the promotion of the citizen club last season, but fell out of favour with new manager Choi Moonsik, and reportedly left to Brazil. Although FC Seoul wish to secure the signing of the Brazilian centre forward, it would be releasing one of their 3 current international slots, occupied by Osmar, Molina and Everton Santos. Seeing how Osmar is the vice-captain of the club and Molina, the most creative playmaker and a longtime Seoulite, it will likely be the misfiring winger departing the capital city. However, other rumours indicate that FC seoul may loan Adriano right back out to Daejeon upon signing him, a move which doesn’t really make much sense to me.
Speaking about loans, former Bolton Wanderers playmaker Andre Moritz has been loaned back to Mumbai City FC by his parent club, Pohang Steelers. Moritz had to deal with injuries as well as losing his spot in the lineup to Moon Changjin, and although the youngster is expected to be injured for the next month, Hwang seems to prefer sticking with his all-Korean set-up than pursue foreign players at the moment.
K League Round 23
FC Seoul vs Incheon United
Both teams enter the match off the back of FA Cup Quarter final victories that see them progress to the Final Four. The rivals are, however, on completely different form, with Seoul collecting only 6 points in their last 6 league games, while Incheon are unbeaten in their last seven. Expect Incheon’s stern defensive set-up to force Choi Yongsoo into a defensive shell of his own, as both teams nullify each other in a 0-0 draw.
Ulsan Hyundai vs Seongnam FC
The return match from the FA Cup tie midweek that saw the Tigers prevail in Extra Time and eliminate the holders. Ivan Kovacec made his debut and scored the winning goal in the first extra frame in the last match, and stopped manager Kim Hakbum from earning his 100th K League victory. Can the tables turn this time for an Ulsan side with little to cheer about in the league? Prediction: 1-1 draw.
Pohang Steelers vs Gwangju FC
Gwangju massive 10-game road trip is coming its end at the Pohang Steelyard, a team who they have already faced on their peculiar series of away trips. Previous results this season are a 0-0 draw at home as well as a 2-1 loss in their last encounter, but Gwangju may be able to take advantage of Pohang’s tired legs with a disappointing loss midweek the FA Cup. Prediction: 1-1 draw.
Jeonbuk Hyundai vs Suwon Samsung
The big one this weekend, and potentially a massive crowd getter. Choi Kanghee has promised to dance if more than 40,000 fans make the trek to Jeonju World Cup Stadium for this mouthwatering encounter. 7 points seperate the two sides at the top of the table, and if Suwon are planning on getting serious to mount a title charge against the seemingly indomitable green machine, a victory here would be helpful in reducing the gap to a manageable 4 points. It will be interesting to see the lineups featured in this match, because both teams have only recently made some impressive signings after losing some of their key players. Anything could happen here but I’ll predict… 2-1 Jeonbuk win.
Busan IPark vs Daejeon Citizen
My big one this weekend. Daejeon are still lingering at the bottom with 8 points from 22 matches, with untimely injuries, bad luck and whole lot of shitty play to thank. Luckily, Busan have been keeping them company (somewhat), sitting one spot above in 11th place on 17 points. This match could honestly determine whether or not Daejeon can pull off a reasonable comeback this year and try to break into 11th position. A loss seperates the cap between ‘certain drop’ and ‘maybe drop’ to 12 points, while a road win for the Purple Crew brings it back to a do-able 6 points. Again, new signings have been made by these two teams, with the home side taking a chance on another random Brazilian named Bill, while Daejeon have gone for a certain Brazilian named Rafinha, with prior playing experience at Fluminese. I’m not going to predict anything because I’ll either be jinxing Daejeon from winning, or predicting correctly against my own team. (I know what I said.)
Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United
It’s not a very likely scenario that Jeonnam remain in 3rd place and qualify directly to the Asian Champions League, but it’s where they are right now, and a victory against an out-of-form Jeju could help seperate the gap between the chaoticly close midtable and the top teams. Somebody needs to step things up and assert themselves in that midtable pandemonium. Prediction: 2-0 Jeonnam win.