Another weekend, another round of matches. Plenty to watch. Let’s skip the talk, and get straight to the good stuff!
Games listed are in US Eastern Standard Time / and Korea Time. Unless indicated, broadcast listing are for the US. Streaming should be available worldwide.
Jae’s Game of the Week: Maritimo vs Benfica -Monday 3pm / 4am.
Once again, I will attempt to check out a Maritimo match and South Korean youngster Suk Hyun-Joon. It has been a bit of a rough stretch for Portuguese Liga side Maritmo, who has only won one match in their last five. That match, a 4-2 win over Vitoria Setubal (when Suk Hyun-Joon scored) was followed by a draw with Pacos de Ferreira and a loss to Nacional (where Suk scored again). This rough patch has seen Maritimo drop a couple spots in the table, but they remain firmly within touching distance of a Europa League spot.
Benfica on the other hand are currently topping the table in the yearly battle with Porto for the championship. Currently Benfica has 70 points and are four points ahead of Porto. Benfica’s attack is led by the Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo and the Brazilian Lima. Cardozo has an impressive 16 goals in 21 games, while Lima has scored 16 in 23 games. The highly experience Argentina international Pablo Aimar leads the midfield, and his Argentine compatriot Ezequiel Garay leads the backline. Benfica is also still in the hunt for European silverware as they will face off with Fenerbache in the semifinals of the Europa League. Benfica lost the opening leg 1-0, so it’s possible they may opt to rest some players with the return leg next week in mind.
Even if Benfica rest players, I would still expect them to feel comfortable in this match. The teams last met back in December when Benfica thrashed Maritimo 4-1 behind a Cardozo hat-trick.
Chelsea FC vs Swansea City (Ki Sung-Yueng, Swansea) Sunday 10am./11pm Fox Soccer Plus – A game that should be highly entertaining. Chelsea is hanging onto hopes of a top four finish, and qualification to the Champions League next season. Tottenham is right on their heels, so Chelsea will want to maintain that advantage and possibly pass 3rd place Arsenal. Chelsea is coming off a Europa League tie, where they beat Park Joo-Ho’s FC Basel 2-1, so some changes are likely in order. Swansea’s season is fairly well wrapped up, but they’ll still want to beat Chelsea and hold on for a top 10 finish. Ki Sung-Yueng has been used a bit more sparingly lately, starting every now and then, but also coming off the bench more frequently. I imagine he’ll start this match, but I’m not positive.
Reading vs QPR (Park Ji-Sung QPR, Yoon Suk-Young, QPR) Sunday 8:30 a.m./ 9:30 pm Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes – A battle of the bottom two sides in the Premership. While not mathematically eliminated yet, Reading and QPR are all but assured of the drop if Aston Villa picks up a point against fellow strugglers Sunderland. It’s more a matter of pride at this point to not be dead last. Both teams are currently on 24 points. Neither Park Ji-Sung nor Yoon Suk-Young figure to be involved much in this match.
Cardiff City vs Bolton Wanderers (Kim Bo-Kyung, Cardiff; Lee Chung-Yong, Bolton) Saturday 10 am/ 11pm – What may be the tie of the weekend for Korean fans, and may be a bonus game of the week if I can find a stream. Cardiff has nothing to play for having secured both automatic promotion and the Championship title. Bolton still has plenty to play for as they currently hold the last promotion playoff spot, and have Leicester City and Nottingham Forest breathing down their necks. I’m not sure how Cardiff will approach this match. They may come out fighting for pride and for their home fans, or they may field a back-up XI since they can. I suspect the former rather then the latter to avoid criticism of rolling over for against a team battling for promotion. Bolton will of course field their strongest XI to hold onto the 6th position.
Levante vs Celta Vigo (Park Chu-Young, Celta Vigo) Saturday 10 a.m. beIN Sport Spanish – Two teams looking to right the ship. Levante has lost their last three, including a 5-1 drubbing to Madrid and a 4-0 loss to Deportivo (the other a closer 1-0 loss to Barcelona). Dreams of a European spot seemed dashed, and Levante has reached the supposedly magic points total of 40 to avoid relegation. But I’m sure the team would rather end the season on a high. Celta Vigo on the other hand managed to finally win a match last week over Zaragoza to boost their survival chances a bit. Iago Aspas will return from his four match suspension to help the attack. Park Chu-Young will not feature as he’s dropped behind Mario Bermejo and also managed to pick up a slight knock.
Greuther Furth vs Hannover 96 (Park Jung-Bin, Greuther Furth) -Friday 2:30 pm/Saturday 3:30 am. Park Jung-Bin hasn’t featured for Greuther lately, but German tabloid Kicker is predicting that Park will be in the starting XI this week. >Tavern update: Park is starting and the score at the 24 minute mark is 0-0.
Augsburg vs Stuttgart (Ji Dong-Won, Koo Ja-Cheol, Augsburg), Saturday 9:30 am / 10:30 pm – No real surprises here. Ji Dong-Won will start again as Augsburg continues to try and escape the relegation spaces. Koo Ja-Cheol is still injured.
Schalke vs Hamburg SV (Son Heung-Min, Hamburg) Sunday 11:30 am / Monday 12:30 am GOL TV. European and Champions League football are still possible for Son Heung-Min and Hamburg, and a win over Schalke would be a big step towards achieving it.
FC Basel vs Lucern (Park Joo-Ho, Basel) Sunday 7:45 am / 8:45 pm – Basel is coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the Europa League, so I expect that they’ll have one eye on the return leg next week. Expect a few changes to the line up against a Lucern side near the bottom of the table. >>Tavern owner interrupts to give the video highlight from Park Joo-Ho’s goal against FC Sion last weekend, a beautiful rebound header in the 27th minute.
Jeonbuk Motors vs Pohang Steelers, Saturday 1 am / 2 pm – Pohang tops the tables with their all-Korean squad. Pohang probably represents a very good example of a team where the sum is much more then it’s parts as there isn’t any regular international in the team. Jeonbuk is coming off a painful 3-1 loss to Incheon where they took the early lead, but let it 3 in the second half.
Seongnam Ilhwa vs Chunnam Dragons, Saturday 1 am / 2 pm – After looking like relegation material through the first five matches, Seongnam has experienced a surge winning their last three against high-quality opposition in the form of Jeonbuk, Seoul, and Ulsan. Chunnam on the other hand looks more like the team most expected them to be. In the relegation side of things, but just good enough to not really be seriously threatened to be actually relegated (if that makes sense).
Daegu FC vs Jeju United, Saturday 2 am / 3 pm- What may end up being one of the more lopsided matches of the weekend. Jeju is a team that continues to be a sort of, under-the-radar type team. Constantly in the upper reaches of the table, but not quite good enough to challenge for a title (maybe they’re the Everton of the K League Classic). Daegu looks like a sure fire bet to finish dead last this season and head down to the K League Challenge. 3 points from 8 matches, and only 4 goals scored. They’ve lost their last four too.
Busan IPark vs Daejeon Citizens Sunday 1 am / 2 pm. US broadcast: One World Sports. Daejeon is another team that looks like relegation material. They have the league’s worst defense, having allowed 19 goals thus far (about 3 a game). Their one bright spot was their lone win of the season, a surprising 2-1 win over Incheon. Busan looks like a solid midtable team. Very good at home, but a little suspect away. Fortunately for the IPark this match is at home, so Busan should expect a fairly comfortable win.
Ulsan Hyundai vs Incheon United, Sunday 1 am / 2 pm – Incheon has been a bit of a surprise this season. Most expected a fairly average team, having lost almost their whole backline last season, but they’ve started strong. New Brazilian Diogo has been impressive, and the returning Lee Chun-Soo has also done well. Defending Asian Champions Ulsan have also started this season well, despite having lost their defensive leader, Kwak Tae-Hwi, and offensive leader, Lee Keun-Ho, in the offseason.
FC Seoul vs Gangwon FC, Sunday 3 am / 4 pm – After an incredibly slow start, Seoul is finally starting to click into gear. They picked up their first win of the season last week, a 4-0 thrashing of Daegu. Gangwon should be easy pickings for Seoul at home. Gangwon is the final relegation looking team at the moment (currently 13th).
*I continue to remain ignorant of the J League, so sorry no previews. But I will say that it’s striking in how many Koreans play in Japan. There are almost no Japanese players in the K League, but almost every Japanese team has at least one Korean player. Something to look at K League Classic administration.
Kashiwa Reysol vs Omiya Ardija (Kim Chang-Soo, Kashiwa; Cho Young-Cheol, Omiya)
Albirex Niigata vs Kashima Antlers (Kim Kun-Hwan, Kim Jun-Soo, Albirex Niigata)
Nagoya Grumpus vs Sanfrecce Hiroshima (Hwang Seok-Ho, Park Hyung-Jin, Lee Dae-Heon, Sanfrecce)
Cerezo Osaka vs Oita Trinita (Kim Jin-Hyun, Gu Sung-Yoon, Cerezo; Kim Yong-Gwi, Kim Jung-Hyun, Choi Joong-Han, Oita)
Yokohama F. Maritimo vs Ventforet Kofu (Jung Dong-Ho, Yokohama; Choi Sung-Keun, Ventforet Kofu)
Jubilo Iwata vs Shonan Bellmare (Cho Byung-Kook, Jung Woo-Young, Jubilo; Kwon Han-Jin, Han Kook-Young, Shonan)
Urawa Reds vs Shimizu S-Pulse (Lee Ki-Je, Lee Min-Soo, Shimizu)
Tokyo vs Kawasaki Frontale (Jang Hyun-Soo, Tokyo)
Vengalta Sendai vs Sagan Tosu (Yeo Sung-Hye, Kim Min-Woo, Sagan)
MLS, Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas 6 p.m. Univision Deportes, Direct Kick, MLS Live. Don’t forget about Canada! Lee Young-Pyo time.
Dubai vs Al-Jazira (Shin Hyung-Min, Al-Jazira)
Al-Shabab vs Hajer (Kwak Tae-Hwi, Al-Shabab)