It’s Super Sunday in the K-League, with all 6 Classic games being held at 1am EST, 2pm KST. The reason? Today is the day the K-League will split into two divisions (top half and bottom half) for the remaining 5 matches. There’s hype all across the table now, even at the top, with Jeonbuk’s 9-point deduction keeping things narrow-ish at the top.
A reminder of the K League tie-breaking criteria
A brief reminder: the K League uses goals for before goal differential when tie-breaking teams with the same amount of points. This is a new measure introduced this season in order to encourage teams to score more goals.
A look at the table with the proper tie-breakers!
Jeonnam Dragons vs Jeju United
Jeju are already through to the top half, and manager Cho Sung-hwan is calling on his team to keep up the good form that has them undefeated in six so that they can push for an Asian Champions League spot. Jeonnam know that with a two-point lead over teams ranked 6th-8th, a draw could be sufficient to advance, but their low goals for might mean a victory will be needed. They’ve never finished in the top half since the split system came in 2012. Now’s their chance.
Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 2-2 Jeju United
Gwangju FC vs FC Seoul
Gwangju have only beaten FC Seoul once in their history, and that was back in 2011. They are rank outsiders in this fixture, especially after losing K League top scorer Jung Jo-gook to injury this team around. That, combined with the worst goals scored of any of the top 8 teams, makes things very tricky for Gwangju to advance. FC Seoul will have extra motivation in this encounter as they have to set themselves up to pounce on any Jeonbuk mishap, sitting just 5 points behind the two-time defending champions.
Prediction: Gwangju FC 1-2 FC Seoul
Sangju Sangmu vs Jeonbuk Hyundai
Sangju haven’t won since the 17th of August, but they desperately need a win now. Should they win, they would almost be guaranteed to advance into the top half. In other words – their fate is in their own hands. Unlikely, however, as Jeonbuk Hyundai will be giving them no let-off, especially not now after their 9-point deduction.
Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 0-3 Jeonbuk Hyundai
Seongnam FC vs Pohang Steelers
New management has come to Pohang Steelers, with former manager Choi Soon-ho taking the reins with new assistant coach Kim Gi-dong. Choi led Pohang to a runner-up finish in 2004, but hasn’t managed professional football since 2011. He’s promised to impose “a new style” for Pohang after this season. Until then, the Steelers have nothing to play for, with top half impossible and relegation unlikely. Ball in Seongnam’s court then, with caretaker manager Gu Sang-beom knowing that they probably have the easiest opponent out of the 4 other teams vying for top-half finishes.
Prediction: Seongnam FC 2-0 Pohang Steelers
Suwon Bluewings vs Suwon City
What’s happened to the Bluewings? We were wondering if they’d ever get out of their bottom half rut but they’ve stayed firmly there all-season long. A decline in production from Kwon Chang-hoon, nothing doing in the center-forward position, an aging Yeom Ki-hun… We’ll probably cover this in a retrospective post at the end of the season. If the Bluewings lose here to their cross-town rivals, they could be sucked into a relegation battle with Incheon. On the flipside, Suwon City made beating the Bluewings one of the key goals of their first season in the Classic. It’s now or never, as they sit 2 points off of 11th place.
Prediction: Suwon Bluewings 1-1 Suwon FC (the Bluewings have had five 1-1s in their last 7 games!!)
Ulsan Hyundai vs Incheon United
Ulsan’s goal production has been underwhelming but their defense certainly hasn’t. It’s the main reason why they sit in 3rd place. That and consistency have seen a quiet, defensive Ulsan side succeed at quiet, traditional K League football (long ball, get a goal, defend). Incheon will be wondering why that blueprint hasn’t worked for them this season, as they sit all the way down in 11th, though in good form (unbeaten in their last 4).
Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Incheon United