There are a spate of midweek matches in the K League Classic tonight. So, if you can bear some ‘less-refined’ football, catch some action!
Jae’s Game of the Round: Jeonbuk Motors vs Seongnam Ilhwa
The return of Choi Kang-Hee seems to have given Jeonbuk a much needed boost as they swatted away a challenge from Gyeongnam 4-0. After the match Lee Dong-Gook commented that Choi was looking to change some things in the team, and that all the players seemed more committed and focused under Choi. They’ll need to maintain that focus when Seongnam comes to town. After an early season stumble, Seongnam has shown that they are perfectly capable of beating any team in the league, and indeed they beat Jeonbuk 2-1 earlier this season. This game could go either way as neither team is particularly deep, so with the matches coming quickly after the break, both may look to conserve their resources a bit. Both are floating around the midtable places, with Jeonbuk just in the top half, and Seongnam just in the bottom. With the first half of the season a little over halfway done, both will start to look to solidify their positions. Seongnam has been pretty even home and away, but Jeonbuk has been much better at home. I think it’ll be close, but expect Jeonbuk to pull it out in the end.
Gangwon FC vs Busan IPark
When these two met in the opening round of the season at the Asiad, Gangwon walked away with a surprising 2-2 draw. Surprising in that Busan had gone up 2-0, and Gangwon was playing with 10 men. Since then Busan has solidified their team (especially at home), and Gangwon has floundered a bit. Busan is a bit shaky on the road, but Gangwon isn’t exactly a force at home. Busan barely eeked out a win over Daegu on the weekend, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see something similar tonight. Gangwon surprised Suwon in Gangneung and they’ll look to continue that tonight. Expect a narrow Busan win or a draw.
Daegu FC vs Gyeongnam FC
This round’s ‘yawn’ match. For a few seasons Gyeongnam was a solid team who was either comfortably midtable or pushing for an upper spot. How they’ve fallen. Solidly in the relegation half of the table, and possibly in danger of that third spot. Having already changed managers, the team seemingly has few options left to give them a boost. However, one of them may be a toothless Daegu team. Daegu seems assured of relegation already, having only picked up 8 points from their first 15 matches. Their only hope is that when the table splits in the second half that they can pick up more points from the weaker teams. In their first meeting Gyeongnam walked away with a 3-1 win, but the final scoreline was a bit deceiving. Daegu went ahead early and Gyeongnam came back late. Converting two penalties and a late third for the win. On paper this would seem to be a Gyeongnam win, but the Changwon-based team has been dreadful on the road. 8 played, 4 draws, 4 losses, 5 goals scored and 15 conceded. Will they pick up their win away win this season? My guess is no, and a draw will be the outcome.
Pohang Steelers vs FC Seoul
Both teams will be looking to bounce back from weekend losses. Pohang fell to Incheon which saw their lead at the top cut to 2 points, while Seoul’s loss to Ulsan saw them stay in the bottom half of things. Seoul badly missed striker Dejan Damjanovic who missed the Ulsan game (I’m not sure why to be honest). After a slow start, Damjanovic has re-discovered his scoring ways, and leads the team with 8 goals. Pohang will look to keep the same Ulsan team at bay as another loss could see them lose their top spot. Pohang has gotten a lot of attention this season for being the only Korean-only team in the league. An admirable tact, but one that may cost them if their lack of depth starts to rear it’s head in the middle of the season. The two met on the opening weekend in an entertaining match that ended 2-2 with Seoul coming from behind twice. This one will probably a scrappy game that ends in a draw. A lot will depend on whether Damjanovic plays. If he does Seoul has a chance, if not then it may well go to Pohang.
Suwon Samsung vs Daejeon Citizens
On paper an easy game to call. Daejeon is dead last with an anemic attack and leaky defense. Suwon, while not where they (or their fans) want to be are still a talented team, and should do the business against Daejeon at the Big Bird. Whether this happens is another story. Suwon lost last week to Gangwon in a surprising 2-1 upset, so it’s possible that it could happen again. Suwon seems to be in a bit of turmoil with the club seemingly actively trying to get rid of a number of players (the big rumor being they’re freeing up money for Park Ji-Sung). Popular player Stevo Ristic has said he will leave the club this week, defender Eddy Bosnar is also being tipped to head back to Australia this summer too. There are even rumors that Suwon may look to offload North Korean striker Jong Tae-se as well. Whether this all happens will be revealed in the future, but it doesn’t bode well for Suwon. Suwon should win (they beat Daejeon 4-1 last meeting with Jong Tae-Se picking up a hattrick), but I think it’ll be closer than people expect. The two teams in the worst form the past six matches are Suwon (4 points) and Daejeon (2 points).
Ulsan Hyundai vs Chunnam Dragons
Chunnam pried themselves a little farther away from the bottom on the weekend with a win over Daejeon, and Ulsan creeped closer to the top of the table after beating Seoul. Another Ulsan win could see them go top if Seoul can do them a favor by beating Pohang. Ulsan is a bit of a surprise package after losing Lee Keun-Ho (military) and Kwak Tae-Hwi (transfer) last summer, but giant striker Kim Shin-Wook has been delivering the goods with 9 goals to his name. Ulsan has been great at home as of late winning their last three home matches while scoring 7 and conceding just 1. Chunnam has shown they’re not completely a pushover, and Ulsan will need to be weary they don’t relax too much. In their last encounter Ulsan came away with a 1-0 win (thanks to Kim Shin-Wook). Think Ulsan will win again, and probably a bit more comfortably.