K-League 2012 Round 23 Preview – Midweek Madness

Molina scoring a brilliant Scorpion Goal in their Round 22 drubbing against Busan. Can Seoul continue to challenge Jeonbuk at the top and get the win in Daejeon this Wednesday night?

The halfway point has come and gone but there is no time to reflect as the action comes thick and fast in the next couple of weeks. Jeonbuk keep on firing at the top but the real action at the moment is at the bottom where the bottom six teams are within three points of each other. As all teams strive to get off the bottom, the relegation aspect of this season is making things a lot more lively than usual in the bottom half of the K-league. There is no obvious standout game this round but should be interesting nonetheless. Time to have a look at what is happening in Round 23.

Wednesday – 7:30pm

*Daejeon vs. Seoul (7pm) – the early Wednesday kickoff takes us down to Daejeon who will be looking for a strong performance in front of their home crowd. Last time one of the big boys came to town in the form of Suwon, Daejeon scored a shock victory and it was the impetus for a nice run of results but now they find themselves back on the bottom in a similar situation leading up to that Suwon game needing a win. It looks like it will be tough though with Seoul coming to town on the back of a brilliant 6-0 drubbing of a shell-shocked Busan. With Molina and Dejan both in the starting lineup for the first time in three games, they had an instant impact and while Seoul have looked sluggish at times this season, really threw off the shackles and it could be a second wind for them in their chase of Jeonbuk at the top. Daejeon really need a good result here with a very tough run of matches coming up in the next couple of weeks. They will have to do it without last weeks MVP Baba, who is suspended. Seoul have their suspensions as well as influential Ha Dae-Sung (along with Kim Jin-Kyu) is out for this contest. Daejeon do seem to lift themselves at home for the big boys but it has been a very long time since Daejeon defeated a Seoul side and it looks like the boys from the capital should be able to eke out a win. Pred: 1-2.
FUN FACT: Daejeon HAVEN’T WON against Seoul since 2004 (and at home since 2003), a run of 19 matches.

*Seongnam vs. Jeonbuk – if you cast your mind back to earlier this season, this was a Round 1 match in Jeonbuk (that they won 3-2) that had both teams as one of the favorites to win the title in 2012. While Jeonbuk have kicked ahead and looked very strong, Seongnam have looked anything but at times after that first opening loss, with both Korean pre-season signings not up to scratch (one has already been transferred to Japan) and 2010 AFC player of the year Sasa departing the club for the Middle East. For the home team, they really need a win here just to keep in touch with the sides in the Top 8 before they get left too far behind and find themselves scraping with the bottom eight for the last phase of the season. Seongnam were absent last round with their participation in the Peace Cup but a bright spot was the form of new signing Reina who played very well and should adjust quickly having played at Chunnam last season. As for Jeonbuk, they had a bit of a scare at home but managed to hold on 2-1 in the second half down to 10 men after a sending off. It has now been a massive 13 games in a row since they felt the sting of defeat and one has to wonder when it will strike again. Jeonbuk have scored a massive 3 goals or more in their last 6 away games and are undefeated in five to be easily the best team on the road in the league. Who is to say it wont be another three here as Seongnam look to possibly adjust to life in the bottom half of the league for the rest of the season. Pred: 1-3.
FUN FACT: Jeonbuk have NEVER won six in a row AWAY…this would be a NEW CLUB RECORD if they win in Seongnam.

*Pohang vs. Gangwon – off to the Steelyard for this matchup with Pohang looking to make it three wins in a row, and back to back home victories after a stunning full-length of the field injury time goal scored by No Byung-Jun that brought them victory against Incheon on Sunday. They are starting to look safe in the top 8 with only eight rounds to go before the split and a seven point buffer over 9th place Gyeongnam with an easy-ish run home. While they have had their struggles with imports this season, it seems Pohang have put that all behind them playing an all-Korean lineup for the last couple of matches and it is working for them. Visitors Gangwon almost grabbed something at Jeonbuk but couldn’t break down some heroic defence and now with two losses on the trot for new coach Kim Hak-Bum, it seems the honeymoon is already over with last place staring them in the face. Pohang have slipped up at home against weaker teams this season but it seems they have found the right balance and after some solid performances in recent weeks, they should have the confidence to see off a Gangwon team, who do perform well on the road but perhaps this could be a little too hard. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Gangwon have NEVER won in Pohang.

*Gyeongnam vs. Jeju – Gyeongnam had the weekend off last round but will need to be ready as they host Jeju, who demolished a hapless Chunnam 6-0 at home, the star being Seo Dong-Hyun who scored a hattrick (and two assists) and put himself inside the top 10 scorers in the league with nine goals. Jeju have three players in the top 10 scorers, the other two being club favorites Santos and Jair and it seems goal-scoring is a big strength for the islanders, second best scorers in the league behind Jeonbuk. This couldn’t come at a worse time for Gyeongnam with rumours coming from the club that main sponsor STX have cut off funding for the team and the players (and staff) haven’t been paid for 2 weeks. With morale dropping fast, they really need a big performance to give themselves hope for cracking into that top eight. With club legend Kim Byeong-Ji already not lining up due to pay issues in their last game against Pohang, hopefully the whole team doesn’t follow him and the situation at Gyeongnam is resolved very very quickly for the sake of the team. Gyeongnam with the club in turmoil, plus Jeju absolutely flying high after two great performances at home, things don’t look great for the home team and if Gyeongnam first team players decide not too play this could be a massacre with a great opportunity for Jeju to grab only their third away win of the season. Hopefully the whole first team makes an appearance and tries their best. Pred: 1-2.
FUN FACT: Gyeongnam have NEVER lost to Jeju at HOME in the league.

*Busan vs. Ulsan – the big city Gyeongnam derby, with only 50 kilometers and 4 places in the league separating them. Busan were absolutely destroyed in Seoul last round to the tune of 6-0 and while they almost scored a couple themselves, were completely outplayed and seem to have totally lost their way when you compare this Busan team to the one that was playing so well in April and May. They are getting closer and closer to that bottom half and need a couple of wins to ensure they don’t slide into that mix. Ulsan on the other hand have really turned it around in recent times and snatched a very late victory on Sunday against Gwangju, thanks to returning key Ulsan defender Kwak Tae-Hwi and after a very good run of six games undefeated find themselves in the top three for the first time since Round 11, when they lead the table for one week. While Busan should be strengthened with some returning defenders for this one after missing the Seoul game, their confidence must be very low. It should be a highly fought contest and while it could go either way, the games between these two don’t usually end in draws. Ulsan to just get up here and consign Busan to their second home defeat in a row.
FUN FACT: There has been no draw in the last 13 matches between these two teams, Ulsan have won nine and Busan have won four.

*Chunnam vs. Sangju – if there was ever a team in need of a pick-me-up this round it would be Chunnam. After looking relatively solid in April and May, things have fallen apart for them the last six weeks or so with the worst coming against Jeju last round, giving up 6 goals. The signs were there that the defence seems to be coming apart and Jeju completely took advantage of this. They can take some respite at home and look to get themselves a win against Sangju, who are not known for their attacking prowess, averaging only a goal a game so far. Chunnam are not only having problems at the back but at the front as well currently with the second worst attack in the league managing only 19 goals so far. Things are starting to look really bad and with an aggregate of 6-24 in the last 10 rounds, they will need to find the solution quickly if they are to stave off a relegation fight. Perhaps they have solved some of their attacking problems with their two new imports but the defence, not yet. Sangju keep on plonking along and find themselves in the expected bottom two spots but are only three points behind Chunnam and could leapfrog them with a win here. Sangju are actually unbeaten in three and there could be a good chance of them making it four with Chunnam all at sea at the back. Not sure how this will go so with both teams not really showing much threat up front, perhaps a low scoring draw could be the way to go. Pred: 1-1.
FUN FACT: If Chunnam lose here that would be four HOME league LOSSES in a row…something that has never happened in club history

Thursday – 7:30pm
*Incheon vs. Daegu – Incheon have had a bit of a renaissance in recent times and have lifted themselves off the bottom of the ladder but it came to a halt last week losing very late to Pohang away to snap a seven match undefeated run. They will still be confident of pulling a result here however as they have looked strong at home in recent times, not losing at Sungui since April and haven’t lost to anybody outside the current top four. It is their home form that is pulling them up the ladder at the moment. As for Daegu, they are on an undefeated streak themselves and are undefeated in six. While this sounds good, the last three in a row have been draws and if they are to ensure themselves a place in the top eight come the split they need to convert a couple of these wins to draws. This game seems to have draw written all over it. The last three out of four at Incheon have been draws, recent history for both Daegu and Incheon have draws all through their results. So draw it is then (just watch though as one team wins 5 or 6-0). Pred: 1-1.
FUN FACT: Daegu haven’t had four draws in a row in over six years.

*Gwangju vs. Suwon – both of these teams come into this one in some very desperate form and will be looking to reverse that and put a win on the board. Home side Gwangju now find themselves in equal last place and a loss here could possibly be enough to drop them into the dreaded last position. With only one win in nineteen games it looks tough to see where the next win will come from. A bright spot for Gwangju this season has been last years rookie of the year Lee Seung-Gi who has managed 9 assists and is trying hard to get Gwangju a victory. Suwon meanwhile have been scoreless in four matches (a club record) and while it looked so good only a month ago, have fallen apart and they now find themselves in 4th place and nine points of the pace. They did manage to squeeze out a draw at Daegu last Saturday but there seems to be problems appearing up front now with the presence of injured Radoncic, sorely missed. Since he has been injured, Suwon have struggled somewhat in attack and the combination of Stevo, Everton and Ha Tae-Gyun doesn’t seem to be working at all. They will really need to stop the rot soon before this bad run ruins their whole season. So both teams, really in need of a big victory and I am sure they both will be targeting this one as a great chance. This match has the potential to be very unpredictable and to be honest, I have no idea how it will play out. Suwon on paper should win easily, but the Suwon of recent weeks could struggle. Perhaps another Thursday night draw is on the cards here. Pred: 1-1.
FUN FACT: Suwon have won all three games played against Gwangju by a 7-2 aggregate.

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