K-League 2012 Round 24 Preview

Luke was a two goal hero in Gyeongnam's fantastic performance on Wednesday. If Gyeongnam are to snatch a spot in the top eight they will need him to continue his brilliant form at the back (as well as the front) at Sangju on Saturday.

The games keep on coming and coming in the next few rounds as the players get little time to rest as a lot of teams will be playing two games a week until the end of August. The battles all throughout the table continue and it is very hard to predict what the order of the table will be come the split in Round 30. With only seven rounds left including this one teams had better make a move very soon if they are to achieve the objectives they set themselves at the start of the season. Another round with no real standout game but a lot of action to keep everybody interested.

Saturday – 7pm
*Sangju vs. Gyeongnam – the first game of the round sees us go into the heartland of the country with Sangju not really impressing but have run up an undefeated streak of four matches. The last three of these have been draws however and due to this Sangju continue to find themselves near the bottom of the table. They were a little lackluster at Chunnam in a drab 0-0 draw and have found the going at home somewhat tough this season with the worst home record in the league. They will be at home to a Gyeongnam team that are decent on the road and are really starting to press for a spot in the top eight with, by all accounts a scintillating display against Jeju handing out a footballing lesson to them to the tune of 3-1. The hero in that surprisingly was key defender Luke Devere who popped up with two goals in the box and it his steady influence at the back (and front) that is having a very positive effect on the team. With Caique and Yoon Il-Rok playing very well up front for Gyeongnam as well it seems only a matter of time before they get above Daegu and grab that top eight spot. With all the off-field dramas going on at the club, it isn’t showing on the field which is very good to see. Gyeongnam have been one of the more exciting teams to watch in recent times and I think on the back of two very good performances against Suwon and Jeju in the last two weeks they can get the away win in Sangju. Pred: 1-3.
FUN FACT: Gyeongnam haven’t won three away games in a row since 2007.

*Chunnam vs. Jeonbuk – an inter-Jeolla derby here with the weaker south hosting the might of the north. Chunnam didn’t play badly against Sangju at home midweek and almost grabbed a win but couldn’t score a goal and now are in the midst of a seven game winless slump. They keep sliding slowly down the ladder and with a long way of the season left to go, they really need to snap out of it before it is too late. By all accounts, new imports Flavio and Henan are playing well so it can only be a matter of time before they grab that win. They might have to wait until next round though as the mighty Jeonbuk come storming into town on the back of a now 14 game undefeated run. There were a few cracks in the armor exposed last round against Seongnam and they were lucky not to lose but a lot of that was down to the absence of influential midfielder Eninho, who was suspended and will be coming into this one on fresher legs than anyone else on the field. He will need to be watched very carefully by the Chunnam defence as he can unlock a Jeonbuk attack that is the best in the league. Chunnam, excepting for last round have been very sloppy at the back lately so if they haven’t quite got things right yet, Jeonbuk could be licking their lips and Chunnam could be licking their wounds after being on the end of a thrashing. I don’t think it will be quite that bad but Jeonbuk should be able to stroll this one and put midweeks weak performance against Seongnam behind them. Pred: 1-3.
FUN FACT: If Chunnam don’t win this game it will be their longest winless home streak in club history (5 games).

*Jeju vs. Seoul – the match of the round and a replay of the 2010 final series. Jeju had looked to have been on an upward trend after thrashing Busan, Daejeon and Chunnam at home in recent weeks but once again their away form exposed them putting up a very meek performance in Gyeongnam on Wednesday. They are back to their happy home hunting ground this time but the opposition isn’t one of the easier ones they have thrashed in that run but one of the hardest in the competition in the form of Seoul. Even worse news for Jeju is important midfielder Song Jin-Hyung is suspended for this one and it has been his distribution and drive through the middle that has been the key to Jeju’s recent great performances. Jeju also have a terrible record against Seoul and have NEVER beaten them in league in 15 matchups. It seems it really is mission impossible for Jeju. As for Seoul, they continue on their merry way with the “Demolition Combo” of Dejan and Molina both grabbing a goal in their win against Daejeon midweek. While Seoul doesn’t have a superstar Korean in their squad, they are doing very well as a unit and it seems to be only them and Jeonbuk with any shot at the title, now that Suwon have completely lost the plot. Jeju have been super strong at home but that has been against inferior opposition and the real test is now. Should be a close game but without their key midfielder, Jeju will narrowly lose. Pred: 1-2.
FUN FACT: Jeju have never scored 3 or more goals in four consecutive home games.

*Daejeon vs. Ulsan – for the second time in four days Daejeon will be hosting top three opponents after their defeat against Seoul with this being the turn of Ulsan to visit. Daejeon have seemingly forgot how to win once again and have lost four out of five and it must seem a long time ago to supporters during the heady days of May and June when they only lost once in those two months. Good news for Daejeon is Baba will return so perhaps he can have an effect on turning a tough time around for the citizen club. Ulsan as well lost last round in Busan but still find themselves in the top three, albeit now 7 points off second place Seoul. They will be without important striker Kim Shin-Wook who will be suspended but perhaps this will herald the move of super-sub Maranhao into the starting lineup. He grabbed two goals against Daejeon last time these two met earlier in the season and must be happy that he will get to lineup against them once again. With new striker from Gamba Osaka Rafinha in the squad as well (along with Lee Guen-Ho) there should be plenty of forward power to cover the loss of Shin-Wook. It is always hard to tip a team that is out of form, and Daejeon at home have been ordinary winning only four times in the last 16 months at home. Ulsan are not great on the road but with Daejeon so out of sorts all signs point to all four Saturday games being away victories. Pred: 0-2.
FUN FACT: Only one league game has been drawn between these two since 2005.

Sunday – 7pm
*Suwon vs. Incheon (5pm) – the early Sunday game gives us a Gyeonggi matchup as struggling Suwon face a surging Incheon. It is now five long matches since Suwon last tasted victory and they are watching their season waste away. The good news midweek was at least they managed to score a couple of goals at Gwangju so there could be some hope on the horizon. This was the opening day fixture between these two where Suwon spolied Incheon’s opening day party 2-0 and I am sure they would love to win by the same score once again. Incheon are the exact opposite of Suwon, at one point on the bottom of the table but now those days seem long behind them as they have won three from four and look a completely diffferent team to the one that took the field earlier this season under now ex-coach Huh Jung-Moo. They will have it a little harder than normal though as Kim Nam-Il will be absent through suspension and his direction of play from in front of the back four will be sorely missed. A game that could go any direction, but is it possible that Suwon are starting to show signs of life. With Incheon still ordinary on the road there is a bit of hope for them. With Incheon not having the best record at Suwon perhaps the home team might get up, I wouldn’t bet on it though. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: These two have never drawn in their meetings at Suwon.

*Daegu vs. Seongnam – at the start of the season you would have had these teams in opposite places on the table but Daegu have pleasantly surprised this season while Seongnam have had their struggles. However, Seongnam find themselves only 5 points behind 8th place Daegu and a win here would do wonders for them in their chase for a place in the top 8. Things are getting tight for Daegu as they haven’t won now in four matches and were not very inspiring in their loss at Incheon so perhaps the steam is starting to run out after a very good first half of the season. Top scorer Song Je-Heon is sitting this out through suspension and with a couple of other key players missing as well for various reasons for the home team, perhaps the problems are going to continue for Daegu. They had better have their defence sorted as Seongnam seem to have found their shooting boots launching up 21 shots against Jeonbuk on Wednesday. They somehow didn’t score but were very unlucky and with new boy Reina coming into the side, he has been a breath of fresh air that has been much needed. A win here for Seongnam could really give them the momentum they need to get back into the top eight and with only one month left to go before the split takes place, now is the perfect time for the boys in yellow to grab their chance. Daegu seem lifeless in recent weeks and with Seongnam suddenly looking very good, there is a good chance they could inflict on Daegu just their third home defeat of the season. Daegu have looked down and out once this season before bouncing back strongly but I think with so many key players out, they might have to wait until next weekend. Pred: 0-2.
FUN FACT: If Daegu draw this, it will be their third home draw in a row, something that hasn’t happened in over 6 years.

*Busan vs. Pohang – in the battle of 6th place, both of these boys come into this one in very similar form winning one week and losing the next but as long as they keep putting the occasional win on the board, it should be enough to stave off the bottom half with only 7 rounds to go before the split. Busan recovered very well against Ulsan, shutting them out in a tight 1-0 victory after being torn apart in Seoul to the tune of 6-0 only three days before. Excepting for the Incheon game, Busan strength this season has been its home form and its very strong defence in front of their home fans. Luckily, this will be their second game in a row in four days at home so in these familiar surroundings they must be filled with some confidence. They are still without key personnel, especially missing McKay (hamstring) but seemed to have found a way to keep on winning without them and must be relatively happy with how things are going. With Pohang, you just never know what team is going to turn up each week, and the bad side showed up last round losing once again to weak opposition at home 1-0 against Gangwon. They just really struggled to break them down, even with the majority of the ball. Lucky for them they have been decent away from the Steelyard this season so it is not all bad news for them coming into this. It is hard to overlook Busan at home and now it seems they have gotten over their bad patch, look for another low-scoring home victory to almost certainly ensure their place in the top half for the remainder of the season. Pred: 1-0.
FUN FACT: Busan has scored two or more goals in its last six games in a row against Pohang.

*Gangwon vs. Gwangju – the last game of the round takes us across to the east coast in Gangneung with both teams needing to win this one to stave off Daejeon in last place. Gangwon had a brilliant win midweek against Pohang holding on 2-1 and coming back from Pohang with a bit of a coup in Romanian defender Zicu. he has struggled to find his feet so far at Pohang but the ex-Inter Milan player has been given a second chance to go on loan just up the coast at Gangwon. This could be exactly what they need to give them a gap between them and the bottom. Gangwon are looking very strong up front now with K-League legend Kim Eun-Jung and Wesley also playing up well, those three together, if they can combine well will be a threat to any defence in the league. As for Gwangju, not much good news for them I am afraid as they continue to struggle to find where their next win will come from, now on a run of 20 matches since March with only one win. That is relegation form I am afraid but they still have time to turn their season around, and they do have good enough players in their squad to break the losing jinx. Gangwon have been horrible at home losing eight in a row but perhaps they will be able to break this run of loses, as Gwangju away from home have been almost as dreadful, losing 6 out of their last 7 in their travels. To be honest, this looks set to be a Gangwon win with Zicu joining up and they will be able to give the home fans some joy for the first time since April. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Gangwon haven’t kept a clean sheet at home since March 10th.

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