K-League 2012 – Round 27 Preview

It has been a big week for defender Jeong In Hwan, grabbing the goal to kill off Daejeon midweek for an Incheon win as well as getting MVP for Round 26 and finding himself being selected for the Korean National Team for the first time. Can he and his team Incheon continue their strong run against Gangwon this Sunday and make a very late charge for the Top 8

This round will be the end of a tiring run for a lot of teams, with half of them having played 5 games within the space of 2 weeks. After this weekend they get a full week off to recharge the batteries before a mad last week gives us 3 games in 7 days. However, with only four rounds left to go until the league splits into two, a lot of matches are of vital importance. With battles at the top, middle and bottom, all games will have a lot riding on them. Time to check out what is going to happen this weekend.

Saturday – all 7pm

*Seongnam vs. Seoul – with no standout games this round this would arguably be the match of the round as sputtering Seongnam take on a title chasing Seoul. Seongnam had looked to have turned the corner but two losses in a row this week against Pohang and Ulsan has made their task of making the top eight more improbable. The tough games don’t stop though as Seongnam host for the second-time in four days another top three opponent in the form of Seoul. Seongnam have been creating plenty of chances in their games but haven’t been putting them away and teams are punishing them for their wastefulness. They must win this game if they are to stay in contention with Daegu and Gyeongnam for that 8th spot and avoid being grouped with the bottom teams but on current form, a win doesn’t look likely. As for Seoul, they started slowly against Gyeongnam on Wednesday but got 2 goals in the second half to win the game. Surprisngly, neither goal was scored by the “Demolition Duo” of Dejan and ex-Seongnam player Molina (who will be looking forward to this) but the first by KNT player Ha Dae-Sung and the second by loan signing from Gamba Osaka, Japanese – Argentine Oscar Escudero who made a big nuisance of himself in his first start. Seoul will be chasing hard as Jeonbuk have a tough game this round and are without Lee Dong-Gook so they have a good chance to go top of the table with a win here. Seongnam have frankly been rotten at home, winless in five league games and with Seoul playing well, it looks like they will deal out to Seongnam their third loss in a row and basically sink their hopes of a top eight finish. Pred: 1-2.
FUN FACT: If Seongnam fail to win here, this would be their longest run without a home win ever at Seongnam (7 matches)

*Busan vs. Jeonbuk – the only all top eight clash of the round sees a defensive Busan come up against the attacking might of Jeonbuk. Busan continue to get points the way they have for most of the season by basically being like a brick wall at the back and grabbing a goal on the counter or by a set piece. It hasn’t been very entertaining for the Busan fans however as they have now been treated to two 0-0 draws in a row and have only seen 1 goals in the last 3 home games. This kind of play will be enough to see the team solidly inside the top half of the table but wont be bringing the crowds in. Without their best forward Fagner, who is out for this one it seems scoring for Busan could be very tough. As long as they keep acting like a brick wall at the back however it will be very hard for teams to beat them, especially at home. As for Jeonbuk, they haven’t found goals too hard to come by this season only failing to score in the league four times this season out of 26 games. They will be slightly lacking in their strike power for this contest though as the teams top scorer Lee Dong-Gook is suspended for this and so it will make bit harder for the Hyundai boys to break down the wall. Eninho does have the class to do so however and with their other foreigners of Droguett and new boy Leonardo, up front, their are plenty of options to cover Lee’s absence. So basically this is a match of whether Busan’s rock-hard defence can hold out Jeonbuk’s powerful offense. I doubt this will be a third 0-0 draw but it is hard to separate either side with Busan at home. Perhaps with Jeonbuk’s brilliant away form, unbeaten since April, this could just give them that edge in their task of knocking the Busan wall down. Pred: 0-1.
FUN FACT: Both teams are funded by different parts of Hyundai, Jeonbuk the automotive arm (Hyundai Motors) and Busan, the apartment Construction arm (I’Park).

*Jeju vs. Gwangju – Jeju finally return to their home base after having major problems on the road, which has been their achilles heel all season. Back on the island though it is a completely different story and they have scored 18 in their last four games and are undefeated (3 wins and a draw) over that run. They just managed to scrape a draw over Gangwon in Round 27 with the last kick of the game from Jair and will be extremely happy to be back at home base. It couldn’t be much easier for them as they are hosting Gwangju, who have been even worse than Jeju on the road not winning since March. They did however win at home 1-0 over Sangju on Wednesday for only time in four months and it took them off the bottom of the table, so the win came at exactly the right time. This is a different story though and it is very hard to see how they will get anything but a loss in their short hop across to the island. Perhaps now they are back in familiar surroundings against weakish opposition they can knock a few past the post and lift the spirits of a Jeju side that haven’t won in four league games. Bad news for Jeju is key striker Santos has picked up an injury so it will be up to Jair to put the ball in the back of the net. One of the signings of the season Song Jin-Hyun can contribute as well so all is not lost and they should be able to see off Gwangju with ease. Should be a welcome return to the win column for Jeju. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: The away team has never won this fixture (there have only been three games though).

*Suwon vs. Sangju – on paper this game would seem to be a formality. The strength of Samsung behind Suwon, whereas Sangju only have the military players with them but in recent weeks you wouldn’t know which was which. Suwon were absolutely listless in Busan midweek and couldn’t even manage to get one shot on target with forward Stevo looking to be a shadow of his former self. They were without Radoncic and with key midfielder Lee Young-Rae returning after failing a medical in the middle east, their loss will be Suwon’s gain. They will hopefully be playing a lot better than they have in recent weeks, winning only once in eight games. There are rumblings that even though Suwon currently sit 4th, the team isn’t too happy with manager Yoon Sung-Ho and he will need his team to produce the goods this game, as if they lose at home to the army team, his job will begin to look very shaky indeed. As for Sangju, after a very good run of matches, they also looked lacking in Gwangju and lost 1-0 after finding the target only once for the whole game. They will be without key player Kim Jae-Sung who has to sit this one out so perhaps the nice little run they had is about to become a distant memory. With Suwon at home, they will be looking to make it two home wins in a row and with their next game being against bitter rivals Seoul, they will need to win this one to give them a bit of momentum for that big clash. They will be without Bosnar due to suspension but Sangju shouldn’t pose too much of a problem up front. Lose this and the Seoul game and you could almost see the end coming for the Suwon manager. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: In 12 games in Suwon between these two, there has only ever been one draw (in 2007).

Sunday – 7pm (excepting Daejeon)

*Daejeon vs. Gyeongnam (6pm) – if there was ever a time Daejeon were going to give themselves a decent go at getting off the bottom a win over Jeonbuk last Sunday would have been the perfect platform. A return home to Daejeon on Wednesday night saw their old selves return as they were beaten by former cellar-dweller rivals Incheon and with Gwangju winning as well, they find themselves back on the bottom with Chunnam and in a lot of trouble. Any hopes they had of a top eight finish are long gone and now it seems the season objective will be to make sure they don’t finish last. This will be their second home game in a few days and the opposition won’t be easy with a fast Gyeongnam coming to inflict a second home loss in a week. Also with Daejeon now having the second-worst home record in the league, teams must look at this one as a good chance of victory. It seems with Daejeon, when Kevin Oris scores, they do well and when he doesn’t they lose. The records seem to back this as Kevin Oris has scored in seven games and they won five and drawn two with zero losses. However when he doesn’t score they have only won one time and lost 15 games. So the key is to stop Oris it appears. Gyeongman have the defence to do that and have looked good at both ends of the park. They give Seoul a good run for their money at Sangam midweek and while they could be a bit tired, a win here will be very important if they are to overtake Daegu and get that vital 8th position. Daejeon haven’t won a home game since May so confidence must be high that that Gyeongnam have a good chance of grabbing this, as they have shown some good form away from home this season. Fatigue will play a factor in this one as both teams have played 5 times in the last two weeks so in the hot Sunday conditions, a lot will depend on the fitness of the team. I can see a Gyeongnam victory occurring here to give the Changwon boys a great shot at cementing that top 8th spot.
Pred: 0-2.
FUN FACT: Gyeongnam have only drawn one game away from home in one year. (Won 7, drawn 1 , Lost 10)

*Chunnam vs. Pohang – the “Steel Derby” with both sides being sponsored by giant steel Chaebol POSCO. Both teams have not had the seasons they would have hoped for with expectations not being met by either side. At Chunnam, it has been crisis time with no win in 10 games and now they have hit the depths as they find themselves equal last with Daejeon. There has been some action however with manager Jung Hae-Sung walking on Friday with no replacement being announced at the moment. What this means for Chunnam isn’t clear yet but a breath of fresh air is sorely needed and perhaps without the restrictions of their ex-manager a new Chunnam will surface. They are too good on paper to be in the position they are in and now they could turn a new leaf and start making their way back up the table. Their opponents, Pohang have some injury problems, with perhaps the biggest concern being forward No Byung-Jun who has scored four goals in the past month but was injured in the clash against Jeonbuk midweek. For a team that looked to have a lot of striking depth before the start of the season, things haven’t worked out that way with all of Pohang’s forwards not performing up to scratch. This hole will need to be covered and perhaps Pohang’s management are wishing they hadn’t let Zicu go out on loan now. So a bit of turmoil at both clubs but Chunnam need this win much more than Pohang who will drift along for the rest of the season in the 6th-8th position. Much too unpredictable to pick but with Chunnam playing to prove themselves in front of a new interim manager, perhaps this will inspire them to play harder and get the victory. Just perhaps, their POSCO brothers might help them do this as well. Tough one to call though. Pred: 1-1.
FUN FACT: If Chunnam don’t win this that would mean 6 league games in a row at home without a win…this would be a CLUB RECORD streak.

*Incheon vs. Gangwon – Incheon have looked a little like a team possessed in recent weeks and are becoming an outside shot to make the top eight at the split. To do this though they will likely have to win all of their four remaining games to stand a chance but they have a very tough run of games coming. This one would be considered their last easy one as they host Gangwon who have shown improvement but still only find themselves two points ahead of the last placed teams. Incheon’s major fault has been that they can’t win away but they have now managed to do that twice in the last month with a sweet victory coming in Daejeon on Thursday. They must be feeling good and with the Incheon boys playing so well at home, unbeaten in their new stadium since April, the confidence will be there to give Gangwon a very hard game and make sure they grab all three points. Last rounds league MVP Jeong In-Hwan has just been called up to the National team so the feeling in the dressing room must be glorious at present. Gangwon as well have cause for optimism with some good signings in the last month that should be enough to see them through for the season. They are still not out of hot water yet though as they find themselves only two points ahead of the bottom and still need to pick up as many points as they can. What is killing them is they can’t win at home, and choked against Jeju giving up a penalty in the last minute in what would have been a much needed victory. On the road however they have the best record of any team in the bottom half and seem to become a different team but the bad news for them is in-form striker Wesley is suspended so new signing Zicu will have to step it up and justify Gangwon taking a loan gamble on him. A fascinating contest but with Incheon really doing the business at home in recent times, it looks like it will be a close home win in what should be an entertaining game. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: If Incheon WIN this game it would four HOME wins in a row…this would be a NEW CLUB RECORD winning streak.

*Ulsan vs. Daegu – the last game of the round gives us a “Yeongnam derby” with both teams looking to win for differing reasons. Ulsan have recovered from a mid-season slip and now occupy 3rd spot. They are still in with a shout at the title but they have to keep winning every game if they are to put pressure on the two teams at the top. They have a very formidable 3 men forward line now and since Kwak Tae-Hee has returned from injury the defence has looked more organized as well. They have played in a couple of tight games this week winning both by only a goal but with Daegu, they will be looking to have a much easier victory. Daegu on the other hand had been struggling along and for the first time since Round Nine slipped out of the top eight. Just in the nick of time though on Thursday night, all three key Brazilians returned for Daegu and they beat an unconvincing Chunnam 1-0. Daegu perform much better with their Brazilian trio in the squad and their constant injuries have taken a toll on the team. Now that they have returned though, Daegu will look to have a good chance at holding onto that 8th spot in their battle with Gyeongnam. Even though they beat Chunnam, Ulsan away is a much harder proposition. Ulsan have only slipped up once at home this season and should be able to stop a resurgent Daegu team from getting the victory who have struggled on their travels this season. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Deagu have NEVER WON in Ulsan in 13 attempts.


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