K-LEAGUE 2012 – ROUND 28 SUPERMATCH PREVIEW

"Supermatch" - Seoul vs. Suwon is always a firecracker, for players and fans alike and is a highlight of the K-League calendar.

For the first time in what seems liked a while the league shut down for a week for some rest before the big bang of 3 games in eight games coming into the last week before the split. The focus of the K-League in Round 28 will be the Supermatch between Seoul and Suwon, which is the most heated rivalry in the K-League. There is always some fireworks and the games are usually entertaining. In the middle of the table there will be a lot of attention as well with three teams now chasing that all important 8th position and each game in this round will be of vital importance for all these teams in determining their fate for the rest of the season. So much is going on in Round 28.

Saturday – all games 7pm

*Seoul vs. Suwon – the preview has to kick-off with the game of the round and for many supporters, the game of the season as the red of Seoul looks to bring down the blue of Suwon. Suwon have really dominated Seoul in recent seasons beating them the last five games in a row, and have won both games this season, Seoul not troubling the scorers as yet. The last time was only in June when Suwon went to Seoul for the FA Cup round of 16 and grabbed the win 2-0, the only time in 2012 that Seoul has been defeated at home. After that game the Seoul fans lost the plot and demanded the sacking of head coach Choi Yong-Soo and with quite a lot riding on this game for both teams, expect similar hysterics if either team loses again. It looks like the time for vengeance is at hand for Seoul however as Suwon will be short of four key players coming into this one (Everton, Jung Seong-Ryung, Seo Jung-Jin, Oh Beom-Seok) while Seoul will have a full squad of players who have been in some decent form, the come from behind 3-2 win over Seongnam last weekend with some injury time magic from Dejan sending Seoul back to the top of the table for the first time in two months. Suwon’s form has been ordinary recently and are winless away from home in five games. Only two months ago this would have been a top of the table clash of the titans but Suwon’s slide must give Seoul a lot of confidence in snapping the Suwon jinx. With Seoul really firing on all cylinders, undefeated in the league at home in 2012 and Suwon looking a shadow of their early season-selves all signs point to a Seoul win. Just don’t be shocked if there are some major fireworks to go with it as both teams will come out fighting. Pred: 3-1.
FUN FACT: This game seems to be all or nothing, in their last 13 matchups, there has only been one draw.

*Gangwon vs. Busan – off to relative cool of the NE of Gangwon for a clash that probably wont be the most inspiring one due to Busan’s defensive stubbornness. Gangwon are at home but to them it isn’t a happy place. They haven’t won there in 10 games and have the worst home record in the league. They were so close last time at home against Jeju but slipped up in injury time 1-1, and will be hoping this is finally the fixture where they can break the winless streak. They have looked much better recently but this hasn’t been converted into wins and they now find themselves once again back in the relegation mix, only two points ahead of last place Chunnam. If they are not careful they could find themselves back on the bottom and really need to get their first home win since early April. As for Busan, they really are starting to grind out the games now and haven’t given up any goals in 473 minutes of league play. The defense is so efficient they even managed to shut down the normally free-flowing Jeonbuk, playing out a 0-0 draw, the third 0-0 in a row at home. Not the most attractive game for the home fans to watch. They do seem to do well away from Busan against teams from the bottom half, and have won 5 out of their 6 games in their travels against the lower ranked sides. With Busan seemingly having the ability to ground teams into the ground, and Gangwon luckless at home, the edge goes to Busan but don’t expect a very entertaining game. Pred: 0-1.
FUN FACT: Busan haven’t drawn three in a row in over eight years.

*Ulsan vs. Incheon – these two teams are on the upward trend in recent rounds, with Ulsan settling into third place while Incheon are making a late claim for the 8th spot but will realistically need to win all their remaining three games which is a tough ask. As was stated, Ulsan have been on the up but had a bit of a blip last week when they gave up the lead late against Ulsan due to some arguably rough play which resulted in the draw for Daegu. Ulsan need to keep the momentum going if they are to have any chance of challenging at the top if Seoul or Jeonbuk slip up. They will be looking to make sure they don’t make it two home games in a row without a win. Ulsan’s three key Korean players Lee Geun-Ho, Kwak Tae-Hee and Kim Shin-Wook played for the Korean national team during the week against Zambia, Lee grabbing a brace and their exertions could leave them a little tired for this game. However, Ulsan have more than capable reinforcements up front with the two Brazilians Rafina and Maranhao waiting in the wings and they should have more than enough skill to give the Incheon defence a hard time. Incheon are really trying hard in their attempts to grab that 8th spot and a win here would make it 4 wins in a row. Unbelievable considering only two months ago they were sitting on the bottom. However, they may have made their run a couple of games too late with a tough run of games coming in the last week but it isn’t impossible if they keep winning. They have overcome their horrible bad away form recently but Ulsan might be a touch too hard for them but I am sure they will be running their socks off. It is hard to see Ulsan slipping up at home two games in a row and while I am sure Incheon will be putting their all into it for the victory, with Ulsan having so much firepower up front, it may be a little hard for Incheon to overcome. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Incheon haven’t won 4 games in a row in a bit over 3 years.

*Gwangju vs. Daejeon – a scrap near the bottom for two teams who at various times this season have found themselves dead last. Gwangju have suddenly turned the corner and are on the back of a two game winning streak, one of the biggest shocks of the season coming last round when they traveled to Jeju and managed to win 2-0, Gwangju’s first away win since March. It could be a false dawn however with some damaging allegations about Gwangju’s owner embezzling all the teams sponsorship money and generally treating the team as his playtoy, which would explain why they suddenly went from near the top early in the season to the bottom. However, it looks as though the players may have put that at the back of their minds at the moment as they are playing for their third win in a row, and with the skillful players they have, it is a highly possible proposition. Daejeon pulled off the shock of the season away at Jeonbuk but it seems it could have been just a flash in the pan as they haven’t won since and if they are to really give themselves some breathing space between them and last place Chunnam, they need to string a couple of wins together. It will be very hard as their main striker Kevin Oris is suspended, Daejeon have won only once this season without a Kevin Oris goal. With Gwangju suddenly looking like they want to prove to everyone they have what it takes (or trying to get scouts to look at them so they can get a transfer out of a bad situation) and Daejeon missing their key ingredient, Gwangju have a great chance at making this three wins in a row, incredible considering before this little winning run they had only won once in 21 previous games. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: Gwangju have NEVER won three in a row in their short club history.

Sunday – all games 7pm

*Pohang vs. Daegu – 7th vs. 8th and this game has important implications for the race for 8th spot and a win for both teams here would be of great help. In Pohang’s case a win would seal up a certain 7th and a chance to still have a crack at the bog boys while a loss would leave them a little vulnerable to slipping out. For Daegu it is much more urgent as they only sit two points above Gyeongnam and a loss here would probably send them into the bottom half with only 2 games to go. Pohang had a thrilling 4-3 win over Chunnam last weekend and but they have been inconsistent all season mixing some great wins with some disappointing losses. They have several players out due to injury and suspension, especially up front and really need the forwards that are remaining to step up and show they have what it takes. Both remaining main strikers, Asamoah and Park Sang-Ho both scored last week so they have to keep the streak going to give themselves a decent chance at victory. As for Daegu, they really have battled well in the last couple of weeks since their loss to Gyeongnam dropped them from the eight and this has coincided with the return to fitness of the Brazilian trio. With them they are a different team and add a lot of creativity to the side. After a tough away draw in Ulsan they will be hoping to go one better in their second difficult away game in a row and they have every chance with Pohang already losing five times at home this season to some weak teams. They really need this win as their final game next weekend will be away at Seoul so the next two games are vital. Should be a very good encounter and to be honest it could go either way. I have a feeling there will be no draw here, especially with Daegu knowing how important a result is here and I am going to tip a rare away upset for Daegu and make the race for 8th go right up till Round 30. Pred: 1-2.
FUN FACT: Daegu have only won two away games in the past 12 months.

*Jeonbuk vs. Jeju – the only all top 8 clash on Sunday sees front runners Jeonbuk at home to stuttering Jeju. Both of these teams have been the highest scoring in the league and between them have 107 goals but in recent rounds have not been finding it so easy and the free flowing goals that were flying in earlier have been a lot harder to come by in both teams cases. Jeonbuk had looked invincible with an amazing run of 14 games unbeaten but a loss to Daejeon and a scoreless draw with Busan have made them look human again. With only 2 goals and 1 win in the last three it has seen them usurped from the top of the table and they will need to snap out of it soonish if they are to ensure Seoul don’t put a nice gap out in front. With all the talent in their team though it can only be a matter of time before they click back into gear again and this could be just the game as Jeju have not won in five games and away from home are the worst in the top eight, winless since April. As just stated, it isn’t looking like roses at Jeju and if they are not careful they are a small possibility of being spit out into 9th place which would be a shock after sitting inside the top three for much of the first third of the season. To make matters worst, prolific striker Santos is out injured and midfielder Song Jin-Hyung is by all reports tired from his midweek national team debut game against Zambia. All is not lost though with Jeju’s other Brazilian striker still a threat for a goal but with Jeju so poor on the road and their record in Jeonbuk very bad as well expect Jeonbuk to open the floodgates and give Jeju some real worries as the start to fight to keep that top 8 spot. Pred: 3-1.
FUN FACT: Jeju have NEVER won at Jeonbuk, 8 games and 7 losses.

*Gyeongnam vs. Chunnam – after a two game away swing where Gyeongnam failed to pick up a win they return back to home base for the last three games of the season, this three-game home week will define the season for Gyeongnam. All three games that Gyeongnam have this week are winnable and they will probable need to win two games if they are to make it into the top eight and they start with a visit by last placed Chunnam. After some early season struggles, especially at home Gyeongnam have played like a champion team in Changwon and have only lost once there since May, a rain-sodden affair against Pohang. With hot and sunny weather expected and a full and rested squad it plays to Gyeongnam’s counter-attacking strengths and after not getting the results on the road last week will surely be fired up to make Chunnam’s life difficult in this game. In a normal game, this would look to be a certain Chunnam loss picking up only two points since mid-June (11 rounds) and looking a team very out of sorts. But for Chunnam this is no ordinary game as it is the first game for new coach Ha Seok-Ju who has come in to take over the team and this will be his first job as head coach. He did work as assistant coach at Gyeongnam for 4 seasons up to 2008 but no players remain from that team so that should have no factor in this game. It was time for Chunnam to make the switch with 16 rounds remaining and it gives them a good chance to get off the bottom. All Chunnam players should be playing their hardest to try to impress the new coach which is dangerous for Gyeongnam considering they really need this win to overtake Daegu. One player that wont be playing for Chunnam is Henan who is suspended but the other new signing Flavio looks to have settled in well getting two goals last week. Should be a very attacking game with both teams motivated to do well. With Gyeongnam at home however it should be just enough to carry them home in a game that only two weeks ago looked like it was going to be a walkover for Gyeongnam. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Gyeongnam haven’t won three in a row at home for two years.

*Sangju vs. Seongnam – the last game takes us to the middle of Korea with both teams in the midst of a losing streak. Surprisingly with the vast difference in budgets and talent for both teams Sangju only find themselves 4 points and 2 places behind Seongnam which says a lot of how underwhelming Seongnam have been this season, a team who were tipped as an outside chance at the title this season. Sangju return home after having a tough two game away swing losing both games and dealing with suspensions to key players. At home they have been good winning their last two in a row and with Seongnam losing their way it could be three. For some important Sangju players, this game and Wednesday’s game against Ulsan will be their last games in Sangju as they finish their military service. They will be looking to give the crowd some big performances to show their appreciation to the small but very vocal Sangju support. As for Seongnam, while they still mathematically have a chance of making the top eight, it isn’t going to happen. The past three games have been tough ones and they lost all three with two of them home losses to Ulsan and Seoul. They really needed to get some points in that tough little run if they were to make the top half and the new signings failed in that quest. This is probably the easiest game of the remaining ones but one has to wonder how much motivation they have left when they know that the best Seongnam can do this season is 9th place. They have done well this season away to teams currently in the bottom half only losing at Gyeongnam but maybe the wind has gone out of their sails. I think Sangju will beat Seongnam and give the farming community another reason to drink this weekend. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: The Sangju team have NEVER won three home games in a row at Sangju and haven’t won three in a row since April 2009 in Gwangju.

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