K-League 2012 -Round 30 (Super Sunday Split) Preview

Hattrick hero for Ulsan, Kim Shin Wook just got Ulsan up at Sangju and he will need to be at his best once again to help the Ulsan boys snap a recent poor run of form if they are to beat front-runners and fellow Hyundai-sponsored team Jeonbuk this Sunday evening.

The last round of a hectic August and this will be the last time most teams (excepting the FA Cup semi-finalists) have any game action until September 15th, giving them a well deserved three week break. While perhaps not overly important at the top or the bottom, this round will be probably the most important of the season for all four teams in the middle chasing that 8th spot. It is extremely close and the introduction of the split system has made the league a lot more exciting for middle-ranked teams with something to aim for other than a boring mid-table finish. The last preview for a while so lets go and check it out………

SUNDAY – 7pm (all matches)

*Ulsan vs. Jeonbuk – we start off the round in Ulsan and what is looking at the table the match of the round as the two Hyundai-sponsored teams face up in a top four clash. Both teams have been doing relatively well this season but have hit a bit of a speed bump in recent weeks and need to get a win going into the international break. Ulsan looked to be cruising to an easy win at Sangju on Wednesday night going 4-1 up midway through the second half, largely thanks to a Kim Shin-Wook hattrick, the second of his career. However, Sangju got 2 goals late on to give Ulsan the frights but they held on to a thrilling 4-3 victory. It was much needed as they have slipped behind Suwon due to a rather poor run of only one point in two games at home. Jeonbuk are a much tougher side than either of those two teams but they are also having their troubles, also having a very poor identical home run of only one points in two games. Both of these teams lost to a resurgent Incheon in the past week which was a big surprise. So much firepower for this game, with three Korean national team forwards, plus 5 high quality foreigners in the attack, it should be a very entertaining contest. Both teams are much better than how they have played in recent rounds so it is basically a matter of which team can break out of their funk. Joenbuk have traveled very well, unbeaten on the road since April but it is hard to see them winning here, as they haven’t won in three. Very tight and maybe all the Hyundai employees will go home slightly disappointed as a draw could be the result here. Pred: 2-2.
FUN FACT: Jeonbuk have won the last three between them by the same score, 2-1.

*Seongnam vs. Suwon – to a lot of people this game will be of much interest, a replay of the 2011 FA Cup final that saw Seongnam defeat Suwon at Tancheon. Seongnam scored two late goals on Thursday night to keep alive their slight hopes of making the top eight. If all three teams in front of them lose and they win by three goals, they could find themselves in an unlikely 8th place. There is a lot of rivalry between these two and even though Seongnam have had a very poor season compared to their pre-season expectations, you can be sure they will raise their game for the “Gyeonggi derby”. Seongnam had all three foreign forwards score in the last week and with Yoon Bitgaram finally starting to show some of the form that he is known to have, their attacking prowess is starting to gel. Where they have really struggled though is at home, so strong on the road but when they return to home base it seems to be kryptonite. They haven’t won there in six games but if there is any game where they are likely to snap this jinx, this would be it. Suwon as well needed to score a very late injury time goal at home in a game they were expecting to win quite easily, drawing 2-2. While the goals are starting to flow for them, thanks to the return from injury of Radoncic, it is at the back where Suwon are having problems. Suwon haven’t kept a clean sheet at home in ten games and if they don’t tighten it down they will continue to find themselves in trouble. They have struggled in the past at Seongnam, winless there for six years and they will need to be really pressing them if they are to continue Seongnam’s miserable home record this season. I don’t know why but I have a feeling Seongnam, now that they are chasing are playing a lot better and this game is do or die for their season, just as it has been all week. While it might be too little, too late, they can get three wins in the final week and send Suwon home with a loss. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Seongnam HAVEN’T lost three league games in a row at HOME in almost two years.

*Incheon vs. Jeju – Incheon are on the back of an incredible five game winning run, and in the last week have claimed some big scalps winning away at both Ulsan and Jeonju. This has taken them up into 8th spot, unbelievable considering they were second-last on the table only ten rounds ago. They return back to Sungui, where they haven’t lost since April and are hosting a fading Jeju. Surely at the last hurdle they won’t choke now? Incheon haven’t had anyone especially sticking out as someone who has lifted the team but it seems the team as a whole has responded well to the coaching of Kim Bong-Gil, who was brought in when Incheon had appeared to have lost the plot, replacing Huh Jung-Moo whose boring football was alienating everyone at the club. Whatever changes he made, they seemed to have worked and if Incheon win this one, who knows where they could end up finishing at the end of the season. They just have to make sure they don’t let the pressure get to them as this game is probably their most important of the season. It has been the completely opposite story for Jeju who started very strong but have hit a brick wall, leading after a few weeks into the season, they have slowly slid down the ladder and are now winless in seven. The problem for the islanders seems to be defence. With only one clean sheet kept since May, they are letting in too many goals and have one of the worst defences in the league and easily the worst for a top eight side. To make matters worse, important defender Madaschi is suspended for this one so a lot of concentration will be needed to keep up with an Incheon team who keep getting stronger and stronger. All signs are pointing to an easy Incheon victory and with the form they have displayed in recent times they should be able to get the win, snap a bad home record over Jeju and grab that final spot in the top half. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Incheon have incredibly NEVER beaten Jeju at HOME in 8 attempts.

*Gyeongnam vs. Gwangju – a game with a very important bearing for that 8th spot with Gyeongnam waiting in the wings in case both Incheon and Daegu lose. Gyeongnam played a very attacking formation on Wednesday night going in with four forwards trying to break down a stubborn Busan defense and it worked as they took a much needed 2-0 win. It wasn’t all good news though with key defender Luke Devere injured and captain Kang Seung-Jo red-carded after a fight midway through the second half. Gyeongnam will be without these two important players for the game against Gwangju which will hurt them a lot. They will have nothing to lose though so expect them to play a very attacking formation again as they look to take apart one of the loosest defenses in the league. Gwangju find themselves scraping near the bottom again after losing two games this week so far and will be hoping they don’t make it three league loses in eight days. They couldn’t break down the Pohang defence midweek and in their second away game in five days, will be looking to do much better. They are not playing for a top eight spot, just to get themselves clear from the bottom so will be hoping they can spoil the party for Gyeongnam. Expect Gyeongnam to throw the everything at Gwangju in their bid for that 8th spot and with Gyeongnam having a perfect record against them, I think their counter-attacking game should work well and they will get themselves the victory. Might not be enough though. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: Gyeongnam have a perfect record against Gwangju, played 3 and won 3 and have never even conceeded a goal in those games. Aggregate is 4-0.

*Seoul vs. Daegu – the final game in the preview that has implications for that eighth spot, Daegu will be trying their hardest in their bid to get a big upset in Seoul. Seoul wont be cruising into this game either losing their last home game against Suwon and won’t want to make it two losses in a row at Sangam. With Jeonbuk slipping up at home two times in the last week and having a tough road trip at Ulsan, Seoul will also looking at this game as a chance to extend their lead at the top. Dejan was the destroyer in Chunnam midweek picking up another double, his third double in a month and he has shot ahead at the top of the goal-scoring charts and looks like he is a sure thing to grab the “golden boot” at the end of the season if he keeps it up. With the help of the two South Americans sitting in the midfield, Molina and Escudero feeding him the ball there could be more goals for Dejan here. As stated above, Daegu sitting in 9th place are looking to grab that final spot on the last day before the split but left it very hard for themselves. A trip to Seoul is not an easy game for any team in the league and they are up against the odds. In the last couple of seasons, Daegu have been a bit of a bogey team for Seoul and they even won there last season. However, on the road in 2012 they have been poor winning just twice and Seoul don’t make it a habit of losing two in a row in front of their home fans. I am sure Daegu will be going for it but with Seoul losing only for the first time at home in regular league play in 15 months last time here, I can’t see it happening twice in a row. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: The last time Seoul lost twice in a row in a regular season game was in 2003, almost nine years ago in their debut season, the only time it has ever happened.

*Busan vs. Sangju – for the neutral not the most inspiring of clashes with the defensive wall of Busan at home to the military Sangju boys with not much on the line for either of them here. It must be rather boring at the moment being a home fan watching games in Busan as the last three matches at the Asiad have all finished with the exact same score 0-0. While the defense is doing some great work (unbelievably only letting in six goals at home all season), if the attack can’t convert their chances into goals it makes for quite boring football. No doubt this formula has worked for Busan however as they find themselves comfortably in the top half and now that the team is back to virtual full-strength after being weakened for so long, surely the goals should start to dribble in again. They had a setback midweek losing to a fired-up Gyeongnam but this should be a lot easier, with a lot of the Sangju team playing their last game for the club and will have their minds looking ahead to rejoining their normal teams now that they have almost completed their military service. Perhaps that is the reason why Sangju have gone off the rails recently, losing four on the trot but almost came back to shock Ulsan on Wednesday losing 3-4 with two late goals from Kim Jae-Sung giving the home crowd a thrilling game. Sangju will be a lot weaker after the split with many key players leaving in early September so this could be the last chance for them to get a decent result. However, with Busan so strong at home and the motivation factor for Sangju, perhaps non-existent I think Busan will finally break their home goal scoring drought in a low scoring contest. Pred: 1-0.
FUN FACT: Sangju have only beaten Busan ONCE in 16 meetings stretching back seven years.

*Daejeon vs. Pohang – those two are teams on the up with some decent results coming into this meeting and on paper looks to be a close one. Daejeon seem to have found their spark again and almost caused a huge upset in Suwon just giving up the win in the last moments of extra time to draw 2-2. On the back of two other nice away results at Jeonju and Gwangju this has enabled them to lift themselves off the bottom. They are still nowhere near comfortable though as they find themselves only three points ahead of last placed Gangwon and another loss or two and they could be right back where they were. While their recent form has been good, it has been all away from Daejeon, at home they have strangely struggled in 2012 with the last eight games winless in a rather bizarre draw-loss sequence. They just are not scoring enough goals at home so as long as teams play it tight at Daejeon, it seems the midfield have trouble breaking the opposition down as the visiting teams will play a lot tighter naturally away from home then in front of their home fans. Pohang meanwhile have perhaps found the consistency that has deserted them all season, now winning three in a row and for the first time this season find themselves as high as fifth place. A couple of more wins and they could be challenging the top three which is where they would have seen themselves in pre-season. It seems the forwards have finally found a system that is working well and the backs are giving them the support they need which is a winning formula. Pohang like coming to Daejeon and haven’t lost there since 2007 and also haven’t given up a goal against them in three years so with Daejeon having one of the worst home records in the league there is every possibility this could be Pohang’s fourth win in a row. Pred: 0-2.
FUN FACT: If Daejeon fail to win this match, it would be NINE in a row without a HOME victory…a new CLUB RECORD

*Gangwon vs. Chunnam – the last preview of the round takes us up north for a battle of the wooden spoon. Both teams find themselves occupying the bottom two spots and a win would do wonders for both teams as the bottom is so tight, it is these games that are so important to teams at the bottom as while you get the win you also pull away from your rivals. Gangwon had looked to have got it together in July but a bad run of four losses from five matches has seen them fall back to the bottom. It has been heartbreak at home in August giving up a win and a draw in extra time to the opposition and these points were much needed in that fight. Another team that seem to play much better away than at home, they have only managed two draws in 11 games since April and the home fans must be getting desperate for that next victory. They have a great chance here as Chunnam are only one point in front of them on the ladder and they could be fighting each other for the rest of the season. Chunnam have a new coach but it seems the honeymoon is already over as while in his debut they managed to squeeze a narrow win in Changwon, back at home, normal service was resumed being taken apart 3-0 by a dominant Seoul. It is hard to say what effect that will have on the team, but the two imports Henan and Flavio will really need to step-up for Chunnam as these are the encounters they were bought for, to get the goals against their fellow strugglers. They don’t travel well winning only three away in the past 12 months and it is hard to believe they can make it back-to-back away victories. So a team that is struggling at home against a team that traditionally struggles on the road. I have tipped Gangwon to win at home the last three times they have played there and they haven’t but this surely has to be their big chance. This could be the game where Gangwon finally break their home drought and send the fans home happy. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: The away team has NEVER won this matchup.

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