K-League 2012 – Round 31 (Post-Split)

A revitalized Radoncic will be looking to get his name on the scoresheet and notch up a win for Suwon over Pohang late Saturday afternoon

After a break that was much too long we are finally back with the last section of the season. The split has occured and now we have the top half fighting for the championship and the bottom half fighting to ensure they are not relegated. Some big news during the week with Sangju refusing to take part in the rest of the season in protest against their enforced relegation so it looks like all games involving Sangju will be a 2-0 walkover from here on. Lets go take a look at what is in store on what could be a very wet weekend with the approaching typhoon due to hit late Sunday night.

Saturday – 3pm
*Gyeongnam vs. Ulsan – we start off the round in Changwon with a Gyeongnam team that somehow escaped the bottom half on the last day hosting a very solid Ulsan side in what is being billed as a “revenge Match” as Gyeongnam surprisingly knocked Ulsan out of the FA Cup in the semis in Ulsan 3-0, two weeks ago. The last match in Gyeongnam between these two in June also saw Gyeongnam score 3 goals in a thrilling come from behind victory so perhaps lots of goals could be on display. Gyeongnam will be raring to go for this one to show they deserve to be up there with the big boys and there is a slight possibility that Luke Devere could return from his injury for this one. Ulsan on the other hand could be a little weary as 3 of their key players (Lee Guen-Ho, Kim Shin-Wook and Kwak Tae-Hee) all took part in the WC qualifier midweek against Uzbekistan. While they have cover in those positions, recent Gyeongnam form against Ulsan suggests this may not be enough. A tight looking contest that could go either way and both teams will be looking to restart after the break with the maximum three points. Perhaps, with some Ulsan players being tired and with Gyeongnam seemingly have figured out how to beat Ulsan a narrow home win could be on the cards here. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: Ulsan have only lost ONCE AWAY in three months.

*Seongnam vs. Daejeon – we look to the bottom half now and Seongnam will be hoping they can easily dispatch the so-called smaller teams in the post-split section of the season as it would be a shock to most to ifnd them down in the bottom half. The first chance they will get to do this is at home as they face up against a Daejeon side that were playing very well away from home before the split break. In the corresponding fixture in June, Daejeon destroyed what was at that stage a listless Seongnam at home 3-0 and the home team will be trying to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Seongnam have struggled badly at home in recent months and now are winless for eight games at home in all competitions, a run that stretches back to mid-June. For such a traditionally strong team, this is a sobering statistic and they will need to ensure they come out of the gate firing to get some momentum behind them at home. Daejeon need the win badly as well as they are still in a relegation struggle, only three points above last placed Gangwon. A bright spot for the citizen boys this season has been the combination of Kevin Oris and Kim Hyung-Bum that has served them well, especially on their away travels when the opposition opens up a bit. If Seongnam are not careful they could be punished once again by these two as they both scored against Seongnam last time. On paper, this should be a Seongnam win but with key forward Reina out suspended plus the terrible run of form that Seongnam are experiencing at home along with some of the strong play that Daejeon have displayed on their travels it is a fixture that is tough to call. Perhaps another draw is on the cards at Tancheon, as this has happened 3 out of the last 4 times for Seongnam at home. Pred: 1-1.
FUN FACT: The home team has only won ONCE in nine games in the last four years in league play when these two teams meet.

*Chunnam vs. Gwangju – the third “South Jeolla derby” of the season brings us a match-up of the two teams who will be looking to be the pride of the province. In their last game, Gwangju thrashed Chunnam 6-0 at home in what was a shocking result as Gwangju were in the midst of a miserable losing run. Chunnam will surely be looking to avenge that terrible result, but this time under a different coach. Ha Seok-Ju came in midway through last month and got two wins out of three during his brief tenure but his only home game was a loss to Seoul so he will be hoping to get his first win at home as well. They have the attacking talent to do so as Gwangju has been very poor at the back this season so if they can attack well then they should be able to score the goals in front of the home fans. As for Gwangju, they lost all three games coming into the break and now find themselves in 14th position and if they are not careful they will be back in last again. While it is highly doubtful they can win 6-0 again, they must take some confidence into this encounter knowing they destroyed Chunnam last time and earlier this season came away with the draw here as well. The break couldn’t have come at a better time for them and they will be able to refocus on the task in front of them. This could be a highly entertaining game with 10 goals coming in the 2 games so far this season between them but the forecasted rain could put a damper on that. Chunnam are a different team to the one that was flogged in June and I think they will be able to get revenge for that loss and snap a bad home run. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: Chunnam haven’t won at home in the league since May, a run of seven matches. This is currently a CLUB RECORD winless streak at home.

*Suwon vs. Pohang (5pm) – the late Saturday game takes us back inside the top half as two traditional powerhouse teams go head-to-head. Suwon were soundly thrashed to the tune of 5-0 at the Steelyard in their last match-up but at home at the Big Bird they are a different team and they will be looking to give Pohang a taste of their own medicine. Except for a blip in early August, Suwon were impervious at home this season and saw off almost all challengers including Pohang in April 2-0. Suwon will be hoping that they can win by a similar scoreline again and for the first time in a while should be at full-strength and raring to make a late charge at the top. Pohang finished the pre-split rounds very strongly winning four games in a row and also winning their FA Cup semi over Jeju 2 weeks ago to set-up a final in their home stadium against Gyeongnam. Things are really looking up at the Steelyard and with such a strong run they are only three points behind 3rd placed Suwon and a spot in next season Asian Champions League. A win here would possibly put them into the top three for the first time this season, a great turn-around considering they were flirting with the bottom half until July. Pohang will also be fully rested and look like they could present a formidable opposition to the Samsung boys. Pohang are in a good run of form but in recent times have not traveled too well to the big boys grounds losing at all the four teams above them on the table in 2012. This along with Suwon really looking like a different team in front of some of the best supporters in the league should be enough to carry Suwon to the win in a close game. Pred: 2-1.
FUN FACT: The home team has won this game the last five times in a row.

Sunday -3pm
*Busan vs. Seoul – Sunday starts in the rainy south with the battle of the two big cities. Last time these sides met up in Seoul, Busan were soundly thrashed to the tune of 6-0 but during that game they were very shorthanded, especially in defence and now that they have arrived at the Asiad, Seoul should find it very hard to score considering Busan have only given up six goals at home all season. There is a chance however that Seoul could add to that goal tally with one of the best attacks in the league. However, they traditionally do not travel very well to Busan and haven’t managed to win there in any competition since 2006. As was stated before, Busan have made their home ground a defensive fortress but on the other hand, Busan have failed to score at home in 391 minutes, which has led to four 0-0 draws in a row. Who is to say that this cannot happen 5 times in a row. Seoul need to keep winning to keep themselves clear of Jeonbuk at the top of table but with their struggles in Busan I think there is every chance this could be an unlikely 5th 0-0 draw in a row in Busan. In some very ordinary weather, with the way Busan have been playing don’t expect the crowd number to be very big. Pred: 0-0.
FUN FACT: The away team hasn’t won this game since 2005 in all competitions, a run of 20 matches.

*Jeju vs. Jeonbuk – I expect this game to be postponed due to the approaching Typhoon Sanba. Weather conditions for 3pm on Sunday afternnon in Seogwipo is torrential rain and average wind speeds of 50-60km/hr. If they do play, it will be a mess of a game with the ball going everywhere. It could go any way, a lot will depend on luck.

*Incheon vs. Gangwon (5pm) – the relegation group begins with the top placed team Incheon at home to the last placed team Gangwon. Incheon need to put the past behind them, throwing away 8th place on the final day of the pre-split part of the season and focus on what is to come for the rest of the season. They have recovered very well from finding themselves down the bottom as late as June to almost making the top half and at home should have no problem accounting for Gangwon who find themselves in the same position as they ended last season, last place. This season however, there will be consequences for finishing in the bottom spot as Gangwon need to get some wins on the board if they are to stave off relegation. Their task will be made harder this round with the loss of their best Korean player, team top scorer and 2010 MVP Kim Eun-Jung to suspension. Perhaps they were not looking at this one as a three pointer but they need to try to get as many points as they can as they now find themselves three points behind 14th placed Gwangju and need to ensure they are not cut adrift. This could be their toughest game for the rest of the season as Incheon are unbeaten at home since April and with a good team forming there is no reason why Incheon won’t make it their second home win inside of two months over Gangwon. Pred: 2-0.
FUN FACT: Incheon haven’t conceded a goal in four games. If they keep the opposition goalless in this match, that would be five in a row at home, a new CLUB RECORD.

*Daegu vs. Sangju – this game has been cancelled due to Sangju’s withdrawal from the league for the rest of the season. There will be no games involving Sangju in 2012 (and probably forever).

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