This weekend in the K League 1 sees the top four all clash with one another once more with FC Seoul taking on Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors this Saturday, only to be followed by Ulsan Hyundai and Gangwon FC. There is also action at the foot of the table as Gyeongnam FC host Jeju United with both sides looking to distance themselves from the relegation zones. These matches previewed and more, in K League United's guide to Round 22.
Saturday 20th July
#SEOvJHM: FC Seoul (3rd) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) - 19:00
Round 22 opens with quite the encounter in the capital, with FC Seoul playing host to rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as the home side look to keep themselves in the title race. FC Seoul currently sit in third and are three points behind their opponents, but have been in somewhat stuttering form of late. While their 2-0 win away to struggling Incheon United seems to have righted the ship for now, they had not won in their previous three and had been unable to maintain a clean sheet in the previous seven. Seoul have also lamented the recent loss of striker and top scorer Aleksandar Pešić to a lengthy injury but they have still been finding the net, scoring in each of their last eight outings.
Jeonbuk also felt the loss of their top goalscorer Kim Shin-wook last weekend, as they failed to make ground in the title race after a somewhat wasteful showing in front of their opposition's net. Jeonbuk eventually drew 1-1 with 2nd placed Ulsan Hyundai after initially taking the lead through a Lee Dong-gook penalty. Wednesday saw the club bolster their ranks by announcing the signing of Pohang Steelers striker Kim Seung-dae, however, with the hope that their new acquisition can hit the ground running with a meaningful debut at Sangam on Saturday evening. Jeonbuk manager José Morais will be without defensive midfielder Shin Hyung-min for this match, with Son Jun-ho likely to deputise in the role.
#GYEvJEJ: Gyeongnam FC (11th) vs Jeju United (10th) - 19:00
Struggling Gyeongnam FC have been active in the transfer window this week, signing one of the league's highest goalscorers from last season Uroš Đerić. The now ex-Gangwon forward bagged a whopping 24 league goals in the previous campaign but has only managed four in 2019. With Gyeongnam lacking a reliable goalscorer this year, they will be hoping their new man can open his account on Saturday.
Gyeongnam face a Jeju United side who come into this match on the back of two solid performances, picking up four points in the process. Yun Il-lok proved instrumental in both matches, scoring four including a hattrick against his former employers FC Seoul. The Islanders will be hoping Yun can maintain his rich vein of form for this weekend's encounter. With both Jeonbuk and Ulsan on the immediate horizon for Jeju, three points against fellow relegation-battlers is vital if they are to continue clawing themselves away from the mess they find themselves in.
#POHvINC: Pohang Steelers (7th) vs Incheon United (12th) - 19:00
Pohang Steelers come into this match with a four-game unbeaten streak. However, only one of these four games produced three points and they failed to score more than a single goal in each outing. To worsen matters, the Steelers said farewell to arguably their most influential player Kim Seung-dae midweek and will have not had ample time to replace him by this fixture. One striker who could step up though is the recently signed Stanislav Iljutcenko who has played three games since recently joining the club, scoring in each of the last two. Pohang will also be without attacker Ha Chang-rae through suspension.
Fortunately for the home side, they welcome an out-of-sorts Incheon United who have picked up just two points in their last seven matches. It's been another tough slog for Incheon fans this season with their side rarely offering any cause for celebration. Defeat to Seoul at the weekend undermined two spirited, yet fruitless displays against Ulsan and Suwon in the rounds prior, however, showing that the fight in the side is still there. Striker Stefan Mugośa remains the side's brightest hope of scoring, yet the Montenegrin international has been somewhat starved of service this year with the pre-season departures of Aguilar and Moon Seon-min, not to mention the recent sale of Nam Joon-jae to Jeju. With Pohang also struggling to score of late though, the away side may fancy their chances of leaving the Steel Yard with a point on Saturday.
Sunday 21st July
#SSBvSFC: Suwon Samsung Bluewings (6th) vs Seongnam FC (9th) - 19:00
An in-form Suwon Samsung Bluewings welcome local rivals Seongnam FC to the Big Bird on Sunday evening. Suwon come into this match on a five league game unbeaten run, defeating Sangju Sangmu last weekend to shore up their position in the top half. They have Australian striker Adam Taggart to partially thank for their newfound consistency. Taggart has scored seven goals in the last seven matches across all competitions and leads the division's golden boot race. Manager Lee Lim-saeng will be without defender Koo Dae-young for this match, however, after the player accumulated his third yellow card in the previous round.
Seongnam FC will arrive in Suwon with contrasting form to their opponents. The Magpies have lost their last three matches, scoring one goal in the process. The scorer of that goal, Éder, remains the player to watch for Seongnam and will once again prove their likeliest scoring outlet, having bagged five of Seongnam's 17 goals this season, the second-lowest in the league behind Incheon. The visitors will be without midfielder Ahn Young-kyu for this match due to suspension.
#ULSvGAN: Ulsan Hyundai (2nd) vs Gangwon FC (4th) - 19:00
While Ulsan Hyundai continue to sit in second, they do have a game in hand next week against Sangju Sangmu that could tip them into first place, providing they do not lose focus this weekend. Ulsan drew with league leaders Jeonbuk in their last encounter, coming from a goal down to draw 1-1 and how they approach this match may well depend on how Jeonbuk fare the day prior against FC Seoul. Ulsan were bolstered midweek by the reports of Manchester City midfielder Mix Diskerud opting to extend his loan spell at the club. The midfielder has been instrumental to Ulsan's maintained longevity towards the top of the table, putting in some key performances that have earned him and three of his teammates a call up to the Team K League side set to face Juventus next week. Ulsan will be without two of their key full-backs, however, with Kim Tae-hwan and Park Joo-ho due to sit out through suspension.
Gangwon FC have been one of the league's more entertaining sides this year, with unpredictable, high-scoring performances that have captured the crowds' imaginations in Chuncheon. However, their away form has been less enthralling in recent weeks, picking up one win and three draws in last four league matches on the road. The three draws also saw them concede their lead on each occasion. To make matters more difficult for Gangwon, they will be without forward Kim Ji-hyun. The 22-year-old has been one of Gangwon's stars this season, leading the club's scoring charts and also scoring three in his last two outings. Instead, the scoring mantle may well fall to veteran Jung Jo-gook who has been starting on recent and finding himself once more on scoresheets. Can he find a way through the league's toughest defence on Sunday evening?
#SANvDAE: Sangju Sangmu (8th) vs Daegu FC (5th) - 19:00
Sangju Sangmu play host to Daegu FC to wrap up Round 22. The military side have not won in their last four outings, losing three and drawing once. In Round 21, they fell 2-0 to Suwon Bluewings, just days after losing 4-0 to Gangwon. Sangju started the season well, but results such as these have seen them slide further into the bottom half. Though it has been just over a month since his last goal, Park Yong-ji remains the club's major striking threat, leading the club's charts with seven this season. The striker, on loan from Incheon United, is currently enjoying the best season of his career but, having not tasted success in front of goal for a while, will be itching to break through one of the league's strongest defences to get his campaign back on track.
Daegu FC bounced back from a heavy defeat to Jeonbuk with a 1-0 victory away to Seongnam FC in Round 21, the only goal coming from midfield maestro Cesinha. The win was also Daegu's first victory in six league games, a run that has seem them relent their grip on fourth place and fall behind the resurgent Gangwon in the standings. Coming into this match, news reports have been surrounding the future of goalkeeper Jo Hyun-woo who has been linked with a move to the Bundesliga. Whether this transpires by Sunday remains to be seen, however, another key player for neutrals to keep an eye on is Kim Dae-won. The young forward returns from a two-match suspension and has demonstrated his potential on a number of occasions this season, scoring four across all competitions. One player Daegu manager André will be without is defender Park Byeong-hyun, who sits out through suspension.
K League United's Associate Editor