Last weekend the K League 1 title race took an interesting turn with Ulsan Hyundai extending their lead to four points over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. This week, the Horangi take on an out-of-form Daegu FC, confident of maintaining their comfortable lead at the top of the league. Jeonbuk, meanwhile, will be determined to bounce back with a win when the Green Warriors head to Pohang on Sunday. Elsewhere, Suwon Bluewings host Incheon United, and FC Seoul in third take on Gangwon FC in fourth. For all that and much more, K League United Editor Paul Neat previews K League 1 Round 25.
Saturday 10th August
#GYEvSFC: Gyeongnam FC (11th) vs Seongnam FC (8th) 19:30
Seongnam FC took a huge step towards safety with another narrow win, the Magpies' third on the spin, thanks to a 1-0 victory in something of a relegation six-pointer with Incheon United. Nam Ki-il's side now have a 14-point cushion over Saturday's opponents Gyeongnam who occupy the relegation playoff place. Gyeongnam, though, conceded in the 94th minute to lose 2-1 away to Sangju Sangmu. Kim Jongboo's men have outscored three teams who currently sit above them in the table, namely Pohang Steelers, Seongnam, and Sangju but have the second-worst defense in the division. The South Coast side have shipped 45 goals, only Jeju have leaked more with 47.
The Reds, despite the acquisition of last year's second top scorer Uroš Đerić, sit just a point above bottom dwellers Incheon United. The 2-1 reverse against Sangju last time out extended their win-less run to a staggering 21 matches having not picked up three points in the league since 30th March. Said win, a 2-1 victory over Daegu FC, is one of just two so far this season, the other coming against Seongnam on the first day of the 2019 campaign thanks to goals from Kim Seungjun and Takahiro Kunimoto. The talented Japanese midfielder made his comeback from injury last time out, replacing Cho Jaecheol in the 60th minute and so could be called upon from the start this Saturday. However, centre back Lee Kwangseon, who took part in the Team K League friendly match with Juventus, is suspended after picking up a third caution of the season against Sangju.
#JEJvSAN: Jeju United (10th) vs Sangju Sangmu (7th) 19:30
With just one defeat in five, Jeju United are beginning to show signs of life as the islanders bid to avoid the drop. Choi Yunkyum has made Jeju harder to beat, the 5-0 demotion to the hands of Ulsan aside, but those clad in orange are struggling to turn draws into wins; three of Jeju's last five have ended in stalemates. Sangju, meanwhile, continue to struggle for consistency having picked up two defeats, two wins and a draw from their last five. However, the army side edged passed Gyeongnam last time out to put them within touching distance of the top six, a place where Sangju haven't been able to reach since the 2016 season under the late Cho Jinho.
On Saturday the two meet at Jeju World Cup Stadium for what will be the fourth meeting in 2019 having already faced off against each other twice in the league and once in the FA Cup. Sangju have come out on top in all three encounters, including a penalty shootout win in the FA Cup in mid-May. A fourth win for Sangju could be enough to leapfrog Kim Taehwan's side above Suwon Bluewings and into the top half of the table, should Incheon hold the Bluewings at Big Bird. However, whilst a Jeju victory wouldn't result in a change in position in the table, it could put further daylight between themselves and the two teams in the relegation places, Gyeongnam and Incheon.
#SSBvINC: Suwon Bluewings (6th) vs Incheon United (12th) 20:00
Looking to bounce back from a disappointing home defeat to Pohang Steelers, Suwon Bluewings take on the league's basement side Incheon United. At the beginning of the season, Lee Limsaeng's men ended their winless run with a 3-1 victory over the Durumi thanks to an Adam Taggart brace in the second half. Incheon, meanwhile, remain marooned at the foot of the the table having picked up just one win from their last 10 outings. United manager Yoo Sangchul bemoaned his side's luck in front of goal following the defeat to Seongnam last weekend. Incheon have the worst attack in the division with just 15 goals scored in 24 matches played, an average of just 0.64 goals per game.
Suwon learned of who they will face in the FA Cup semifinals this week with a two-legged tie with K3 Advanced (fourth tier) side Hwaseong FC between the Bluewings and a place in the final. An FA Cup win is Lee Limsaeng's best route into the AFC Champions League for 2020 but, that said, Suwon will be determined to finish in the top half of the table meaning that a win over the league's bottom side, Incheon United, will be seen as an absolute must. Suwon have scored more than double the amount of goals which Incheon have and came out on top in the two previous meetings this season. The most recent meeting came on 10th July at Sungui Arena where another Taggart double and a Koo Jaryrong strike gave Suwon a 3-2 win. Suwon have lost at home to Incheon on just two occasions in 22 meetings at Big Bird, the most recent was 10 years ago.
Sunday 11th August
#ULSvDAE: Ulsan Hyundai (1st) vs Daegu FC (5th) 19:30
League leaders Ulsan Hyundai will be keen to preserve their four-point cushion at the K League 1 summit when an out-of-sorts Daegu FC side make the short trip to Ulsan Civic Stadium this Sunday. Ulsan's emphatic 5-0 win over Jeju United, coupled with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' 3-3 draw to Gangwon, has but the Horangi firmly in the driving seat for a first league title since 2005. Daegu, meanwhile, fell to a 2-1 defeat to FC Seoul last Friday night, a fourth in their last five. It turned out to be a night to forget for the Sky Blues as Brazilian ace Cesinha missed a penalty with the score at 1-0 and centre back Kim Wooseok saw red a clumsy tackle on Park Chuyoung in the 61st minute which was enough to earn him a second booking meaning that Kim will miss the trip to Ulsan. Ulsan won't have any players missing through suspension but Jeong Dongho, Kim Suahn, Lee Donggyeong, and Junior Negao are all just one caution away from missing the next match.
Sunday's meeting at Ulsan Civic Stadium will be the third this term with the two previous encounters having ended in stalemates, the most recent of which being a 0-0 at the Munsu at the tail-end of May. However, in round three, a Kim Bokyung strike gave Kim Dohoon's side a 65th minute lead only for Cesinha to restore parity 10 minutes from time. The two draws means that the last time either side came out on top was the FA Cup Final last December when Daegu were able to pull off a historic win over two legs to seal a first piece of silverware for the 2002-founded club. A key individual in Daegu's FA Cup triumph over Ulsan was Edgar Bruno who has been out with a dislocated shoulder since mid-June. However, the former Buriram United target man is back in Korea after training with one of his former clubs, Vasco da Gama, in a bid to build up fitness. Edgar could be involved from the bench but defender Hong Jungwoon and Tsubasa are both out.
#SEOvGAN: FC Seoul (3rd) vs Gangwon FC (4th) 20:00
A 2-1 win over Daegu FC, their third of the season, got FC Seoul back to winning ways last Friday night as Choi Yongsoo's men kept their pursuit of AFC Champions League qualification on track. Goals from Park Chuyoung and Park Dongjin were enough to have the capital club two goals to the good before Cesinha halved the deficit midway through the second half. The win, coupled with Gangwon's draw with Jeonbuk, meant that the gap between the two sides widened to five points.
That said, Gangwon fought back from 3-1 down to earn a late, late draw with champions Jeonbuk thanks to a controversial 99th minute VAR influenced penalty. Gangwon find themselves in the dizzy heights of fourth place and with a decent chance of qualifying for the AFC Champions League. However, if Kim Byungsoo's side are to do so then a win at Sangam will be seem as an absolute must. The Chuncheon-based side have just one defeat in five with three wins but away from home Gangwon have just one win in five outings. Their last away win over any side in the top half of the table was the 1-0 victory over Jeonbuk in mid March. Sunday's meeting will be the fourth already this season due to the FA Cup fourth round tie between the two sides. Seoul are unbeaten in the league against Gangwon this term but were dumped out of the cup after a 3-2 loss in Chuncheon in April. Seoul will be without Ko Kwangmin following the left wing-back's straight red card against Daegu.
#POHvJHM: Pohang Steelers (9th) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (2nd) 20:00
Despite leading by three goals to one heading into stoppage time, Jeonbuk had to settle for a point away to Gangwon last time out, drawing 3-3 thanks to a Lee Youngjae penalty deep into stoppage time. The drew has left Jose Morais' side four points behind Ulsan who top the table but the Green Warriors can at least take solace in knowing that new signing Samuel Rosa bagged two goals on his full debut, scoring Jeonbuk's second and third in the aforementioned 3-3 draw with Gangwon. Pohang, meanwhile, picked up a valuable away win over Suwon Bluewings last weekend, running out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Wanderson and and youngster Lee Soobin,
The Steelers sit in ninth after an inconsistent run of form but know that a win over Jeonbuk could move them to within touching distance of the top half with just three points separating sixth and ninth. Jeonbuk have four points from six against Pohang this term but lost 5-2 to the Steelers almost exactly a year ago. However, Lee Seokhyun, who bagged a hat-trick for Pohang that evening, has since left the club on loan to Paju Citizen in K3 Advanced to complete his military service. Jeonbuk, meanwhile, will be without the services of Son Junho and Hong Jeongho after the pair picked up their third yellow card of the campaign in the 3-3 draw with Gangwon last time out.