The K League 1 heads into a second round of fixtures this weekend with Gangwon FC first on display looking to make it two wins in two at Sangju Sangmu. Teams across the country will host the first home game of their campaign as Daegu FC entertain opening day victors Pohang Steelers, while champions Jeonbuk Hyundai complete Saturday's matches with a trip to newly-promoted Busan I'Park. Sunday boasts another triple-header with current league leaders Ulsan Hyundai heading to Suwon Samsung Bluewings, before FC Seoul and Seongnam FC host Gwangju FC and Incheon United respectively on Sunday evening.
Saturday, 16th May
#SANvGAN: Sangju Sangmu vs Gangwon FC (14:00)
Sangju will have many eyes cast upon them this weekend after their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Ulsan last time out. As a host of new faces made their debuts, national team regular Kwon Kyung-won had a day to forget alongside former Jeonbuk teammate Moon Seon-min. Following confirmation that the military side will be relegated from K League 1 irrespective of their final standing, manager Kim Tae-wan must work hard to ensure a talented side on paper remain focused. Dismantled at the Munsu stadium, Kim will be eagerly awaiting the return of youngsters Oh Se-hun and Jeon Se-jin to adhere to U-22 squad rulings, as their absence last Saturday meant they could only make two substitutions.
Eventually seeing off Seoul in arguably the game of the weekend, "Byung-soo Ball" shows no sign of abating. Completing 2.7 times more passes than their disillusioned opposition, Gangwon ground Seoul down with a spectacularly intuitive flick from Cho Jae-wan earning the plaudits late on. Fancied to be this season's dark horse, Gangwon will be without winter signing Ko Mu-yeol this weekend through injury, but do boast Kim Seung-dae up front who has already matched his tally at Jeonbuk last season thanks to his debut goal.
#DAEvPOH: Daegu FC vs Pohang Steelers (16:30)
Under the new leadership of Lee Byung-keun, Daegu earned a useful point in a stalemate at Incheon. Dejan Damjanovic made his debut from the bench while fellow new signing Hwang Tae-hyeon was replaced at the interval by highly-fancied prospect Jung Seung-won. Lee's side have a clean bill of health as they look to secure another top-six finish. Another pleasant sight for Daegu fans will have been the return of Tsubasa Nishi from a long spell on the sidelines, coming off the bench to make his first appearance since May 2019.
Pohang recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory over Busan thanks to two foreign players settling into their second K League seasons. Stanislav Iljutcenko and Aleksandar Palocevic scored the goals as Pohang followed suit by pumping pre-recorded crowd noise into the stadium as the match progressed. Kim Gi-dong also has a full squad to select from for the short journey to the DGB Arena, knowing that a return to Champions League football is a real possibility this term. 20-year-old Song Min-kyu was one of few U-22 talents to make a big impression on opening weekend, involved for 83 minutes on the wing.
#BUSvJEO: Busan IPark vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (19:00)
Busan fans may be disappointed that their return to the top division after a four-year absence is behind closed doors but welcoming Jeonbuk ensures it will still be a fixture to remember. Coming off the back of a defeat at Pohang last time out, Cho Duk-jae's men are up against it if they are to avoid propping up the K League 1 table at full time. They will be without influential striker Lee Jeong-hyeop through injury and will hope that talisman Romulo settles into the top tier quickly after struggling to get involved at the Steelyard.
Jeonbuk kicked off the 2020 K League season last Friday night with a victory thanks to Lee Dong-gook's late header from Son Jun-ho's corner. While Kim Bo-kyung and Cho Kyu-sung didn't enjoy the most influential of debuts, Jose Morais' side continued their strangehold over Suwon Bluewings. The Portuguese boss is expected to persist with Cho up front as an U-22 player, especially considering the continued absence of newcomer Lars Veldwijk, who will have to wait for his K League bow thanks to a knee injury. Lee Dong-gook also scored in Jeonbuk's last league visit to Busan in 2015, equalising before Leonardo won it late on.
Sunday, 17th May
#SSBvULS: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Ulsan Hyundai (16:30)
Millions tuned in around the world last Friday night to watch competitive football return to South Korea as Suwon traveled to face Jeonbuk. Lee Lim-saeng's visitors succumbed to late pressure in a 1-0 defeat, failing to supply last season's top scorer Adam Taggart. Boss Lee will be without midfielder Terry Antonis who saw red for his rash challenge on Jeonbuk's Son Jun-ho to earn himself a two-match ban. The Australian will join Min Sang-gi and Koo Dae-young on the sidelines, who sit out through injury. Despite a fairly attacking formation, Suwon mustered just one shot on target last time out and will need to work out in training how to feed an isolated Taggart.
Ulsan won on both of their visits to the Big Bird Stadium last season by an aggregate scoreline of 5-1. Kim Do-hoon's men will arrive brimming with confidence following their opening day demolition of Sangju as Junior Negrao laid down an early marker for the golden boot with a brace. Another man with a goal to his name already is Lee Sang-heon. The midfielder is a minor doubt this weekend having to leave the pitch early. Ulsan could retain top spot with a win, knowing that their next two fixtures are against both newly promoted sides Busan and Gwangju.
#SEOvGWA: FC Seoul vs Gwangju FC (19:00)
Starting their 2020 campaign with two Asian Champions League victories, there will have been an air of confidence in the Seoul dressing room last weekend. However, boss Choi Yong-soo left disappointed as his side failed to cope with Gangwon's possession-based style and succumbed to defeat despite converted striker Park Dong-jin's opener. Park's dipping strike on 36 minutes was undoubtedly the highlight of a fruitless trip as Seoul showed weakness at the back. Defensive issues will not be helped this time out as centre-back Kim Nam-chun must pass a late fitness test while Kim Won-gun remains sidelined.
Gwangju lacked creativity as they fell to a 2-0 home defeat to Seongnam last Saturday, conceding two early goals and never really threatening to make a comeback in the second half. Influential wingers Willyan and Eom Won-sang were both absent with Choi Jun-hyeok's presence missed in midfield. Marcos Urena made his highly-anticipated debut alongside Felipe in a 4-4-2 formation that saw a change from Park Jin-seop's preferred 4-3-2-1 set-up that worked so well on the road to the K League 2 title last season. Park Jun-hui also debuted at right back with his manager surely hoping to be able to field a more settled back-line than he was able to in 2019.
#SFCvINC: Seongnam FC vs Incheon United (19:00)Yang Dong-hyeon forced his way into the K League 1 team of the round scoring twice within the first 11 minutes at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium last weekend. A thorn in the Yellows side all evening, Yang linked well with fellow debutants Yu In-soo and Jamshid Iskanderov, nodding home Yu's cross for the opener after just four minutes. Tipped by many to struggle this term, Kim Nam-il's side set out to prove the doubters wrong, looking composed at the back with winter signing Kim Young-kwang facing just two shots on target. The Magpies will continue to be without experienced defender Igor Jovanovic in their bid to claim consecutive clean sheets, while captain Seo Bo-min and Ahn Young-gyu remain absent.
Another team favourites to finish the season at the wrong end of the table, Incheon's 0-0 draw with Daegu showed that they will be no pushovers. Lim Wan-seop's first game in charge at the Munhak saw Rashid Mahazi deployed as a man-marker on the talented Cesinha in midfield. Lim's game plan worked to perfection as Mahazi stifled the Brazilian's creativity and they earned a credible point. Incheon fan favourite Stefan Mugosa had to settle for a place on the bench with Nigerian striker Olanrewaju Kehinde chosen ahead of him. Mugosa will have fond memories of playing at Tancheon, having bagged the sole goal in a 1-0 win there as recently as last October. However, two players who featured that day are injury doubts for this trip in Lee Jae-sung and Gordan Bunoza.
You can read Tim Barnes' preview here
K League United columnist