Round 34 K-League Classic Power Rankings
Nothing changes at the top of our list. The men in green are simply too strong. We might have a slight hope of title race with FC Seoul just 3 pts behind them now, but it´s difficult to see Jeonbuk losing the title. Lee Jae-sung, Kim Bo-kyung, Leonardo and Lopes have all improved as the season goes while Kim Shin-wook forced his way into the Starting XI ahead of the aging duo of Lee Dong-gook and Edu. Performances against SIPG in the return leg of AFC CL quarterfinal as well as first leg of the semi vs FC Seoul shown they are way ahead of everyone else in Asia - at least in the Eastern part of it!
LAST MONTH: 1
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 3
Latest result: Drew 1-1 at Sangju Sangmu
Next K-League match: Saturday vs Jeju United
The slanders have been in great form since our last rating. They did exactly what we said they needed to do in order to stay on course for AFC CL next season. They are unbeaten in 7 and that mainly comes down to the fact they conceded just 4 goals! Compare that to 5 they allowed in an away game at Suwon FC and you can see where the trick is. They're not playing such open games anymore, but remain dangerous when given space to break into. The first half in a 5-1 win against Sangju was a perfect example of what they're capable of. They made sure of a top 6 finish in that game. Another away win at Jeonnam on the final day of the regular season means they are 3rd with 5 games left!
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 8
Latest result: Won 2-0 at Jeonnam Dragons
Next K-League match: Saturday at Jeonbuk Hyundai
The capital club's title chance came to life a couple of days before the final round of the regular season with a 9 point deduction for Jeonbuk. The league leaders only got a draw against Sangju and FC Seoul took their chance to close the gap to 3 points with a stoppage time winner away to Gwangju! In general, they have been in good form, but a surprising defeat to Incheon, a 2-2 draw against Ulsan and an inability to hold off Jeonbuk´s attacking talent left them trailing 14 pts behind the Champions and very close to being knocked out of AFC CL too. They would need a miracle to overcome a 3-goal deficit from the first leg at Jeonju, but they might have another chance to take their revenge v Jeonbuk on the final day of the season! Who knows how the table would look like at that point? They might just be able to win the title that seemed to be staying at Jeonju couple of weeks ago!
LAST MONTH: 3
HIGH: 1 | LOW: 5
Latest result: Won 2-1 at Gwangju FC
Next K-League match: Saturday vs Ulsan
The Dragons lost a bit of momentum in the last two games, but their 2-0 loss to Jeju was their first defeat since mid-August! Even this result didn't change the fact they will play in the "Title" group in the remaining 5 games and although making AFC CL is unlikely, this is an incredible achievement
for the team that was bottom of the league going into the summer and looking Challenge-bound. No other team got as many goals in the last 5-10 minutes of their games and you just always feel like the Dragons can get a late winner or salvage a point! Their late fightback against the Champions at Jeonju was a textbook example of their never-give-up attitude. If the team stays together and the duo returning from Sangju recently can gel with the team during off-season, it´s difficult to see them struggling in 2017!
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 12
Latest result: Lost vs Jeju United 2-0
Next K-League match: Sunday at Sangju Sangmu
A 3-2 loss to Incheon in the last match was their 1st since mid-August. We certainly won´t let that defeat overshadow their fine form. Ulsan improved at home (a place where they usually struggle), while also coming away undefeated from Seoul and Jeju - not easy places to travel to! They've dropped to 4th now, but remain well in the fight for the AFC CL and are still in the KFA Cup where they will take on Suwon BW. Maintaining their recent home form would be a key to success while they also need to find a balance between the competitions. The return of Lee Yong and Kim Sung-hwan from Sangju adds further quality to this team and they are definitely capable of securing their place in AFC CL next season either through the league or KFA Cup.
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 9
Latest result: Lost 3-2 vs Incheon United
Next K-League match: Saturday at FC Seoul
They might still be bottom of the league and it would be quite a surprise if they survive, but the smaller of the Suwon clubs hasn't given up at all. Apart from losing at Seongnam and to Seoul at home due to last minute goals, they are very tough to beat and able to outscore the opposition in a shootout as well as grind out ugly results. It looked like they were definitely going down at one point, but improved form keeps them in touch with Incheon while a 5-4 derby win at Big Bird dragged their local rivals right into the relegation battle too. Avoiding automatic relegation is definitely their target and not facing the likes of Seoul or Jeonbuk gives them a much bigger chance of achieving that.
HIGH: 4 | LOW: 10
Latest result: Won 5-4 at Suwon Bluewings
Next K-League match: Sunday vs Gwangju FC
A 4-game losing streak eventually saw Kim Do-hoon resign and the new caretaker manager, Lee Ki-hyung, has certainly turned things around! A 1-0 win over Seoul in his first game was a big surprise and Incheon are unbeaten in 5 since he took over. Coming back from 2-0 down to Suwon BW was a massive result as it stopped them from pulling away from the bottom two and the relegation battle is very much a 3-horse race now. As we suggested in our previous ranking, switching to 4-5-1 might be a good way to improve and that's exactly what Lee Ki-hyung has done. Bringing back players that were overlooked by Kim also lifted the team spirit and although their brand of football remains the same, Lee deserves credit for much improved form of this struggling side.
HIGH: 7 | LOW: 12
Latest result: Won 3-2 at Ulsan
Next K-League match: Sunday at Seongnam FC
Jung Jo-Gook´s injury was a massive blow for Gwangju´s top 6 chances. They really struggled without the league´s top scorer and although the chance was there until the last minute in their game against Seoul, it looked like the team wouldn't have enough goals in them to move ahead of other teams fighting for the top half of the table. Jung´s goal tally accounts for almost half of their goals so it's easy to see why he's the main man, but it's worrying to see no one was able to step up a little and deliver when the team needed it. With Jung´s return, they should score more goals and stay away from trouble, but failure to make top 6 surely left some disappointment in the squad as they were so close to it.
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 12
Latest result: Lost 2-1 vs FC Seoul
Next K-League match: Saturday at Suwon FC
A disaster of a season for the POSCO club resulted in the resignation of Choi Jin-cheol and it's up to Choi Soon-ho to keep them away from the relegation zone. They looked to be sucked into it following home defeat to Incheon, but two consecutive wins pulled them away and if they won't go into some losing run again, they should confirm the survival soon and start thinking about 2017. This was always going to be tough season, but Choi Jin-cheol took it a bit too far before leaving the club. The new manager started his second spell at the club with 4-1 away win and will be hoping for more of these results for his side in the remainder of the season.
HIGH: 3 | LOW: 12
Latest result: Won 4-1 at Seongnam FC
Next K-League match: Saturday vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings
No, it's not happening. The 2015 vice champions just couldn't get a good run of results and kept throwing away the lead in the final minutes. We've talked about their defensive struggles before and 52 goals conceded is enough to tell you nothing has changed. They haven't kept a clean sheet since early August and although they only lost two games, winning only once in this period is what prevents them from climbing higher up the table. To make matters worse, a 5-4 defeat in the Suwon Derby in the last match dragged them right into the relegation battle as they are just 4 points ahead of their local rivals. They are still in the KFA Cup, so can potentially make AFC CL next season despite a poor year in the league, but not dropping any lower in the league should be the real target for them.
HIGH: 5 | LOW: 11
Latest result: Lost 5-4 vs Suwon FC
Next K-League match: Saturday at Pohang Steelers
Yes, they did make history by making top 6 and will play in the Classic next season, but that's mainly due to the points accumulated before the September exodus. Losing 16 players ahead of a crucial part of the season would be devastating for any team, and even a magician of Cho Jin-ho's caliber has struggled to cope with it so far. The army team picked up just 3 points in their previous 7 games and none of them came from a win! The fact they made top 6 is also thanks to Seongnam and Gwangju's struggles rather than Sangju's recent performances. It was crucial to remain 6th at FT of round 33. At their current rate, they might have easily been in danger and eventually even in one of the two relegation places. Surviving and making history is quite an achievement for the club and it makes Cho Jin-ho one of the contenders for the manager of the season award! Whether the K League Association will think that too won't be known until end of the season, but either way, Cho has done incredible job!
HIGH: 4 | LOW: 11
Latest result: Drew 1-1 vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Next K-League match: Sunday vs Jeonnam Dragons
Making the top 6 this year was definitely the target for the Magpies following their fine 2015 season. Despite a fine start, it all went wrong when Thiago left under strange circumstances and they never really found the right balance without him. They lost 6 of their last 7 games and even a change of manager didn't turn their fortunes around. Picking up just one win since mid-August proved crucial and the team completely collapsed on the final day of the regular season. A 4-1 home defeat to Pohang ended their top 6 hopes and avoiding a further drop down the table is the only objective now.
HIGH: 2 | LOW: 12
Latest result: Lost 4-1 vs Pohang Steelers
Next K-League match: Sunday vs Incheon United
What do you think? Are some teams unjustly low? Some riding far too high?
We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!