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Gangwon vs Seongnam (K-League Promotion/Relegation Playoff) Preview

Just last year, Seongnam FC were competing in ACL, where they locked horns with Asia's elite clubs.  But this week the Magpies from the capital's south will be fighting for their survival in the K-League Classic against Gangwon FC; the winners of the K-League Challenge promotion playoffs.

K-League Promotion/Relegation play-off will be played over two legs; the first game will be in Gangneung, one of Gangwon FC's many home grounds (17/11, 1900 KST) and the final decider will take place in Tancheon (20/11, 1500 KST).

Gangwon's Challenge

During the season, Gangwon have shown their defensive prowess; conceding just 34 in 42 games (they scored 53) and their defenders Lee Han-saem (centre back) and Jung Seung-yong (left back) were named in this season's K-League Challenge Team of the Season.

After their disappointing 1-1 draw against Gyeongnam in their final game of the regular season, Gangwon head coach Choi Yun-kyum told reporters that he wants to see his team play more attacking football in the promotion play-offs and his players obliged. The Brazilian trio of Matheus, Maranhao and Luiz put together some nice attacking moves and they terrorised Busan and Bucheon defenders.

In their last 5 games, Gangwon have won 3, drew 1 and lost 1; if you compare this to Seongnam's previous 5 games (3 defeats and 2 draws), Gangwon seem to be the favourites going into the Promotion/Relegation play-off.

Seongnam's Fall

Seongnam had a very promising start to the season; with wins over traditional powerhouses Pohang and Ulsan, everything seemed to be going smoothly for Kim Hak-beom's men in black (6 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses in their first 12).

Things started to fall apart when Seongnam lost their influential attacker Tiago Alves to Saudi giants Al-Hilal while defender Yun Young-sun left for Sangju.   And to add insult to injury, key scorer Hwang Ui-jo lost his goal-scoring boots and struggled to find his form.

From June to August, Seongnam have managed only 4 wins from 16 games (4 wins, 5 draws and 7 losses).  After they were defeated 2-1 by their bitter rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings at home in September, Seongnam parted ways with their head coach Kim Hak-beom.   Subsequently, Seongnam's U18 coach Gu Sang-bum stepped up to the caretaker role for 9 remaining games.

Unfortunately for Seongnam, the shock therapy didn't work and they only managed to pick up measly 5 points from a possible 27 points.

Seongnam were 9th going into their final league match of the season against Pohang Steelers but after losing the game (and Incheon beating Suwon FC), the former Asian champions now see themselves playing in Promotion/Relegation play-off against Gangwon FC.




Since the promotion-relegation system was introduced in 2013, the 11th placed team from the Classic have never survived the Promotion/Relegation play-off; will Gangwon continue the trend? Or will Seongnam break their losing streak and have the last laugh?

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