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Preview: Gangwon FC vs Busan IPark FC

Wednesday night at 7pm KST the K League Challenge promotion playoffs will get underway. Busan, who lost 0-2 to Seoul E-Land on the final matchday of the regular season, will travel north to Gangneung to face Gangwon FC in the first match.
Final Season Table
Courtesy of Soccerway
How the Playoffs Work

Say it softly (it's almost a blasphemy in these parts), but if you're familiar with the playoff structure used in the KBO League, this one isn't too different. The first-placed team (or this season the highest placed team that's not Ansan) is automatically promoted to the K League Classic (congrats to Daegu by the way). The second-placed team (that would be Bucheon) receives a first-round bye in the playoffs and gets to play at home for the second-round match. The third-placed team (Gangwon) plays the first-round match at home and they get the tiebreaker should the match end in a draw. The fourth-placed team (Busan) has to play all the matches away. The winner of the second-round match advances to the final playoff round - a two-legged tie against the 11th-placed K League Classic team (currently Incheon).
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Playoff History

A brief history lesson is in order. This is the third season that the league will use this format. The first promotion-relegation playoff match, back in 2013, was just the two-legged tie between the Challenge team (Sangju) and the Classic team (Gangwon). It's worth mentioning that the K League Challenge side has won all three promotion-relegation ties (Sangju, Gwangju, and Suwon FC). Will it happen again this season? It's also worth mentioning that the K League Challenge side that has advanced to the promotion-relegation tie with the Classic side has been either the 3rd (Suwon FC) or 4th (Gwangju) seeded team in the playoffs. Why? Possibly the "Big Mo". The team that wins the first match gets a bit of confidence and momentum behind them and it carries them through. Both Gwangju and Suwon FC rode strong end of season performances into the playoffs and made it through while the other higher-seeded sides struggled to get going.

Gangwon vs Busan

2016 Matchups
Round 2: Gangwon 0-1 Busan
Round 15: Busan 0-0 Gangwon
Round 24: Gangwon 1-2 Busan
Round 38: Busan 2-1 Gangwon

Busan actually won the 'season series' fairly convincingly. Notching a 3-1-0 record and outscoring Gangwon 5-2. Busan won both matches in Gangwon-do as well. Of the five goals scored, Popp and Hong Dong-hyun notched two a piece with Lee Young-jae scoring the only goal in the first meeting between the two.

It will be interesting to see what Choi Young-joon opts to do with the starting XI. The XI seen on the weekend against E-Land was probably his strongest on paper, but Choi has a tendency to rotate when midweek fixtures happen, and with the second-round against Bucheon just three days later he will likely be tempted to again. I suspect any changes will be minimal, perhaps with Lim Sang-hyub dropping to the bench. While Lim is a quality attacker, he has not fully fit back in to the Busan line up and it's quite hard to see Popp or Jeong Seok-hwa dropping out of the attack. On the other hand, goals will (obviously) be important, particularly when you consider that any scored draw means a Gangwon win.

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