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Preview: K League Classic Round 18

After this weekend's fixtures the K League Classic will be at its halfway point. All 12 clubs are in action over the course of what should be another bumper weekend'; including a grudge match between FC Seoul and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at Sangam, a relegation six-pointer, and perhaps Incheon United's biggest game of the season, when they take on Gwangju FC, not to mention two corporate-owned giants in Ulsan Hyundai and Suwon Bluewings going toe-to-toe. Can the Bluewings' latest wonderkid Yoo Jooahn (pictured above) score his third goal is as many games? Can FC Seoul lay down a marker when they face off against Jeonbuk? All this and more in your K League Classic Round 18 guide.

Image courtesy of KLeague.com

Saturday 1st July

Daegu FC (10th) Vs Gangwon FC (5th) 19:00

With Incheon United's recent upturn in form, Daegu FC will no doubt have begun to look precariously over their collective shoulders. Daegu FC have a mere two point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone and so will be beginning to feel the pressure of getting a positive result. Daegu drew three on the spin before their defeat to Suwon Bluewings in midweek and have just one win in their last nine, and since their win over FC Seoul at the tail-end of April, Daegu have won just once: a 2-0 win over Sangju Sangmu at the end of May. Gangwon, meanwhile, make the trip to Daegu's colossal stadium on the back of a run that has seen them lose just once in their last six. Such form has given the Pyeongchang-based outfit hopes of Asian Champions League qualification and will want to lay down a marker against struggle Daegu come Saturday.

Our colunist Muyeol Jung previews the game here.

Ulsan Hyundai (2nd) Vs Suwon Bluewings (4th) 19:00

Suwon Bluewings have the opportunity to reach as high as 2nd in the table when they travel south to face Ulsan Hyundai in the 18th round of fixtures of the 2017 K League Classic season. Another win on the road would propel Suwon above their southern rivals and within touching distance of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, for a 24 hours at least. With only nine points separating 2nd and 9th places in the table, a win at this stage of the season could signal potential disaster is awaiting around the corner, and for both these teams you get the feeling that there is a case of do or die over this fixture.

More from columnist Scott Whitelock here.

Incheon United (11th) Vs Gwangju FC (12th) 19:00

The big game at the bottom end of the table is without doubt the relegation six-pointer between Incheon United and Gwangju FC. Incheon's recent positive results, a win over Pohang and a draw away to Jeju United on Wednesday, has seen the Durumi claw their way off the foot of the table. But, thanks to Gwangju's point against high-flying Gangwon in midweek, Incheon only find themselves in 11th on goals scored, with both teams having 13 points and a goal difference of minus 12.

Table from Soccerway.com
Prediction: Incheon United 1-0 Gwangju FC

Sunday 2nd July 

Sangju Sangmu (8th) Vs Pohang Steelers (6th) 19:00

Pohang Steelers' title bid took a further knock when the five-times K League Champions lost their fourth game from the last five. Pohang's latest disappointment was at home to current table-toppers Jeonbuk Hyundai who ran out 3-1 winners at the Steel Yard on Wednesday evening. Hoping to bounce back from a lacklustre run of form that has seen the Steelers drop to six, Choi Soonho's men make the short trip south to take on Sangju Sangmu. Sangju are only four points off the top six and have lost once in their last five outings. At home, Sangju have taken points off Ulsan Hyundai and FC Seoul already this season meaning that Pohang will have to be at their best if they are to get something from the game.

Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 1-1 Pohang Steelers

FC Seoul (7th) Vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 19:00

Perhaps the match up of the weekend is Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' trip to Sangam to take on the reigning K League Champions FC Seoul. Seoul's season is not quite going to plan and are without a win in their last three having drawn with Daegu, lost to Sangju and, last time out, drew with Jeonnam Dragons. There could be debuts for Seoul's latest acquisitions Lee Myeongjoo and Iranian defender Khaled Shafiei. Jeonbuk Hyundai, on the other hand, make the trip to Seoul hoping to dish out some capital punishment having comfortably dispatched a strong Pohang Steelers side in midweek, a win that capped off an eight game undefeated streak.

Columnists Ryan Walters and Matthew Binns preview the game with a K League United Writers' Chat here.

Jeonnam Dragons (9th) Vs Jeju United (3rd) 19:00

Jeonnam Dragons' sterling form of late has seen the South Jeolla side maintain a comfortable position in 9th place, and just two points behind current Champions FC Seoul. In their last outing, the Dragons held the aforementioned reigning K League Champions to a draw on Wednesday evening, making it three games unbeaten for Roe Sangrae's men. Jeju United also drew in midweek, conceding a late penalty to Incheon United, meaning that the orange-clad side have just one win in their last five. Jeju should have Yoon Bitgaram available for selection after the midfielder made his return to the club on loan this week from Chinese Super League outfit Yanbian Fude.

Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 1-1 Jeju United

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