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Preview: K League Classic Round 23

Before a week's break, all 12 K League Classic clubs are in action this weekend for round 23 of the 2017 season. Wednesday night's action threw up some interesting results to open the table right up at both ends. FC Seoul's Dejan Damjanović (pictured above) bagged a hat-trick in the Champions' 5-1 demolition over Incheon United on Wednesday, will the Montenegrin ace avoid the wielding axe of Seoul gaffer Hwang Sunhong and keep his place in the team? Similarly, Will Niall McGinn make his full debut for Gwangju FC when they host Jeonnam Dragons? Also, can Pohang Steelers stop the rot and bounce back with a win when they fly to Jeju? All this and much more in your comprehensive K League Classic round 23 guide.
Image from Sports Hankooki via K League.

Saturday 22nd July 

Gwangju FC (12th) Vs Jeonnam Dragons (8th) 19:00

A heavy defeat away to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Wednesday left Gwangju FC languishing at the foot of the table. As of yet, Northern Irish star Niall McGinn has had to make do with a couple of substitute appearances whilst the former Aberdeen and Celtic forward builds up his match fitness. However, with Daegu winning in midweek, Gwangju will perhaps feel a sense of urgency to start picking up some results. As thus, the 2010-founded side could look to McGinn to beef up their attack sooner rather than later. Saturday sees Jeonnam Dragons head to Guus Hiddink Stadium, a side who have just one defeat in eight but with five of those games being stalemates. Jeonnam have just two league wins on the road this term, ironically the last one coming against Gwangju.

Graphic from Soccerway.com

Columnists Aodan Halligan and Alex Meyer preview the game here.

Ulsan Hyundai (2nd) Vs Incheon United (11th) 19:00

Second-from-top host second-from-bottom at the Munsu Stadium this Saturday when Incheon United, fresh from a battering at home to FC Seoul, make the long trip south to take on Ulsan Hyundai. Ulsan are just three points behind league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai and will be seeing the visit of Incheon as an ideal opportunity to put further pressure on the current title favourites. Ulsan have just one defeat in their last six and welcome Incheon in the back of three consecutive wins. Incheon, meanwhile, have seen their mini purple patch fade away having failed to build on the win over Gwangju at the start of July. Ulsan will be seen as strong favourites for this one.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 3-0 Incheon United

Jeju United (4th) Vs Pohang Steelers (7th) 19:00

Jeju United got back to winning ways in midweek by comfortably beating Sangju Sangmu 3-0 away from home. The once table-toppers now sit in fourth on 34 points, along with FC Seoul and Gangwon FC. Jeju's opponents this weekend, Pohang Steelers, have experience somewhat of a fall from grace recently. The Steelers' title challenge has taken a huge dent and appear to be in free-fall. Pohang have just one win in their last seven matches and two in ten. As thus, the trip to Jeju will not be seen as ideal by Pohang boss Choi Soonho. However, as the top 6 in the K League Classic is so tight, a win for the five-time K League Champions could put them back in the mix and help jump start their season. As for Jeju, United will know that nothing less than a win will do if they are to get their title challenge back on track.

Graphic from Soccerway,com

Prediction: Jeju United 2-0 Pohang Steelers

Sunday 23rd July 

Suwon Bluewings (3rd) Vs Sangju Sangmu (9th) 18:00

Despite falling behind early on, a sumptuous Yeom Kihoon free-kick and a Johnathan hat-trick set Suwon Bluewings on their way to a 4-1 win over Jeonnam Dragons in midweek - their fourth consecutive win on the spin. The 2016 FA Cup winners sit in third place and just two points behind Ulsan in second. Up next for the Bluewings is the visit of Sangju Sangmu, a side that have just one win in their last five, including back-to-back defeats. Depending on Ulsan's result at home to Incheon, a victory for Suwon could see the Bluewings go second. Sangju, meanwhile, slipped to 9th and will be wary of Daegu breathing down their necks.

Brazilian striker Johnathan competed a hat-trick last time out for Suwon Bluewings Vs Jeonnam Dragons.
Image via Kyeonggi.com

Prediction: Suwon Bluewings 3-0 Sangju Sangmu

Gangwon FC (6th) Vs Daegu FC (10th) 19:00

The race for Asian Champions League qualification is hotting up with just five points separating fourth from seventh. Despite finding themselves second in the table just a few weeks ago, Gangwon are on a run of three games without a win and so have slipped to sixth. Daegu, meanwhile, picked up an unlikely but albeit extremely impressive win in midweek when the relegation threatened side from North Gyeongsang Province comfortably saw off the challenge of Pohang Steelers at home. The result means that Daegu move up to 10th and out of the relegation zone. Also, there was further good news this week for Daegu fans as defender Kim Dongwoo joined on loan from FC Seoul, former Australian international defender Ivan Franjic also signed from Melbourne City as well as the acquisition of Brazilian forward Junior Negrao.

Graphic from Soccerway.com

Prediction: Gangwon FC 2-1 Daegu FC

FC Seoul (5th) Vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 19:00

Three wins on the spin, and four victories from their last five, has seen FC Seoul climb out of the bottom half and into 5th place on goal difference. A hat-trick for Dejan and goals from Go Yohan and Kwak Taehwi sealed a 5-1 win over Incheon United on Wednesday. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors make the trip to Sangam, the second in the space of just a month, on the back of two straight victories. On Wednesday, the boys in green ran out 3-1 winners against strugglers Gwangju to maintain their three point lead at the top of the K League Classic.

Park Chuyoung (centre) has a history of scoring late winners against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Image via Joins.com and K League 

For this enticing encounter, columnists Ryan Walters and Matthew Binns preview the game with a writers' chat here.

Also, in case you missed it, our exclusive interview with Dejan Damjanović here.

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