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Preview: K League Challenge Round 23

The race for the K League Challenge playoffs is hotting up with no fewer than six teams in contention, all of whom will be looking to assert themselves accordingly over the course of the weekend. The Challenge reaches round 23 meaning that the business end of the season is looming large. Can Seongnam FC keep their place in the top four? Will last year's Challenge top scorer Kim Dongchan (pictured above) add to his hat-trick last time out when the Magpies take on Seoul E-Land? Can Busan IPark make up some ground on the league leaders Gyeongnam when Cho Jinho's side host playoff hopefuls FC Anyang? All this and more in your comprehensive guide to round 23.

Image via KLeague.com

Saturday 5th August 

Gyeongnam FC (1st) Vs Ansan Greeners (8th) 19:00

League leaders Gyeongnam FC got their title push back on track before the break, recording back-to-back wins over Busan IPark and Asan Mugunghwa to go seven points clear at the top of the table. Up next is the visit of Ansan Greeners, a side who, other than pride, have very little to play for this season with the playoff places no fewer than 12 points away. Last time out the newly-formed Greeners drew with Daejeon Citizen, their fourth stalemate in a row and their fifth game without a win. On the road the Green Wolves have won just once: a 2-1 win over Daejeon in mid-June. Accordingly, all signs point towards a comfortable Gyeongnam home win.

Prediction: Gyeongnam FC 3-0 Ansan Greeners

Daejeon Citizen (10th) Vs Suwon FC (6th) 19:00

Daejeon Citizen, still rooted to the foot of the K League Challenge table, welcome Suwon FC to Purple Arena this Saturday. Lee Youngik's side could move off the bottom should they secure their second home victory over Suwon FC this season. But, Suwon themselves will be looking to get back to winning ways after having their recent revival stopped in its tracks by a humbling defeat to Seongnam FC last time out.

Full preview here.

Asan Mugunghwa (5th) Vs Bucheon 1995 (3rd) 19:00

Asan Mugunghwa have fallen out of the playoff spots of late, partly due a resurgent Seongnam and Suwon, but also partly down to a run of just one win in seven. Saturday's visitors to Yisunsin Stadium, Bucheon 1995, quite like how they have for most of the campaign, are sitting in the playoff places. However, only five points separate third from seventh and so Jang Gabsuk will know that a positive result will be of utmost importance to his Bucheon side. Only two points separate these two teams meaning that an Asan win would see the police team frog Bucheon and into the playoffs. Bucheon, meanwhile, will want to assert themselves as the leaders of that group of playoff hopefuls behind Busan IPark.

Preview: Asan Mugunghwa 1-1 Bucheon 1995

Sunday 6th August 

Busan IPark (2nd) Vs FC Anyang (7th) 19:00

Busan IPark remain as Gyeongnam's nearest challengers for top spot but are now seven points behind their south coast neighbours. But, sitting in second and with an eight point lead over third place, Busan are in little immediate danger of surrendering second place. Manager Cho Jinho will be stressing to his players that there is no room for complacency, especially as the former Daejeon gaffer insists that Busan have not yet given up on automatic promotion. Last time out IPark saw of the challenge of Bucheon 1995 in a 2-0 away win, thereby preventing a third straight defeat having lost their previous two. Up next is the visit of FC Anyang. Anyang sit in seventh place on 28 points and have it all to play for given how tight the playoff hunt is. A win for Kim Jongpil's men could move them within a point of the top four but Busan ought to be considered as favourites for this one.

Prediction: Busan IPark 2-0 FC Anyang

Seoul E-Land (9th) Vs Seongnam FC (4th) 19:00

Seoul E-Land's win-less run was extended to eight matches last time out when capital's second club drew 3-3 at home to Ansan Greeners. After finding themselves 2-0 down, E-Land fought back to level at 2-2 and even took a 3-2 lead before conceding a third to see the spoils shared. E-Land, then, are in desperate need of a victory but have the unenviable task of trying to stop a very much in-form Seongnam FC come Sunday. Seongnam make the short trip to east Seoul on the back of 13-game unbeaten run where the Magpies have notched up eight wins and five draws in all competitions. The recent signing of Kim Dongchan is proving to be a very shrewd piece of business. Last year's K League Challenge MVP bagged a hat-trick last time out against Suwon FC to send Seongnam into fourth.

Prediction: Seoul E-Land 0-2 Seongnam FC

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