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Preview: K League Classic Round 26

A weekend of local rivalries and relegation scraps await the K League Classic teams with the headline act undoubtedly being the third Super Match of the season where Suwon's Johnathan and co will look to act out their revenge against an FC Seoul side who are finally finding some form. The Jeolla Derby and the heated Ulsan - Pohang clash should keep those looking for something else suitably entertained whilst those with an eye at the foot of the table can watch the division's bottom four scrap it out amongst themselves as they try to push themselves away from the drop. All this and more in our brief guide to Round 26.
(Photo Credit: Bluewings.kr )

Saturday 12th August

Sangju Sangmu (9th) vs Incheon United (11th) 19:00

Saturday sees the first face off between relegation threatened teams this weekend. Whilst Sangju Sangmu are yet to enter the dropzone this season, they are very much heading in that direction. Having lost their last five games in a row, in addition to crashing out of the cup midweek, they are a team that should certainly be concerned, especially when some of their players finish their military service before the season is out. Incheon are also without a win in their last five but have managed to pick up three single points, including an impressive 0-0 against Jeju last time out. United will be hoping newly acquired striker Enzo Maidana, who made a brief cameo against the Islanders, can be the difference as they fight their way to safety. Given Sangju's shocking form and Incheon's desire to keep their heads above water, I see this being a much needed three points for the visitors.

Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 0-1 Incheon United

Jeonnam Dragons (8th) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 19:00

The third Jeolla Derby of the season sees first place Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors travel down to Gwangyang once again to face southern rivals Jeonnam Dragons. Jeonnam were in FA Cup action in midweek, shockingly losing to K League Challenge outfit Busan IPark to tune of three goals to one. Having had a week off, their rivals Jeonbuk come into this match looking to set the record straight after a 1-0 defeat to title challengers Ulsan Hyundai. With Jeonnam's squad possible being too tired and stretched, not to mention the suspension of top assist maker Kim Young-wook, it will be interesting to see how manager Noh Sang-rae sets ups his team to stop the North Jeolla side on Saturday evening.

Columnist Aodan Halligan and myself had an extended chat about the match with a writers' chat here.

You can also read our exclusive interview with Jeonnam forward Róbert Feczesin here.

Suwon Bluewings (2nd) vs FC Seoul (5th) 19:00

Continuing with derby weekend, the biggest clash of local rivals sees high flying Suwon Bluewings face an FC Seoul side who have looked to have realised the gravity of the situation they are in, and now making a late push for the highly coveted ACL spots. The third 'Super Match' of the season should prove to be an interesting affair. Whilst Suwon may have been busy midweek, needing extra time to overcome Gwangju in the FA Cup, they are still very much the form team coming into this game. FC Seoul's most recent outing on the other hand, saw them give up the lead twice to a resilient Daegu side, eventually resulting in a disappointing 2-2 draw. As usual with these matches, expect yet another tense affair.

You can read our columnist Scott Whitelock's full preview of the match here.

Sunday 13th August

Gwangju FC (12th) vs Daegu FC (10th) 19:00

The second relegation six pointer of the weekend sees foot of the table Gwangju take on tenth placed Daegu FC. Neither team have had much luck, but the visitors have the stronger form, picking up seven points from their last five including last week's draw with FC Seoul. Gwangju on the other hand have only collected one win in their last five, having also had to play midweek in an FA Cup quarter final which they ultimately lost after going to extra time. Northern Ireland striker Niall McGinn did finally receive his first start for Gwangju on Wednesday, and supporters will be hoping he is now back to full match fitness and will contribute to the team's plight for survival. Given Daegu's underwhelming away form, I envisage this one ending in a draw.

Prediction: Gwangju FC 1-1 Daegu FC

Ulsan Hyundai (3rd) vs Pohang Steelers (7th) 19:00

The third rivalry of the weekend sees high flying Ulsan Hyundai host a Pohang Steelers team that is trying to salvage what was once a promising start to the season but has since headed south. Ulsan come into this game unbeaten in the last six league matches, having defeated division leaders Jeonbuk last time out. They also progressed to the FA Cup semi finals after defeating Sangju midweek, but having had to use a number of first team players to achieve this, they could be tired coming into this clash. Pohang have only collected four points in their last five, winning and drawing their last two matches against Gwangju and Jeonnam respectively. They will also be without the recently returned Kim Seung-dae who saw a straight red against their POSCO rivals last weekend and harshly given an additional five game suspension on top of the normal two. Despite their midweek antics, I still predict Ulsan to just about see off their rivals given the recent form of both sides.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-0 Pohang Steelers

Gangwon FC (6th) vs Jeju United (4th) 19:00

The final game of the weekend sees islanders Jeju United head to the Aplensia Ski Resort to take on Gangwon FC. Both sides have mounted title challenges this season yet have recently fallen away from the rest of the chasing pack. Jeju look as if they are beginning to arrest their decline, losing just once in their last five although drawing a blank against a struggling Incheon at home last weekend would suggest they have not turned the corner completely yet. Gangwon on the other hand beat a free falling Sangju side last weekend but have not been able to do much else, with their only other point in their last five matches coming against an eleventh placed Incheon. Gangwon do fare stronger at home though and could prove stubborn opposition for Jeju. I still think this is very much Jeju's match to lose though.

Prediction: Gangwon FC 1-2 Jeju United

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