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Preview: K League Challenge Round 30

With just seven rounds left before the Promotion Playoffs start, it's truly do or die time for the teams looking up at the dividing line. While Asan seem likely to continue their free fall, Suwon FC may be able to pick up full points and put pressure on Seongnam FC's hold on the final spot above the line. Elsewhere, 2nd place Busan host 3rd place Bucheon in a possible playoff preview. All of this and more in your K League Challenge Round 30 preview.
(Photo Credit: facebook.com/BUCHEONFC)

Saturday 16th September

Daejeon Citizen (10th) vs Gyeongnam FC (1st) 19:00

The bookends of K League Challenge table meet for the fourth time this season with very little difference between the previous three meetings. Gyeongnam still hold an insurmountable lead at the top of the table and are merely counting down the weeks until the title is officially theirs while Daejeon continues to struggle to keep the ball out of their net. After conceding four in three matches in a row, Daejeon managed to hold the plummeting Asan Mugunghwa to a lone goal last weekend to secure a shock 2-1 win. They'll need to do even better to keep Golden Boot leader Marcão off the scoresheet for Gyeongnam after he scored again last weekend to push his season total to 18. Look for the Brazilian striker and his league best attack to be too much for the Citizens as Gyeongnam should cruise to their fourth straight victory over Daejeon.

Prediction: Gyeongnam FC 3-1 Daejeon Citizen

Seongnam FC (4th) vs Seoul E-Land (8th) 19:00

After taking a tough defeat in Bucheon last weekend, Seongnam look to bounce back at home when they host the hot and cold Seoul E-Land. Unfortunately for the Magpies, Filip Hlohovsky's back to back tallies in the 49th and 53rd minute to level the score in Bucheon weren't quite enough to hang on for a point. However, finding the back of the net for the first time in a month is certainly a welcome site for the Slovakian as he and his teammates attempt to further distance themselves from the non-playoff pack and potentially reclaim home field advantage for the first playoff game. To put the pressure back on Bucheon, the Magpies will need to do something they've never done: take all three points off Seoul E-Land. Shockingly, Seongnam have only managed to score once in two draws and a loss to the Leopards in the teams' brief history. Having knocked off nearly every team in the top half, Seoul have proven they can beat anyone on their day, but have yet to find the composure to do it consistently. With his five game scoring streak snapped against his former team (FC Anyang) last round, Seoul striker Alex will undoubtedly be looking to get back on the scoreboard and may cause issues for an otherwise stout Seongnam back line. Seoul haven't been held scoreless since July, so if Seongnam want to pick up full points in this one, they'll likely need to score a few times.

Prediction: Seongnam FC 2-1 Seoul E-Land

Busan I'Park (2nd) vs Bucheon 1995 (3rd) 19:00

Bucheon find themselves in the marquee match yet again this weekend when they travel to Busan to take on 2nd place I'Park. This match won't be so much about closing the considerable 10 point gap between the two clubs as it will be a statement game for a potential playoff match up. Not only will both teams be looking to prove their superiority this season, but they'll also be attempting to take the edge in this brief rivalry. Of the seven times they've played each other, each team has three wins, three losses, and a draw. If recent form is any indication, Busan may be in danger of losing their first match in two months. Though I'Park is firmly cemented in 2nd and riding an eight game unbeaten streak, they haven't been scoring nearly enough to keep up with Bucheon's output. During their current streak, Busan have been held scoreless twice, and held to just one goal three times. The only matches Busan scored more than two goals came against 9th and 10th placed Ansan and Daejeon. Meanwhile, Bucheon come into the match riding their own four game winning streak having scored 10 during the stretch. Perhaps more impressive than their output is the fact eight different players found the back of the net for those 10 goals. At its best this match will be a slugfest between two of Challenge's best sides. At worst it will still be a preview of a match up that seems destined to repeat itself come playoff time.

Prediction: Busan I'Park 2-2 Bucheon 1995

Sunday 17th September

FC Anyang (7th) vs Asan Mugunghwa (5th) 19:00

Asan's free fall continued for yet another week in spite of playing 10th place Daejeon Citizen at home last round. The 2-1 loss not only pushed Mugunghwa's losing streak to four games, but also came at a horrible time as they lost nine players due to their military service ending. What once appeared to be a promising league campaign for Asan has now shifted to seeing which newcomers can make the squad this and next year. Much like Asan, Anyang's season was once in much better standing, but fell apart over the summer. They managed to pick up their first win since late July last round when they beat Seoul E-Land 3-2 at Jamsil. Oddly enough, that late July win was also against E-Land, so it may simply be a case of having a team's number as opposed to breaking a trend. While Anyang have indeed had Seoul's number this season, they have traditionally been on the opposite side of it with Asan, who they have lost to in four straight meetings and in five of their previous seven. However, as mentioned, this is a drastically different Asan roster than the last time these teams squared off and this current incarnation can't seem to find the back of the net. Look for Anyang to capitalize on a team in transition and pick up back to back wins for the first time since April.

Prediction: FC Anyang 2-0 Asan Mugunghwa

Suwon FC (6th) vs Ansan Greeners (9th) 19:00

Holding runaway league leaders Gyeongnam FC to a 2-2 away draw would usually be a tremendous result for Suwon, but unfortunately for them it's too late in the season for a single point to be enough. While they obviously wanted more, Adrian Leijer's 83rd minute equalizer at least stole a point from Gyeongnam and put Suwon eight points back from the final playoff spot currently held by Seongnam. With Seongnam favored to beat E-Land this weekend, Suwon will need to dispatch an Ansan team with just one win in their previous 12. Unfortunately for Suwon, that lone win came at their expense when the Greeners embarrassed the city side 4-0 in Suwon last month. However, since that four goal outburst, Ansan have been held scoreless in four of their five matches and haven't looked much of a threat. With most of the season in the books, it would seem the league now has enough tape on Ansan's Uruguayan striker Raúl to properly scout him and keep him off the board, but he will still be one to watch in this one. Should Suwon manage what so many other sides have against him and the rest of the Greeners attack, look for them to get full points and keep the pressure on Seongnam.

Prediction: Suwon FC 1-0 Ansan Greeners

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