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Preview: K League Challenge Round 34

With a nine point lead and with three games remaining, Gyeongnam FC all but sealed their place in the K League Classic for 2018 after a three year absence. However, should the Reds secure a point at home to Seoul E-Land on Saturday, or if second place Busan IPark drop points away to Suwon FC, promotion will be officially sealed. But with injury and suspensions affecting Kim Jongboo's team selection, will the Rose Club be able do it without their Brazilian duo Marcao (pictured above) and Bruno? In addition, with the playoffs looming, who will be leading the race for third and fourth come Sunday? All this and more in your comprehensive guide to round 34 of the 2017 K League Challenge season.

(Picture credit: Busan IPark Official)

Saturday 14th October

Gyeongnam FC (1st) Vs Seoul E-Land (8th) 15:00

After a three-year absence, Gyeongnam 99% secured their return to the K League Classic last time out with a 2-0 victory over second placed Busan IPark. With three games to go and a cushion of nine points, all that is taking Gyeongnam from officially sealing their promotion is a point from Saturday's game at home to Seoul E-Land. The Reds have just one home defeat all season, a 1-0 reverse to Anyang in July, and so will be seen as odds on favourites for Saturday's clash. However, Saturday's visitors to Changwon, Seoul E-Land, have proven to be a nuisance for Gyeongnam already this season. E-Land are one of just five teams that have gotten the better of Gyeongnam this term, recording 1-0 victory at Jamsil in August. If Kim Jongboo's men are to seal the title on Saturday then they will have to do so without Brazilian duo Bruno and Marcao. Whilst the former is still serving a suspension after being dismissed during Gyeongnam's 1-0 defeat to Ansan Greeners, the latter picked up an injury in training earlier this week. E-Land, though, will have their own Brazilian star back in contention as former Anyang man Alex is due to make his return from a one match ban.

Prediction: Gyeongnam 2-0 Seoul E-Land

Seongnam FC (4th) Vs FC Anyang (6th) 15:00

A draw last time out meant that Seongnam FC hold on to their place in the playoffs by a mere point. A 0-0 stalemate away to Suwon FC, their second in as many games, will no doubt have frustrated the Tancheon faithful but with three games left, two of them at home, the Magpies' fate is in their own talons. Up next for Seongnam is the visit of FC Anyang, a side who seem destined to finish no higher than 6th place. Much like Seongnam, Anyang have also failed to score in their last two: recording 0-0 draws at home to Daejeon and away to Bucheon in rounds 33 and 32 respectively. But, whilst Seongnam are on course for a playoff campaign come November, the Violets are currently nine points behind Bucheon in fifth and have an inferior goals scored tally (league places separated by points, goals scored, goal difference - in that order). In plainer terms, Bucheon would have to lose their remaining three games and there would also need to be a eight goal swing to finish any higher. Playoffs are therefore out of the question but there is the possibility that Kim Jongpil's men could drop to eight and slum it with 2017 season strugglers Ansan Greeners and Daejeon Citizen. In 2016 Anyang finished 9th and so a sixth placed finish would be seen as a step in the right direction. But, given what's at stake for Seongnam, a home win is the most likely outcome.

Prediction: Seongnam FC 2-0 FC Anyang

Suwon FC (7th) Vs Busan IPark (2nd) 15:00

Much like the aforementioned FC Anyang, Suwon FC's pursuit of the playoffs is officially over. Last week's 0-0 draw to Seongnam meant that the gap heading into round 34 is 10 points with just nine more available. Instead, newly appointed Suwon FC boss, Kim Daeui, will want to see positive performances between now and the end of the season, starting with Saturday in what will be Cho Jonghwa's last match as caretaker boss. At the weekend second placed Busan IPark will be the visitors to Castle Park, looking to build some momentum heading into the playoffs. Last time out Busan succumbed to a 2-0 away defeat against Gyeongnam meaning that all hopes of automatic promotion were 99% dashed. As well as momentum, IPark will also be hoping to record a victory  as a tribute to their late manager Cho Jinho. The 44-year-old passed away earlier this week, leaving the Korean football community in a state of shock and mourning.

Prediction: Suwon FC 0-2 Busan IPark

Sunday 15th October

Daejeon Citizen (10th) vs Bucheon 1995 FC (5th)

Rooted to the foot of the table Daejeon Citzen's penultimate home game of the season see's the Purples entertain playoff chasing Bucheon 1995. With the gap between third, fourth and fifth only two points, in which order the teams occupying those positions will finish is still all still to play for. Daejeon have just six wins all season but do have a win over soon-to-be-crowned Challenge Champions Gyeongnam FC to boast about from their last home game and so ought not to be taken lightly by Jung Gabsuk's men. Bucheon's run of four games without a win with two defeats and two draws seen the perennial playoff contenders fall out of the top four. A win will be seen as a must if Bucheon are to leapfrog Asan and/or Seongnam, particularly as Asan are set to face second-from-bottom and Ansan Greeners.

Prediction: Daejeon Citizen 1-0 Bucheon 1995

Ansan Greeners (9th) Vs Asan Mugunghwa (3rd)

As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Well, both could be applied to Asan Mugunghwa as, a side who once called Ansan home, are both superior to their opponents Ansan Greeners, and, following a rather wobbly patch, are back on form after winning their last three. Asan Mugunghwa are on course for a place in the playoffs and so will be looking to put ninth placed Ansan to the sword come Sunday. The Greeners, however, are unbeaten in their last two having proved to be no push over for two other promotion contenders in recent weeks. In the previous round the Greeners held Bucheon to a point away from home after a 1-0 win over Gyeongnam the week before. However, the win over Gyeongnam was Ansan's just one home victory since May. Of the three previous meetings in 2017, Ansan are yet to win having lost two and drawn one.

Ansan Greeners columnist Mike Brandon previews the game here.

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