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Preview: K League Classic Round 33

The last weekend of regular fixtures before the K League Classic is split into the championship and relegation rounds is upon us this Sunday, Although whom exactly will be competing on which side of the dividing post-split line has been decided, there is still an awful lot to yet to play for at both ends of the table. Suwon Bluewings' Brazilian ace Johnathan (pictured above) is due to return to action this weekend, will the league's leading marksman seal his return with a goal as the Bluewings fight tooth and nail to keep hold of a possible ACL place? Likewise, who will come out on top when the top two go head to head in Seogwipo when Jeju United host the league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai? And at the other end of the table, which of the four teams level on points manage to keep their heads above water and out of the relegation playoff place? All this and more in your comprehensive guide to round 33.

(Photo Credit: Naver Sports )

Sunday 8th October

Gwangju FC (12th) vs Ulsan Hyundai (3rd) 15:00

The league's basement side Gwangju FC, who sit 11 points adrift, welcome title-chasing Ulsan Hyundai to Guus Hiddink Stadium on Sunday. Gwangju, who are without a win in their last ten, circle the drain with relegation looking like a mere formality at this stage. Ulsan, meanwhile, still harbour hopes of a place at the summit of the K League Classic, sitting just four points behind a slightly stuttering Jeonbuk Hyundai. Last time out Gwangju managed to nick a draw away to another title hopeful Jeju United thanks to Wanderson's 61st minute equaliser in a rain-sodden Seogwipo. Ulsan also came back from behind to salvage a draw of their own, an Orsic penalty on 72 minutes cancelled out Jung Jogook's opener shortly after the restart. The last time these two sides met back in July, Ulsan eased past their Jeolla Province counterparts with a 1-0 win at home, Kim Insung with the goal. The Horang-i's last trip to Gwangju, though, resulted in a 1-1 draw. Neither side will want a repeat of such a result with draws at the stage of the season perhaps deemed as being somewhat useless.

from soccerway.com
Prediction: Gwangju FC 0-2 Ulsan Hyundai

Gangwon FC (6th) vs Incheon United (11th) 15:00

Pohang Steelers' draw with Sangju Sangmu last Saturday meant that Gangwon had all-but sealed their place in the top six before Park Hyojin's side even took to the field 24 hours later. A 1-1 draw at home to Ulsan Hyundai, and the subsequent point, means that Gangwon became only the second team to finish in the top six of the Classic the season immediately after gaining promotion, Sangju being the first in 2016. Gangwon's hierarchy had even loftier aspirations, however, targeting Asian Champions League qualification but given the points gap, such a feat will have to wait. Up next for Gangwon is the visit of Incheon United who, unlike Gangwon, have it all to play for. Currently sitting in 11th and on 33 points, the Durumi will be looking to take advantage of Gangwon's apparent lack of incentive and pick up all three points come Sunday. The Neroazzurre are on a run of eight games unbeaten and have three wins to boast of in that run, the most recent being the 1-0 home victory over FC Seoul. In addition, Lee Kihyung's side have just two defeats from their last 10 away matches and so ought not to be ruled out of this one.

from soccerway.com
Prediction: Gangwon 1-2 Incheon United

Sangju Sangmu (10th) vs FC Seoul (5th) 15:00

Sangju Sangmu have endured a bit of a tricky second season in the top flight, dogging it out at the bottom in what is now a very close battle to avoid the relegation playoff spot. Last season's dizzy heights of a top half finish seem a mere distant memory now but with Joo Minkyu in as lethal form as he is, Sangju aren't quite done just yet. Despite sitting as low as 10th, the army team are on a run of four games unbeaten with two wins and two draws. From those four games, Joo Minkyu, on loan from Seoul E-Land, as no fewer than seven goals to his name. As thus, FC Seoul's back four will have to have their wits about them if they are to stop the 27-year-old from increasing his tally from 15 for the season. Last season's champions FC Seoul have Asian Champions League qualification set as their utmost priority but face an uphill battle if they are to do so. Dejan, Osmar and co. are two points behind bitter rivals Suwon Bluewings heading into round 33 and will be aiming not to lose any ground in their pursuit of continental qualification for 2018. Seoul will be seen as the favourites but are yet to beat Sangju this season having lost 2-1 at home in June and drew 2-2 in Sangju a month earlier.

from Soccerway.com
Columnist Ryan Walters' preview to follow soon here.

Jeonnam Dragons (8th) vs Daegu FC (9th) 15:00

A dismal run of nine games without a win has seen Jeonnam Dragons get sucked into the relegation mire. The Dragons, Daegu FC, Sangju Sangmu and Incheon United are all locked on 33 points heading into the last round of the regular season, all attributing to what could be a photo finish to 2017. Jeonnam, however, have a slight superior goals scored record (K League league positions are separated by points, goals scored, goal difference - in that order), with 47 goals scored for the season and so have a slight advantage. Sunday's visitors to Dragon Dungeon, Daegu FC, however cannot boast of such a strong goals scored tally having only scored more than twice in a league game on just three occasions this term. Top scorer Evandro has nine to his name in 2017 but hasn't found the net since August. Fellow Brazilian Junior Negao has seven, all of which have come in Daegu's last nine matches. For this relegation six pointer, a draw is perhaps the most likely outcome but in the two previous encounters this season, both teams picked up a win each. In the last five meetings both teams have scored seven goals each.

from soccerway.com
Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 1-0 Daegu FC

Pohang Steelers (7th) vs Suwon Bluewings (4th) 15:00

Cut adrift in the relegation round of the split, Pohang Steelers have a six point cushion between themselves and the relegation playoff battle. What has already been a disappointing season for the Steelers could be made much worse if the POSCO-backed side are sucked into trouble. Up next is the visit of Suwon Bluewings who make the trip to the Steel Yard on the back of a 1-1 draw at home to league leaders Jeonbuk Hyundai. Suwon's title hopes have been all but dashed and the Bluewings, with FC Seoul breathing down their necks, now face a battle to keep hold of the last Asian Champions League spot. Both sides have just one win in their last five matches, but for the Bluewings the return of Brazilian ace and top scorer Johnathan will be seen as a huge boost. Suwon beat Pohang in both the two previous meetings this term and haven't lost at the Steel Yard since 2014.

from soccerway.com
Prediction: Pohang Steelers 1-3 Suwon Bluewings

Jeju United (2nd) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai (1st) 15:00

The top two go head to head at Seogwipo, and with just three points separating the league's two title favourites, three points for either team could make or break their title aspirations. A win for Jeonbuk would firmly put the four-times K League Champions back in the driving seat title race wise whilst Jeju would have clawed their way back from a sizeable points difference. Jeju United have motored along nicely themselves of late, though, and are on a run of 12 games without defeat, amassing 28 points from a possible 36. Interestingly, despite such lofty league positions, neither Jeonbuk nor Jeju have a player who has managed much more than 10 league goals. Jeonbuk set the pace for points but Edu, who leads the Green Warriors' scoring charts, has just 11 whilst Magno Cruz has just 10 league goals in 2017. Instead, goals have been spread out amongst both Jeju and Jeonbuk's squad with the Jeju having 16 different players contributing to their goal tally this term. For the latter, the figure is a touch lower at 13.

from soccerway.com
For who the goals will come from this Sunday, and much more, columnist Matthew Binns previews Sunday's huge game here.

See Also: K League Challenge Round 33 preview here.

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