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Preview: K League Classic Round 35

It's at the stage of the campaign where it is either do or die with teams in both the Championship Round and the Relegation Round needing victories to ensure their fate is in their own hands. In the top half, Jeju United will need to beat fellow title rivals Ulsan Hyundai to ensure that they live to fight another day in the race for top spot. The same could be said for FC Seoul in their quest to qualify for the Asian Champions League next year. The current K League Champions face bitter rivals Suwon Bluewings at home on Saturday knowing that anything less than a win could spell disaster. In the bottom half of the table, struggling Incheon United travel to a rejuvenated Daegu FC whilst unbeaten-in-four Gwangju FC host Sangju Sangmu. For all this and more, your guide to K League Classic round 35.

(Picture credit: Jeju United Facebook)

Saturday 21st October

Championship Round

FC Seoul (5th) Vs Suwon Bluewings (4th) 15:00

As the result of FC Seoul's draw with Jeonbuk Hyundai, and Jeju United's win over Gangwon, it meant that the current K League Champions were mathematically out of the title race once and for all. But, in truth, such lofty aspirations had long been put to one side even before Sunday.  Ensuring that FC Seoul at least have continental football for 2018 became the priority but the path into the ACL is somewhat of a tricky one. Seoul would need to leapfrog Saturday's opponents Suwon as well as hope that Ulsan win the FA Cup in order to do so. As thus, the fourth and final Super Match of the season is perhaps even bigger than last season's FA Cup final as it could mean that it is either Seoul or Suwon who qualify for the Asian Champions League. Whilst Seoul drew a blank in Jeonju last time out, the Bluewings cruised to an impressive victory over third place Ulsan Hyundai. A win for FC Seoul would put them in the driving seat for the 4th place but a victory for Suwon would extend their cushion to five points and set the Bluewings on their way. For Seoul, Osmar is suspended after picking up his third booking of the season against Jeonbuk last week, Suwon have a relatively clean bill of health to boast of.

FC Seoul columnist Ryan Walters and Suwon Bluewings columnist Scott Whitelock preview the game with a writers' chat here.

Relegation Round

Daegu FC (8th) Vs Incheon United (11th) 15:00

Despite going two behind away to Sangju in their last outing, wizardry from Brazilian forward Cesinha ensured that Daegu's fight to avoid the drop gathered even further momentum. After a 4-1 win over Jeonnam Dragons in the previous round, the North Gyeongsang outfit are now on an unbeaten run of four and have just one loss in their last 10. Up next for Daegu is the visit of 11th placed Incheon United, a side who suffered a heavy and damaging defeat to Pohang Steelers last week. After an own goal from Australian defender Connor Chapman with just three minutes played,  captain Choi Jonghwan was dismissed just before the half hour mark with the score at 2-0. With a man less for over an hour, Incheon shipped three more goals and look to be in a great deal of trouble. But, with just three points separating ninth, tenth and eleventh, the Neroazzurre know that a win could see them leapfrog their nearest relegation rivals. Last year Incheon lost just once during the split with three wins and a draw proving to be enough to avoid the drop. At present United have just 33 points, two points less than this time last year. If Incheon are to avoid the relegation playoff then a victory against in form Daegu is an absolute must. But, given the potency of Daegu's attack, those clad in sky blue will be seen as the favourites.

Incheon columnist Tim Barnes' preview to follow here.

Prediction: Daegu FC 2-0 Incheon United

Jeonnam Dragons (10th Vs Pohang Steelers (7th) 15:00

Despite coming back from a goal down to hold a 2-1 half time lead at home to bottom placed Gwangju, Jeonnam Dragons, powerless against a determined Wanderson, collapsed in the second half. The Brazilian's hat-trick proved to be enough to separate the two teams in a 4-2 Gwangju victory to compound the Dragons' misery. Along with Incheon United, Jeonnam find themselves heading into round 35 on 33 points and in desperate need of a win. Since their last victory, which is now over 1,000 minutes of football ago, Jeonnam have scored just nine goals and picked up four points. And, whist finding the back of the net has been an issue for the Dragons' misfiring front-men in recent months, keeping opposing forwards at bay has been a problem too. Noh Songrae's side have shipped four goals in both their last two and have kept a mere five cleansheets in 2017. Saturday's visitors to Gwangyang seem to have found their shooting boots once again, as Incheon United will testify. Last week the Steelers put five passed a 10-man United team to increase their lead over Daegu to six points and extend their unbeaten run to five. Pohang will be without Son Joonho, however, after the midfielder picked up his sixth booking of the campaign.

Columnists Alex Meyer and Aodan Halligan's preview to follow here.

Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 1-3 Pohang Steelers

Sunday 22nd October

Championship Round

Gangwon FC (6th) Vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 15:00

Sitting in 6th place and eight points behind FC Seoul, leapfrogging the current K League Champions will be seen as too much of an uphill task. But, caretaker boss Park Hyojin will be hoping that a strong end to the campaign is enough to convince the Gangwon hierarchy to give the long-serving coach a chance to take on the job on a permanent basis.  However, Gangwon's record against Sunday's opponents Jeonbuk does not make great reading, with their last win over their Jeolla counterparts dating back to 2010: a 3-1 win at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Choi Kanghee's men make their latest trip to Gangwon on the back of a 0-0 draw with FC Seoul and on a run of just three defeats in their last 15 outings. Whilst a win wouldn't seal the title for Jeonbuk, the subsequent three points would go a long way in easing the pressure heading into the last three matches.

Columnist Matthew Binns previews the game here.

Ulsan Hyundai (3rd) Vs Jeju United (2nd) 15:00

Third host second when Jeju United make the short flight to South Gyeongsang to take on FA Cup finalists Ulsan Hyundai this Sunday. Whilst Ulsan do have the cup final to look forward to, the Horang-i are still mathematically in the race for the title. As are their opponents this weekend, Jeju United, who will be hoping that their opponents from last weekend, Gangwon, can do them a favour by holding Jeonbuk. Jeju are unbeaten in their last seven away matches but lost the last time these two faced each other at the Munsu in mid June. Jung Jaeyong will miss out for Ulsan as will Jeju midfielder Cho Yonghyung as both players picked up their third bookings of the season in the previous round and will therefore serve a one-match suspension. From the 39 previous meetings between these two K League stalwarts, Jeju have only won four times in Ulsan with the most recent Horang-i victory dating back to 2011. In terms of the title race, if Jeonbuk match or better Jeju's result this weekend, the title could be decided in round 36 next week.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 1-1 Jeju United

Relegation Round

Gwangju FC (12th) Vs Sangju Sangmu (9th) 15:00

After looking somewhat dead and buried before round 33, bottom place Gwangju's run of four games unbeaten has given the South Jeolla side a fighting chance. Last week's comeback win over a hapless Jeonnam Dragons, inspired by supersub Wanderson's hat-trick, sets the yellows up for a crucial match with Sangju Sangmu on Sunday. Sangju make the trip west to Guus Hiddink Stadium on a run of four games without a win but with a one point cushion over the relegation playoff place. Sangju have only won three times in Gwangju but two of those victories have come this season. In 2017 the army team have three wins over their relegation rivals having also beaten Gwangju at home. Last week's Gwangju hero Wanderson was dismissed with these two sides met in July during a 2-1 Sangju win.

Prediction: Gwangju FC 2-1 Sangju Sangmu

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