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Preview: K League Classic Round 36

The 36th round of this year's K League Classic presents the first opportunity for the champions to be declared, with first place Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors facing off against second placed Jeju United down in Jeonju. It's not all that is going on this weekend however, with FC Seoul and Ulsan squaring off in Sangam as they race for Champions League, whilst down at the foot of the table, the bottom four all verse one another as they continue in their scrap to keep themselves in the division next year. All this and more in your guide to round 36.
(Picture credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)

Saturday 28th October

Championship Round

FC Seoul (5th) vs Ulsan Hyundai (3rd) 15:00

After letting slip a lead late to bitter rivals Suwon Bluewings last Saturday, FC Seoul know they have less control than they did before over qualification to next year's Asian Champions League. However, thanks to their loss against second-placed Jeju United, Ulsan also risk losing their Champions League spot, with just four points separating these two sides, and Suwon just two points off the pace between them in fourth. A victory here for FC Seoul will at least close that gap, but if they do, it will likely be by a narrow margin. Whilst unbeaten in their last six, the capital club have averaged a goal per game over the same period, with their last win by at least a two goal margin being back at the start of August. They face an Ulsan side who have built a reputation in grinding out three points per game through solid defending, keeping them among the top three for most of the year. The sides three previous meetings have all ended in draws, so can we expect yet another share of the spoils this weekend? 

Columnist Ryan Walters' full match preview can be found here.

Relegation Round

Sangju Sangmu (9th) vs Jeonnam Dragons (11th) 15:00

Without a league win in their last eleven, in addition to losing their last five, if it was not for their impressive form earlier in the year then Jeonnam could have even been propping up Gwangju. The Dragons' poor form has finally caught up with them in terms of league position as they entered the relegation zone last weekend. While the side have still been able to find the goal, their defence, or what there was of it, has cruelly fled them. Fortunately though, Australian defender Tomislav Mrčela returns to bolster their ranks at the back for this clash. The Dragons' hosts, Sangju Sangmu, have also began to stutter after encouraging signs of life only a month ago. It's now three draws and two losses in their last five for the military side, with two of their draws coming from letting a two goal lead slip. With neither side seemingly being able to defend, there's hope (for the neutral at least) that this may be a high scoring affair.

Columnist Aodan Halligan's previews the match here.

Pohang Steelers (7th) vs Daegu FC (8th) 15:00

Victory for Daegu FC this weekend will guarantee them top tier football next season, a great achievement for a team many had predicted to struggle, yet defeat will certainly not be a disaster given their five point cushion over the relegation spots. They travel to Pohang who are safe, meaning this game has perhaps the least riding on it out of the six weekend fixtures. Pohang have won their last two games comfortably and are unbeaten in six. Daegu have also not suffered a loss for a while, winning once and drawing four times in their last five. Can this year's promoted side continue to end their season with strong form?

Columnist Jung Muyeol previews this match in full here.

Sunday 29th October

Championship Round

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

The biggest game of the round sees first placed Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors welcome second placed Jeju United in a game that will see the hosts claim the K League Classic 2017 title if they can win. It will not come easily however, with Jeju United also knowing a victory for them would bring them right back into contention with two games remaining. Last weekend saw Jeonbuk dispose of sixth placed Gangwon with relative ease, whereas Jeju edged a tight encounter against other title contenders Ulsan Hyundai, all but ending their lofty league ambitions. This season has seen Jeju come out on top twice, with Jeonbuk winning narrowly once three weeks ago. It certainly has all the ingredients for a tense encounter on Sunday afternoon.

Columnist Matthew Binns previews the game in full here.

Suwon Bluewings (2nd) vs Gangwon FC (6th) 15:00

Despite drawing to FC Seoul, results went in Suwon's favour last weekend, narrowing the gap to third place to just two points. Whilst it may not be that come Sunday, seeing as sides above and beneath them play twenty-four hours before, the Bluewings will know that they need victory regardless if they are to maintain the hope of Champions League qualification, especially after the team were knocked out the FC semi-final midweek to Challenge side Busan. Gangwon FC on the other hand have nothing to play for and were convincingly beaten by Jeonbuk last weekend, in addition to narrowly losing to Jeju the round before. Suwon have a lot more riding on this and will feel hard done by after controversially crashing out of the cup, so expect them to come out fighting this Sunday.

Prediction: Suwon Bluewings 2-0 Gangwon FC

Relegation Round

Incheon United (10th) vs Gwangju FC (12th) 15:00

They couldn't, could they? With most writing off Gwangju FC as destined for relegation, they have only gone on and won their last two, in addition to being unbeaten in four, bringing them within four points off a marginally better relegation play off spot and just five from the opponents they face on Sunday. Incheon United, on the other hand, have started to wobble once more, picking up one point and shipping seven without reply within their last three matches. It's certainly not the right time of the year to lose form, and a defeat here will only increase the tension amongst the Incheon faithful going into their final two games against Jeonnam and Sangju.

Columnist Tim Barnes' full preview can be read here.

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