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Preview: K League Classic Round 37

This weekend sees the 2017 K League Classic season reach its penultimate round with ACL places and survival still very much up for grabs. Although Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors sealed the title with their win over Jeju United last weekend, the race for Asian Champions League qualification is reaching its final furlong with Ulsan Hyundai, FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings all looking to secure continental football for 2018. Meanwhile, in the relegation round, as well as a huge six pointer between Jeonnam Dragons and Incheon United, it's last chance saloon for Gwangju who travel to Daegu, whilst Sangju Sangmu host Pohang Steelers. Your guide to round 37:
(Picture Credit: Incheon United)

Saturday 4th November

Championship Round

Gangwon FC (6th) Vs FC Seoul (5th) 15:00

An incisive 3-0 win for FC Seoul over FA Cup finalists Ulsan Hyundai meant that 2016's K League Champions head into the final two games unbeaten since the split and on a run of seven games unbeaten. With just two points separating Seoul from fierce rivals Suwon Bluewings who now occupy third, ACL qualification is still the aim for Hwang Sunhong's men. But, now that Ulsan sit in fourth, the last potential Asian Champions League place, Seoul will need to finish in third to qualify for the ACL. Thus, if Seoul are to play on the continent next term, a win on Saturday is an absolute must. Hwang Sunhong's men travel to Chuncheon to take on Gangwon FC, a side whose season seems to have petered out somewhat. Last week Gangwon lost 2-1 to Suwon Bluewings to make it three defeats on the spin and one win in nine. For Gangwon Korea National Team midfielder Han Kookyoung is back in contention after serving his one match ban, but defender Ahn Jiho will miss out after picking up his sixth yellow during the defeat to Suwon Bluewings. Jung Jogook is also suspended following the 2016 MVP's dismissal in the same game. For Seoul, Go Yohan is back from suspension, as is full back Shin Kwanghoon.

from soccerway.com
Read columnist Ryan Walters previews the game here.

Relegation Round 

Daegu FC (8th) Vs Gwangju FC (12th) 15:00

Last time out Daegu displaced their provincial neighbours Pohang Steelers 2-1 at the Steel Yard to mathematically ensure of their safety. The win over Pohang extended Daegu's impressive run of form that has seen the North Gyeongsang outfit suffer defeat just once in their 12. Up next is the visit of Gwangju, a side who absolutely must win this game if the 2010-founded club are to live to fight another day. Four points separate Gwangju with 11th placed Jeonnam Dragons and with an inferior goals scored record, it means that anything less than a win will all but put the final nail in Gwangju's coffin. Gwangju, however, are unbeaten in six and have two wins from their last three matches. Gaffer Nam Ki-il will be without defender Kim Youngbin through suspension, whilst the hosts Daegu will have to do without defender Hong Jungwoon who will also serve a one-game ban.

from soccerway
Prediction: Daegu FC 1-2 Gwangju FC

Sangju Sangmu (9th) Vs Pohang Steelers (7th) 15:00

Pohang Steelers' run of good form came to an end last week with Daegu FC taking all three points away from the Steel Yard to seal their safety from relegation. Pohang's next opponents, Sangju Sangmu, will have been taking notes as a win could potentially, all-but seal their own safety and avoid the relegation playoffs should Jeonnam Dragons lose to Incheon United. Sangju welcome Pohang on the back of winless run of six games but have amassed four draws in that time. The once red-hot Joo Minkyu has seen the goals dry up somewhat having failed to find the net in his last three but, having missed the draw with Jeonnam last week through suspension, will be available again for the visit of Pohang. Although Pohang are safe, Sangju are facing a battle to stay up and so will be seen as the slight favourites.

from soccerway
Prediction: Sangju Sangmu 1-0 Pohang Steelers

Promotion Relegation Playoff Dates here.

Sangju to leave the K League? Here.

Sunday 5th November

Championship Round

Ulsan Hyundai (4th) Vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st - Champions) 15:00

On Sunday a 3-0 win over Jeju United sealed the title for Jeonbuk Hyundai with two games to spare.
The now-five times K League Champions travel to the Munsu Stadium on Sunday to take on a beleaguered Ulsan Hyundai. The Horang-i host Jeonbuk after three straight defeats since the split and and haven't picked up a league win since mid September. Such form has seen the once-title challengers drop to fourth and in grave danger of having to rely on an FA Cup win to secure Asian Champions League qualification. With the title sewn up, questions will be asked whether Jeonbuk will have their minds on the winter break or last two games. But, given Ulsan's poor form, the Green Warriors will still be seen as heavy favourites heading into Sunday's match-up.

Prediction: Ulsan Hyundai 0-2 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors


from soccerway.com

Jeju United (2nd) Vs Suwon Bluewings (3rd) 15:00

Following a last gasp draw in the Super Match, Suwon Bluewings made it seven points from a possible nine since the split with a win over Gangwon at home. The League's leading scorer Johnathan put the Bluewings ahead with a well-taken strike from just inside the box 16 minutes in, only for Hwang Junsung to tuck away a smart assist from Lee Keunho five minutes later. However, Lee Yongrae netted what proved to be the winner on 69 minutes to seal the points and that lifted Suwon up to third place. Having been comfortably beaten in Jeonju on Sunday, Jeju United's dreams of a first K League title in 18 years were dashed. But, come Sunday the Tangerines could secure second place and qualification into the Asian Champions League group stages with a win but should Ulsan lose to Jeonbuk, a win for the Bluewings would maintain Suwon's grip on third place. Suwon picked up the three points when these two sides last met on the island: a 1-0 win in July. In 2017 these two sides have already met four times, three times in the league and once in the FA Cup, with the Bluewings boasting of three wins to Jeju's one. United haven't scored from open play in their last four and will have to do without forward Lee Eunbeom and defensive due Oh Banseok and Park Jinpo through suspension.

from soccerway
Prediction: Jeju United 1-3 Suwon Bluewings

Relegation Round

Jeonnam Dragons (11th) Vs Incheon United (10th) 15:00

Given the nature of the split and the relegation round, the term 'six-pointer' often crops up but Sunday's clash between Jeonnam Dragons and Incheon United defines such an expression. Incheon's ability to remain hard to beat is keeping their heads above water, but only just as the Durumi have a mere one point lead over the Dragons. Jeonnam's form has relegation written all over it with No Sangrae's side on a run that stretched to 14 without a win following the 0-0 draw against Sangju last time out. Incheon endured 0-0 of their own last week too, drawing a blank against a resurgent Gwangju. A win for Incheon would be massive in their quest for safety but if the Neroazzure are to find a win they will have to do so without Brazilian forward Wesley who is suspended. But, fellow striker Ha Changrae is back in contention as are midfielders Kim Dohyuk and Park Jongjin. Incheon's last away win dates back to August and have suffered defeat at Dragon Dungeon already this season: a 3-2 reverse at the end of May. In fact, Incheon fans would have to cast their minds back to 2015 for their last away win over Jeonnam. Neither team will want to have to take part in the promotion/relegation playoffs and so both No Sangrae and Lee Kihyung may opt for a more cautious approach to avoid defeat.

from soccerway
Columnist Tim Barnes previews the game here.

Promotion Relegation Playoff Dates here.

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