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Preview: K League Classic Round 38

The 2017 K League Classic season winds to a close this weekend when both the Relegation and Championship Rounds conclude on Saturday and Sunday respectively. In the top half of the table third, fourth and fifth places that are still yet to be decided with Asian Champions League spots still up for grabls. Meanwhile, in the bottom half, no fewer than three teams head into the weekend all in danger of being dragged into the K League Promotion/Relegation Playoffs. Incheon United in nineth host Sangju Sangmu in eleventh whilst a free-falling Jeonnam Dragons in tenth make the difficult trip to an in-form Daegu FC. For all this and more, your guide to K League Classic Round 38.
(Image via Naver)

Saturday 18th November

Relegation Round 

Daegu FC (8th) Vs Jeonnam Dragons (10th)

Daegu secured safety a few weeks ago and have continued to impress post-split, remaining unbeaten in their last seven. Meanwhile, Jeonnam Dragons' position in the Classic is looking increasingly precarious week upon week and are in grave danger of falling through the trap door. To ensure safety, Jeonnam need to match or better Sangju's result away to Incheon United. Both teams are locked on 35 points heading into the final game but Noh Sangrae's side are able to keep their heads just above water on goals scored. If this season's three previous meetings are anything to go by, there should be goals come Saturday. When these two sides last met in October, Daegu ran away 4-1 winners in Jeonnam which was preceded by a 4-3 Dragons victory in July. Jeonnam, however, haven't won since 2nd August and have lost five from their last 12. On the road, the Dragons have won just twice in 2017 with the last away victory as far back as June, a 2-1 win over Gwangju. Daegu will have defender Hong Jungwoon back from suspension.

Columnists Muyeol Jung and Aodan Halligan's writers' chat preview coming soon here.

Editor's Prediction: Daegu FC 3-1 Jeonnam Dragons

Incheon United (9th) Vs Sangju Sangmu (11th)

Without a win since September, quite simply, it is do or die for Sangju Sangmu who make the long trip north to Incheon sitting in the relegation playoff place. A mere point separates these two sides and, should the game end in a draw, a point would be enough to ensure of Incheon United's safety. United have drawn six from their last nine and, much like Sangju, have just one win since September but are unbeaten at home in their last six. Away from base, Sangju have just five wins in 2017, but that does include victories over Jeonbuk Hyundai, Ulsan Hyundai and FC Seoul. Incheon are unbeaten against Sangju this season, winning twice and drawing once in the previous three encounters. Incheon's Brazilian forward Weslley is suspended for Incheon after picking up two bookings in the 2-2 draw with Jeonnam Dragons last time out. As is centre back Gordon Bunoza who was also dismissed in the same match.

Columnist Tim Barnes previews the game here.

Prediction: Incheon United 1-1 Sangju Sangmu

Gwangju FC (12th) Vs Pohang Steelers (7th)

Gwangju's 2-0 defeat to Daegu meant that the Jeolla outfit's stay back in the top flight lasted for just two seasons. The loss of last year's leading marksman and 2016 K League Classic MVP Jung Jogook proved to be too much for Gwangju and, subsequently, goals came at a premium this term. Gwangju's recent form suggested that a late survival bid might have been on the cards thanks to a run of just three defeats in their last 10. Alas, Gwangju sign off their last K League Classic game for at least a year with the visit of Pohang Steelers. Despite falling into the relegation round, Pohang's post split form has been stellar having one three and lost just once. Choi Soonho's side have amassed an impressive 13 goals from their last four. Gwangju will have defender Kim Youngbin back from suspension, Pohang have no suspensions of which to speak of heading into the final match of the season.

Prediction: Gwangju FC 0-2 Pohang Steelers

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Promotion/Relegation Playoff Dates

Sunday 19th November 

Championship Round

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st - C) vs Suwon Bluewings (3rd)

Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors host Asian Champions League-chasing Suwon Bluewings to Jeonju World Cup Stadium this Sunday. Whilst the Green Warriors have their long-awaited return to continental football to look forward, the Bluewings' place in next season's ACL is not yet guaranteed. With just a point separating Suwon from 4th placed Ulsan, a draw would be enough for Seo Jungwon's men. Suwon will be without defender Koo Jaryong and wingback Kim Minwoo through suspension. Jeonbuk will be without starlet Kim Minjae through injury.

Columnists Matthew Binns and Scott Whiltelock preview the game with a writers' chat here.

FC Seoul (5th) Vs Jeju United (2nd)

FC Seoul conclude what has ultimately been a disappointing season with the visit of 2017 K League Classic runners up Jeju United. The 4-0 defeat away to Gangwon FC meant that Seoul's outside hopes for Asian Champions League qualification were left in tatters in Chuncheon. Although qualification for the ACL is not mathematically impossible, it is largely improbably. Seoul would need to score seven goals against Jeju and hope that Suwon Bluewings lose by two. But, despite the improbabilities, Seoul will still be looking to pick up all three points come Sunday. Whilst manager Hwang Sunhong will be hoping a strong showing from his players is enough to help keep his job, those that cross the white line may still be playing for their futures also, particularly some of the more high-profile those whose contracts are due to expire. Seoul will be without Spanish midfielder Osmar through injury as well as Hwang Hyunsoo through suspension. For Jeju, defender Kim Wonil is suspended but centre back Oh Banseok and full back Park Jinpo are available for selection again having missed the last game through suspension, as is young forward Lee Eunbeom.

Columnist Ryan Walters previews the game here.

Gangwon FC 6th Vs Ulsan Hyundai 4th

Gangwon ended a run of three straight defeats by emphatically putting FC Seoul to the sword in their previous game just under a fortnight ago. Goals from Kim Seungyong, Lim Chanui, Han Kookyoung and Lee Keunho sealed a 4-0 win and sets Gangwon up well for the visit of a floundering Ulsan Hyundai this Sunday. The Horang-i have lost all four of their post-split matches and haven't won in the league since 23rd September. The long trip north to Chuncheon will be a seen as a difficult one but if Ulsan are to finish third, and in the final guaranteed Asian Champions League place, then Kim Dohoon's men will need to pick up a victory. With the FA Cup Final still to play, Ulsan do have another route into the ACL but given Busan IPark's giant-killing cup run, tthe Classic Vs Challenge clash is far from a foregone conclusion. To finish third, Ulsan need to win and for Suwon Bluewings to lose away to Champions Jeonbuk. Gangwon can only finish 6th but will want to end the season on a high. Striker Lee Keunho could be a doubt after the veteran marksman went off at half time during Korea's 2-1 win over Colombia last Friday. Diego, who has has nine goals from coming off the bench from 26 substitute appearances could be in line for a rate start should Lee Keunho fail to recover in time. Defender Ahn Jiho is back from suspension but Jung Jogook has one more match to serve of his two game ban. For Ulsan, Kim Sunghwan is suspended following his sending off against Jeonbuk last time out. Kim Changsoo is available, however, having served a two match ban.

Prediction: Gangwon FC 0-1 Ulsan Hyundai

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