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Preview: K League 1 Round 5

Rivalries and closely challenged table contests pepper the schedule for K League 1's 5th round. The first Super Match between Suwon Samsung Bluewings and FC Seoul with K League legend Dejan Damjanović in a blue shirt will rightly steal many of the headlines, but there's potential for a lot of movement in the table with 8th vs 9th, 6th vs 7th, and a delightful 2nd vs 3rd all on the cards this weekend. Those matches and more in your comprehensive Round 5 guide.

Saturday April 7th

Incheon United (6th) vs Jeonnam Dragons (7th) 14:00

The first match up of Round 5 sees two midtable teams coming off acceptable draws where both will have wanted – and perhaps deserved – more than the single point they walked away with. For a surprisingly strong Incheon side, they will feel a bit hard done by both the crossbar and luck to not come away with all three points from 2018's first Gyeongin Derby against FC Seoul. Easily the more organized side for the majority of the game, Incheon came out with a strong game plan away from home and did well by it until a moment of brilliance from FC Seoul's winter signing Evando put the hosts ahead. Super Sub Song Siwoo did what he seems to always do and struck late to secure a much deserved point for Incheon against their heated rival and capture some momentum heading into a busy month of April. Jeonnam, meanwhile, will make the long journey to Incheon Football Stadium pining for what could have been in their Round 4 draw against Daegu FC.  A wondrous Hwang Soonmin hit from distance put the hosts up 1-0 in the 33rd minute, but Jeonnam was able to claw their way back into the game thanks in large part to Daegu's Oh Gwangjin picking up a second yellow and being sent off. Minutes later Choi Jaehyun found himself wide open on a corner and made no mistake for his second of the season to level the match. Jeonnam pushed for the go ahead goal, but ultimately could not capitalize on the man advantage. Obviously disappointed with not getting more from the match, one key positive for Jeonnam was a much improved performance from the often shaky backline. They will need another strong performance this weekend against an Incheon side capable of scoring in bunches, especially with the return of Montenegrin international Stefan Mugoša up top.

You can read Tim Barnes's full preview and prediction here.

Gyeongnam FC (1st) vs Daegu FC (11th) 16:00

Two of K League 1's most recently promoted sides face off on polar opposite ends of the table in a match that has the potential to turn lopsided quickly if Daegu aren't careful. The same Gyeongnam attack that propelled them to a runaway K2 title last season has showed no signs of slowing in the top flight and has buoyed them to a standalone spot at the top of the table as the only team having taken all 12 points on offer through four rounds. Early season Golden Boot leader Marcão was at it again for the Reds over the weekend scoring a brace and handing Gangwon their first loss of the young season. Teams may eventually get enough game tape on the big man to at least slow his progress later in the season, but for now he continues to steamroll anything that gets in his way, and right now that should have a sputtering Daegu FC very worried. Having just scored their first goal of the season in their 1-1 draw with Jeonnam, Daegu are ill equipped for the offensive shootout Gyeongnam invites every match. Their lone foreign holdover from 2017, Cesinha, had a stronger showing against Jeonnam than he had in the opening three rounds, but he will need to be at the peak of his game in order to challenge the Reds' high octane attack. Another man that will need to be at the top of his game is goalkeeper Cho Hyunwoo, who continues to do everything he can to keep his side in the game. Watching the Korean International backstop duke it out with the league's top scorer should be worth tuning in to K1's late match in and of itself, but if that isn't enough, the Reds are sure to score at least one truly beautiful goal yet again.

You can read James Edrupt's full preview and prediction here.

Sunday April 8th

Suwon Samsung Bluewings (5th) vs FC Seoul (10th) 14:00

The Super Match always means a lot to both Suwon and Seoul, but this year's first affair may well have ramifications for the rest of 2018. Neither team is in the position they had hoped to be in by this point and a win against their bitter rival may prove to be what's needed to boost their season. Heading into the 57th Super Match, Suwon currently hold serve with 23 wins compared to Seoul's 20 all time, and while closing the historical gap may not be enough to motivate FC Seoul manager Hwang Sunhong's side, keeping him off the hot seat might. The embattled manager has yet to claim all three points this year and the fans have voiced their displeasure at the end of each home match. However, nothing would ease tensions quite like beating bitter league rivals in their own house. To do so, Hwang will need to field his strongest attacking side, which should include Evandro after another strong showing on the wing last weekend. The Brazilian's halftime substitution for Park Heeseong against Incheon last weekend proved the spark Seoul were lacking in the first half and was enough to get a point out of the match. Having just watched Sydney FC put four past the Suwon backline midweek in AFC Champions League, Seoul are unquestionably looking at this weekend as the perfect time for a Super Match to kick start their attack and indeed their entire season.

For Suwon, this is not only a chance to get one over on their rival, but an opportunity to finally prove they can win meaningful matches at home. The Bluewings ACL collapse against Sydney FC has put their position in the knockout round of the competition in question when advancing seemed almost a sure thing before kickoff. However, even outside of Champions League, home field "advantage" has been a bugaboo for Suwon. They have only won four of their last 13 at Big Bird dating back to last year, and haven't beaten Seoul there since 2016. If stopping that streak weren't quite enough to motivate the hosts, there is also the added bonus of K League legend Dejan Damjanović playing for the blue side of the Super Match for the first time after over 300 appearances for FC Seoul. The 36-year-old Montenegrin netted his first league goal against Jeju in Round 4 to add to the five he has scored in ACL thus far, and will unquestionably be up for the affair this weekend to prove the doubters at FC Seoul wrong.

You can read Paul Neat's full preview on KLeague.com as part of our new partnership with the league.

Dejan FIFA 18 Interview

Pohang Steelers (2nd) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (3rd) 14:00

Pohang head into Sunday's 2nd vs 3rd affair as one of just two K League 1 teams yet to suffer a loss on the season, but face a truly challenging task in the form of 2017 Champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai. Buoyed by a surprisingly strong performance by Song Bumkeun between the sticks in ACL midweek, Jeonbuk returns to league play having secured a spot in the Round of 16 in international competition. Their 2-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol not only solidified their claim as one of the favorites in the tournament, but also allowed them to field a much stronger side this weekend knowing the reserves can handle coming midweek games. One such "reserve" Pohang will need to keep an eye on this weekend is Jeonbuk's leading scorer, Adriano, who stayed on the bench for the full 90 in Japan. Already scoring the poachers goals that put him on the map with FC Seoul in 2016, Adriano looks a force to be reckoned with yet again and the Pohang backline will have their hands full with him. A backline that has become well accustomed to facing ACL level attackers having faced Suwon and Ulsan in their previous two meetings and holding each side to a single goal. One reason for the turnaround from last season's defense is 23-year-old Australian Conor Chapman playing just in front of the back four to shield them against the first wave of attacks and also move the ball out of the first third much quicker. He will play a vital role in clogging up the middle of the pitch to prevent Jeonbuk from getting on the end of crosses.

You can read Matthew Binns' full preview and prediction here.

Ulsan Hyundai (12th) vs Gangwon FC (4th) 16:00 

The four losses in four and dead last Ulsan Hyundai facing off against a Gangwon side that's only lost to the league leaders looks a truly lopsided match on paper, but the Horgan-i may have yet another surprise in them. After absolutely dismantling Melbourne Victory 6-2 in ACL midweek, it would appear the Ulsan side that wowed the world with stunning goal after stunning goal in the opening rounds of Champions League isn't dead after all. One of the last teams to get a goal in league play this season, Ulsan had no such issues Wednesday night with both Mislav Oršić and Junior both bagging braces. The Horang-i will look to shake their Jekyll and Hyde persona this weekend when the newly stable Gangwon FC visit. Goalkeeper Kim Hojun may have seen three go by him last weekend against Gyeongnam, but the way the league leaders are playing at the moment, that's hardly anything to hang his head over. Prior to that match, Gangwon had conceded just a single goal per game allowing them to win the closely contested affairs they were losing just a year ago with a far more fragile backline. More consistency at the back has allowed Jung Jogook, Lee Keunho and newcomer Uroš Đerić to more freely roam at the front with fewer concerns about tracking back defensively. If the Ulsan side that already advanced out of the ACL group stage shows up and there's an early goal in this one, it might just be the most entertaining match of the round!

You can read Dan Croydon's full preview and prediction here.

Jeju United (8th) vs Sangju Sangmu (9th) 16:00

The other late game on Sunday sees another ACL side in action, but on the other end of the spectrum with Jeju having already been officially eliminated from the competition. With just one win in five attempts internationally, the Islanders will once again shift their focus to league play and may be the better for it. The lone K League side to advance last season, United had a lot of pressure on them in the Round of 16 and ultimately fell to it crashing out to eventual champions Urawa. It wasn't until after that exit that Jeju was able to field their strongest side in league play and make their run up the table, and they'll be hoping for much of the same this year with one fewer competition to worry about. To do so they'll need to do what they've managed just once thus far and score some goals. Easily one of K League 1's best – and most entertaining – attacks last year has yet to find second gear in 2018 and will hope a visit from the military side this weekend is just what they need to get their house in order. Similarly, Sangju are looking to stop the rot with three losses in their first four and create some space from those beneath them in the table. Held scoreless for the first time this year, the always lethal Joo Minkyu will look to get back on the scoresheet this weekend.

You can read Branko Belan's full preview and prediction here.

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