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Preview: K League 1 Round 7

With the first round of midweek fixtures now come and gone, squad rotation and fitness will take center stage in Round 7 of K League 1. A lopsided provincial derby, unusual lower table affair, and a captivating 2nd vs 4th match between two of K1's most potent attacks highlight the weekend. Those matches and more in your comprehensive guide to Round 7.

Saturday April 14th

#ULSvSEO: Ulsan Hyundai (9th) vs FC Seoul (10th) 14:00 

Traditionally a match up of two K League powerhouses, this weekend's Ulsan vs Seoul match sees both sides in the early season relegation zone and struggling to find their identity. For hosts Ulsan, what started as an atrocious season has begun to turn around with back to back league wins for the first time since September of last year. The short streak started when they walloped Melbourne Victory 6-2 in AFC Champions League last week. The midweek goal explosion woke the previously slumbering Horang-i attack, seeing them put three by Gangwon and another two by Daegu to keep their winning streak alive. Encouragingly for Ulsan, the resurgence has been led by foreign imports Mislav Oršić and Junior Negao, who were brought in for just this reason. Those two will be under significant pressure to perform yet again this weekend with an underrated FC Seoul defense on the other side of the field. Led by the ever-reliable Yang Hanbin in net, Seoul have held two clean sheets already and only conceded six thus far. A mark good enough for the fourth best defensive record in K League. Stopping the Ulsan attack may be enough to earn a point on the road, but if Seoul want to secure their second straight win this year, they'll need an attacking performance similar to the one they put in against Pohang midweek. Korean National Teamer Go Yohan led the way with a brace, and Evandro created problems for the opposition yet again, but a cohesive attack continued to elude the capital club. Seoul will need to figure it out on Saturday if they hope to come away with full points against the suddenly hot home side.

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

#SSBvSAN: Suwon Samsung Bluewings (3rd) vs Sangju Sangmu (7th) 14:00

Predictably, a trip away from Big Bird was exactly what the doctor ordered for Suwon when they made the journey to Gangwon midweek. The goals that just would not come in both the Super Match vs FC Seoul and ACL vs Sydney FC came at the right time with Kim Gunhee and Yeom Kihun each getting their first of the season. Their tallies made it six different Bluewings to score in 2018, and Suwon fans will hope it's a sign of things to come from two men expected to produce this season. A goal sharing trend that's likely to continue this weekend with manager Seo Jungwon expected to employ some squad rotation to ensure he can field his best side in a crucial ACL match in Japan vs Kashima Antlers midweek. A likelihood Sangju manager Kim Taewan will be looking to exploit to keep his side's momentum after their own midweek victory at Incheon United. A stoppage time Lim Chaemin penalty was enough for the army side to secure all three points against the always plucky United. Joo Minkyu remains the man to watch for Sangju, but – much like last year – opposing teams have figured that out and it's now up to the other ten men on the field to figure something out. Someone that has been pulling their weight in that regard is former Bluewing Hong Chul, who has Sagnju's only two assists thus far. Now in his second and final season in a military uniform, Hong will undoubtedly be looking to impress his Suwon coaches and teammates to ensure a starting spot upon his return later this season.

You can read Scott Whitelock's full preview and prediction here.

#JeollaDerby: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) vs Jeonnam Dragons (11th) 16:00

The first Jeolla Derby of 2018 sees these provincial rivals in familiar territory yet again: bookending the K League table. After back to back shock losses to Incheon United and Tianjin Quanjian, Jeonbuk have won five straight in all competitions, held four clean sheets, and reclaimed first place in the league. The astonishing depth of the defending champions is already starting to show through in the early goings of 2018 with nearly fully rotated and fully rested squads perfectly capable of taking on all comers both domestically and internationally. The latest victim was this season's darling and 2017 K2 Champions, Gyeongnam FC. The Reds' usually potent attack was shut out at home with Jeonbuk unquestionably staking their claim as top dog in the league. In opposite fashion, things have been on a rather downward trajectory for Jeonbuk's Southern rivals after an opening day win at Suwon. While there have certainly been positives to take away from the Dragons play from years past, the fact remains they have only won one game in their past 20 tries in K League dating back to last year. New manager Yoo Sangchul has the team more organized and tactically minded than his predecessor, but the results have yet to follow. Even a point on the road to one of their few true rivals would go miles to reviving the Jeonnam fanbase and – perhaps more importantly – the Dragons locker room.

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

FIFA 18 Preview

#JEJvINC: Jeju United (6th) vs Incheon United (8th) 16:00

The Islanders have a midweek ACL match on the horizon, but having already been eliminated from the competition, manager Cho Sunghwan will undoubtedly be fielding his strongest side this weekend in hopes of climbing the league table even further. Jeju's 3-0 win at Jeonnam midweek marked just their second time getting on the board through six league games, and they'll hope it's a return to the "Tangerine Taka" K League fans became accustomed to seeing from them last year. As important as the victory and the three points that came with it was Lee Changmin finding the back of the net for the first time this year. On the fringe of the National Team and running out of time to impress Shin Taeyong enough to earn a plane ticket to Russia, Changmin will be looking to exploit an Incheon backline that has held just one clean sheet through six rounds, and that came against against last place Daegu FC. If Jeju's attack has indeed come into it's 2017 form, then Incheon won't be looking to stop them as much as contain them and hope for the best at the other end of the pitch. Their reliance on 26-year-old Stefan Mugoša isn't likely to stop after the Montenegrin international bagged a brace last weekend. He continues to lead the team with four goals and will be a threat again in Jeju. If Mugoša is stymied again as he was midweek vs Sangju, then look for super sub Song Siwoo to come on late and attempt to work his magic.

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

Sunday April 15th

#DAEvGAN: Daegu FC (12th) vs Gangwon FC (5th) 14:00 

Having each made their return to K1 last year, both Daegu and Gangwon were looking to build on successful 2017 seasons this year, but it's been less than stellar for both. After fielding one of the league's most exciting attacks just a year ago, Daegu have failed to score in four of their first six matches and still await their first win of the season. With just two goals to their name, Daegu are in desperate need of a goalscorer to emerge as quickly as possible. Their lone remaining high scorer with seven last season, Cesinha, has ever increasing pressure upon him to do even more this season in the absence of his former Brazilian teammates Evandro and Junior. As the only other multi-goal scorers from last year, both Kim Jinhyeok and Jeon Hyeonchul bear a bit of that responsibility as well, but the simple fact seems Daegu are going to need to grind out extremely close games on the back of Cho Hyunwoo's stellar play in net. The occasional KNT starter will need to stand tall yet again this weekend with a Gangwon side that's yet to be held scoreless this year. They have, however, lost three in a row and will hope a trip to last place Daegu is just what they need to stop the rot. After conceding three times in each of their three losses, Gangwon will be hoping not only to put a few by Daegu, but also finally shore up the backline that let them down so many times in 2017. A good number of those issues stem from the number one spot with Kim Hojun, Lee Beomyoung, and even the largely untested Ham Seokmin all getting a turn in net and all yielding the same result. If Gangwon's to make good on their promise of ACL next season, they need to sort out their issues at the back as soon as possible, and this weekend seems to provide the perfect opportunity.

You can read Steve Price's full preview and prediction here.

#POHvGYE: Pohang Steelers (4th) vs Gyeongnam FC (2nd) 16:00

The K League Worldwide LIVE Match of the Week sees two of K1's more entertaining sides square off in a match both will be using to wipe away memories of a midweek loss. Pohang return home after a bitter defeat at Seoul that saw a controversial VAR decision go against them to nullify what seemed the equalizing goal. The decision marked the second week in a row a call went against them and resulted in a loss. Something that didn't go amiss with Australian midfielder Connor Chapman when we spoke with him post game. The past two matches aside, there has been a lot to like in a resurgent Pohang this year with intelligent foreign signings like Chapman and Léo Gamalho both making their mark early and influencing games from opposite sides of the pitch. Additionally, long time Steeler Kim Seungdae is off to a fast start in his first full season back with the club after a stint in China with Yanbian Funde. The 27-year-old leads the team with three goals having added to the tally with a lovely finish against the formidable Yang Hanbin at Seoul Wednesday night. Gyeongnam will need to keep an eye on him and be far more organized than they were against the defending champions, Jeonbuk, midweek. Suffering their first loss of 2018, The Reds conceded four goals and first place in the league all in one fell swoop. Quickly shaking off that loss and taking all three points against an opponent as formidable as Pohang on the road would go a long way to silence any doubters of their place in the top of the table. Having been held scoreless for just the second time in 15 matches dating back to last season, current Golden Boot leader Marcão and company will be eager to get back on the field and find the back of the net as usual.

You can read my full preview on KLeague.com as part of our new partnership with the league.

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