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Preview: K League 1 Round 8

The K League 1 table is starting to take shape with over two months of results in the books as we head into Round 8 this weekend. With Jeonbuk Hyundai back in their familiar top spot, the pressure is on Suwon, Gyeongnam, and Pohang to pick up all three points in matches they are favored to win this weekend to keep pace. Elsewhere struggling sides look to stop the rot and turn their season around before it's too late. All of these match ups in your comprehensive Round 8 preview.

Saturday April 21st

#SEOvDAE: FC Seoul (10th) vs Daegu FC (11th) 14:00 

The K League Worldwide LIVE Match of the Week sees FC Seoul and Daegu FC much closer in the league table than they're used to and both in need of all three points to get their season going. The brief reprieve Seoul felt after beating Pohang 2-1 at home midweek was quickly erased when they failed to score for the third time this season and fell 1-0 at Ulsan in Round 7. The capital club created the majority of quality chances in the match with an attack that looked much more fluid than in previous rounds, but the final ball eluded them all afternoon. Equally concerning for Hwang Sunhong's men is their fruitless conversion rate on set pieces. Seoul had 10 corner kicks against Ulsan and couldn't find the back of the net once. A trend they will be hoping to change when Daegu's rather porous defenses visits Seoul World Cup Stadium this Saturday.

Even with arguably the league's best keeper, Cho Hyunwoo, in net, Daegu have only held one clean sheet and allowed 10 goals against through seven rounds. Although Cho and company haven't been able to keep their opponents off the board entirely, they have managed to limit the damage and keep themselves in every closely contested match. A defensive strategy that has seen them lose just once in their previous five and even pick up their first win of the season last round against Gangwon FC. Look for Daegu to sit deep and absorb pressure from Seoul early on looking to counter in the second half. If Seoul's scoring woes continue, Daegu could be coming away with their first win at Sangam since 2011. Conversely, if Go Yohan, Evandro, and Lopes can find the rhythm they had against Pohang, it could be a long afternoon for Cho Hyunwoo.

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

#JNDvGAN: Jeonnam Dragons (12th) vs Gangwon FC (6th) 14:00

After failing to beat their Northern Jeolla rivals for the 10th straight derby, Jeonnam return home defeated yet again and running out of options on the bench. Picking up their third red card in as many matches, the Dragons continue to self destruct and have pushed their dreadful league streak to just one win in their previous 21 games. The most recent red was an utterly foolish Lee Seulchan elbow square into Choi Bokyung's jaw in the 87th minute of a match Jeonnam seemed poised to draw level. Instead the flood gates opened and Jeonbuk ran away 3-0 winners. Lee Seulchan joins Han Chanhee and Wanderson Carvalho on the disciplinary sheet making it more red cards than goals for the Dragons in their previous three outings. In spite of the lack of self-restraint, new manager Yoo Sangchul does seem to have his side playing better football than in years past. The 60 scoreless minutes against Jeonbuk were well earned and could have gone on much longer if it weren't for another irrational foul against Lee Donggook in the box to give up a penalty kick.

While the Dragons will be looking to invoke that defensive spirit this weekend, Gangwon will be hoping to exploit Jeonnam's deficiencies to stop their own slide. After starting the season hot with three wins on the trot, Gangwon have lost four straight and conceded an astonishing 11 goals over the stretch. Their goalkeeping carousel continued as Kim Hojun was given another shot in net after seeing Ham Seokmin and Lee Beomyoung get their chance and fall flat. Unfortunately for Gangwon, Hojun also wasn't up to the task and allowed Daegu to score just their third and fourth goals of the season on the way to another loss. On the positive side for Gangwon, they have yet to be shut out this season and Jeonnam have the league's worst defensive record, so goals are likely in the mix for Jung Jogook and company. Given both team's inability to keep the ball out of their own net, this could be a surprisingly entertaining game for two teams in bad form.

You can read Aodan Halligan's full preview and prediction here.

#POHvSAN: Pohang Steelers (4th) vs Sangju Sangmu (8th) 16:00

Fresh off a much needed win against the high flying Gyeongnam FC, Pohang remain at home and welcome the always difficult Sangju Sangmu to the Steelyard this Saturday. After back to back losses to Jeonbuk and FC Seoul, Pohang got back to their winning ways in last week's Worldwide Live Match of the Round with a thrilling end to end performance that saw Léo Gamalho's brace carry the team to all three points. The Brazilian now leads the team with four goals and has given opposition defenses headaches with his deft passing and continued goal threats.  Goal threats that may well open the door for Kim Seungdae to get back on the scoresheet this weekend if Sangju aren't careful enough to keep an eye on both. The military outfit head to Pohang this weekend in the eighth of their grueling ten game away stretch to start the season. Considering they haven't had the benefit of a home crowd yet, Sangju are performing about as well as could be expected with seven points and just eight goals conceded. The point total may not be the best, but it has been enough to keep them out of the relegation zone and they have established a defensive structure that should continue to pay dividends for the once they finally return home in a few weeks time. Having already faced several other top table teams, Sangju's back line is in for another stiff test this weekend. Look for Pohang to pounce early and set themselves up for a more comfortable afternoon.

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


Sunday April 22nd

#JEJvJHM: Jeju United (5th) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 14:00 

Both Jeju United and Jeonbuk Hyundai played their final AFC Champions League group stage games midweek to drastically different ends. While Jeju crashed out of international competition after being held scoreless at home to Thai side Buriram United, Jeonbuk soared to the top of the group with yet another emphatic home victory. This time a 3-0 result against Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC. Cruising to victory in the same fashion against the Islanders may prove a much more difficult task this weekend as Jeju have only allowed five goals through seven league matches; the league's second best defensive record. With one fewer competition to focus on, Jeju's attack has caught up with their surprisingly stout defense and scored seven goals in their last two league games against Jeonnam and Incheon respectively. Having each scored in those victories, Tiago Marques and Lee Changmin seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time for Jeju. A strong showing from them this weekend could see United get their fourth win in six tries against the Northern Jeolla giants.

While Jeju have been getting the best of this series in recent years, Jeonbuk holds a distinctive edge with 23 wins and eight draws in 40 league matches. They will look to have history continue its traditional track with a slightly rotated squad this weekend after ACL midweek. Having started the Brazilian trio of Adriano, Lopes, and Tiago midweek only to see them go scoreless, manager Choi Kanghee will likely start the match with Kim Shinwook as the lone striker up top in the 4-1-4-1 he has occasionally used this season. Should Kim Shinwook and company do what the team has so often lately and leave the game late, Lee Donggook seems primed to play the super sub role after going 63 minutes against Kitchee. Given both teams strong defensive record, the match may be primed for the Lion King to add yet another game winning goal to his tally this weekend.

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

#INCvSSD: Incheon United (9th) vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings (2nd) 16:00

Still buzzing from their dramatic ACL group winning 1-0 victory at Kashima Antlers midweek, Suwon Samsung Bluewings remain on the road, and make the short jaunt to Incheon this Sunday. The Bluewings will face off against an Incheon side that has fallen on tough times after a promising start to the season. A shock win vs Jeonbuk, Stefan Mugoša's continually strong play, and Song Siwoo's dramatic late equalizer in the first Gyeongin Derby had hopes high around Incheon, but less than a month later the squad has fallen on tougher times. Winless in their previous five, United have been held scoreless twice and conceded eight over the same stretch. The silver lining in that stat for Incheon fans is that four of those eight came in a single match vs Jeju last round, so their defense has remained stubborn overall. United will need to remain that way this weekend when Dejan, Yeom Kihun, and Waguininho come calling if they are to pick up their first win over Suwon in nearly five years.

With so much focus on their ACL performance and a lackluster 0-0 Super Match, it has gone under the radar that Suwon have yet to lose in the league since their opening day stunner vs Jeonnam. A slow and steady approach that has seen them take full points the majority of time and remain just four back from Jeonbuk for top spot. Usually an away day would hinder a team's chances at continuing their momentum, but it's quite the opposite for the Bluewings who seem to prefer the added challenge. Suwon have won a remarkable seven straight away from home in all competitions, and just one at Big Bird in the same amount of matches. The majority of the away wins came by just a one goal margin, and given the toll of travel and double game weeks for a month straight, Suwon are likely to set up looking for the same this weekend.

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

#GYEvULS: Gyeongnam FC (3rd) vs Ulsan Hyundai (7th) 16:00

The thrilling conclusion to last week's Worldwide Live Match saw Gyeongnam going toe-to-toe with Pohang in a flurry of side to side action that nearly saw them draw level. A goalpost away from a point last round, Gyeongnam return home eager once again to prove they belong with the league's elite. The all out attack strategy that saw them run away with K2 last season has worked well in their return to the top flight, but if it doesn't pay dividends this round, manager Kim Jongboo may need to come up with a more solid Plan B moving forward. However, having dropped points only three times this season and two of those matches being closely contested affairs, there is no reason to hit the panic button just yet. To revert back to their early season form, the Reds will need 2017 K2 MVP Marcão to play a prominent role yet again as he looks for his first goal in three games.

On the other side of the pitch, a suddenly hot Ulsan Hyundai make the short trip to Changwon after spoiling Kawasaki Frontale's ACL exit match midweek, clawing their way back to a 2-2 draw with second half goals from Park Yongwoo and Lee Youngjae. Having already officially advanced to the Knockout Round before kick off, it was immensely exciting for Ulsan fans to see their team fight back in a game with next to nothing on the line. That spirit propelled the Horangi to a four game winning streak in all competitions before fighting back for a point midweek. They have outscored their opponents 14-4 in the five game unbeaten run with newcomer Junior Negao finding his shooting boots and scoring in each of their previous three league games. After sitting out the final ACL group game, look for him to be fully rested and back in the starting line up this weekend. With all of the attacking talent on display, Gyeongam may well be in the most entertaining match of the round yet again.

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

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