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Preview: K League 1 Round 11

After Round 11 every K League 1 team will have played each other once, giving us the clearest picture of the table to date. Unsurprisingly Jeonbuk Hyundai have a stranglehold on first place, but upstarts Gyeongnam and Pohang are still in the top five and will look to stay there with midweek victories. Elsewhere the battle to gain distance from the relegation zone grows with Jeonnam and FC Seoul both close to the bottom spots. These team's match ups and more in your comprehensive Round 11 guide. 

Wednesday May 2nd

#JHMvDAE: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) vs Daegu FC (12th) 19:00 

The bookends of the table meet in the midweek K League Worldwide LIVE Match of the round seemingly with lambs heading to the slaughter. The defending champions, Jeonbuk, remain at home after seeing off early season title contenders Suwon 2-0 at the weekend. Helped by two Bluewings red cards, Jeonbuk sailed seven points clear at the top of the table with no signs of looking back. The win was their tenth on the trot in all competitions and astoundingly their ninth clean sheet in a row. The deepest team in K League looks well positioned to rest some regulars and still field a side stronger than most on the peninsula could hope for. For a floundering Daegu, a draw, or even keeping the match close, would feel like a monumental victory. Stuck at the bottom of the table, Daegu have won just once this season and have lost four of their previous five shipping 12 goals over the stretch. In spite of a strong mid-table finish last year and fostering the growth of Korean International keeper Cho Hyunwoo, time may be starting to run out on K League's lone foreign manager, André Gaspar, if the Brazilian can't at least get his team competitive.

You can read Matthew Binns' full preview on KLeague.com as part of our partnership with the league.

#SSBvULS: Suwon Samsung Bluewings (2nd) vs Ulsan Hyundai (7th) 19:30

After a rare poor performance on the road, Suwon Samsung return to Big Bird for a preview of their ACL Knockout Round match up against Ulsan Hyundai. Meeting exactly one week before their continental match is scheduled to take place, both sides will look to impress while not showing too much of their hand. The expectation of fielding a slightly different team in this midweek affair makes Suwon manager Seo Jungwon's truly odd selection in Suwon's 2-0 loss at Jeonbuk even more baffling. One line of thought is resting veteran leaders Dejan and Yeom Kihun gives them a fully rested test run against Ulsan before meeting in Champions League. If either (or both) are in the starting line up Wednesday night, it would go a long way to showing where the team's priorities lie this season. Regardless of who takes the field, the Bluewings will look to get back to their winning ways having picked up five wins in a row before the Jeonbuk loss. On a similar run of form, Ulsan enter undefeated in their past eight in all competitions. A run that has somewhat surprisingly come from a more stingy than expected defense that's held three clean sheets during the stretch. A trend The Horangi will need to continue as they are once again without their Brazilian striker Junior who was sidelined for a month with injury just as he seemed to be rounding into form. Mislav Oršić has picked up some of the slack converting a PK against his former club, Jeonnam, last time out, but others will need to step up if they're to stay competitive with an adept and likely quite angry Suwon attack.

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

#GYEvSEO: Gyeongnam FC (3rd) vs FC Seoul (9th) 19:30

A third of the way through the K1 season, both Gyeongnam and FC Seoul find themselves in a surprising spot in the table and in need of a statement win. For Gyeongnam, they hope to show the league their 3-2 victory over Incheon United wasn't simply a one off as the Reds look for their first back to back victories since Daegu stopped their four game winning streak nearly a month ago. To do so, they will need to do something they haven't since 2011: beat FC Seoul. As has been the case all year, Gyeongnam will lean on the Brazilian duo Negueba and Marcão to do the heavy lifting up top. Both strikers netted over the weekend, and even though Marcão's was a penalty, simply seeing his name on the scorecard for the first time in five games may be enough to get the 2017 K2 MVP going again. Something FC Seoul desperately needs to stop from happening in their first match without Hwang Sunhong at the helm. For a team that's lacked identity for the better part of two years, shutting down a promising attacker like Marcão and picking up a win over one of K League's more potent teams would go a long way to quell Seoul's fan unrest. It may also reveal the defensive nature in which Seoul seems to thrive. In spite of their position in the table and often uninspired form on the pitch, Seoul have managed to field one of the league's better defenses this season allowing just nine goals through ten rounds. Keeper Yang Hanbin continues to be the star at the back and will need to stand on his head yet again if Seoul's to keep this one close.

You can read Paul Neat's full preview and prediction here.

#POHvINC: Pohang Steelers (5th) vs Incheon United (11th) 19:30 

The last time these teams met, Pohang came away emphatic 5-0 victors in a Relegation Round match that put Incheon's K1 survival in serious question. The Steelers will be hoping for a similar offensive explosion when they meet again Wednesday after being held scoreless in each of their previous three matches. Although newcomer Léo Gamalho has looked the part in stretches for Pohang, he hasn't been enough of a difference maker to carry the team on his own and others will need to find the back of the net to ease pressure on him. Luckily for the Steelers, they're coming up against the league's second worst defense who has already conceded 20 goals and has yet to land on a true number one. 23-year-old Lee Taehee has the most starts with seven, but has seen 14 go by him and isn't likely to get the nod after conceding three of those 14 last round. Despite the goalkeeper carousel and poor record on paper, Incheon have managed to keep themselves in nearly every match with just one of their six losses coming by more than a one goal margin. If United can manage to keep Pohang frustrated for the first half, look for the Moon Seonmin and Stefan Mugoša combination to make an all out attack on the Steelers late on.

You can read Ross Davis' full preview and prediction here.

#JEJvGAN: Jeju United (4th) vs Gangwon FC (8th) 19:30

Winners of four of their last five, and two in a row, the Islanders are quickly erasing the memories of their poor performance in Champions League and seem poised to continue their climb up the table. Their four goal outburst against Daegu last round was the second time they put up four on an opponent in the month of April and has shown flashes of the "Tangerine Taka" they played so well last year. With eight different goal scorers this season, Jeju have proven difficult to peg down defensively and seem primed to do more damage this round against a Gangwon side that have just one clean sheet all year. Winners of just one in their previous seven, Gangwon can cling to the silver lining that their lone shutout came last round and is part of a rather encouraging defensive trend. After conceding 11 in their four game losing streak, the Gangwon backline has shored things up allowing just three in their last three matches. The calm at the back has coincided with Lee Beomyoung's return to the starting role, a move the Gangwon faithful will hope sees him return to the form that earned him a spot on the Korean National Team just a few years ago. Should he and the seemingly improved defense hold strong against Jeju, Gangwon may well have a chance to pick up all three points.

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

#SANvJND: Sangju Sangmu (6th) vs Jeonnam Dragons (10th) 19:30

At long last Sangju Sangmu will play their first home game of 2018 when they host Jeonnam in Round 11 this week. With 14 points from their opening ten rounds on the road, Sangju seem well positioned to not only ensure survival in the top flight, but potentially cause some issues for the traditional powerhouses. The Jeonnam match is the first of 17 home games the military club will play over the next 23 rounds, and one they will feel confident about having won three of their previous five. In spite of last year's top scorer Joo Minkyu going cold, Sangju has had five different players score in their last five games and held opponents scoreless three times over the same stretch. A stat the Dragons will be hoping to avoid falling victim to as they look to decisively distance themselves from the relegation pack. Following their shock home win over FC Seoul, Jeonnam hit the road and more than held their own in a 1-1 draw with Ulsan giving the Dragons four desperately needed points to get them off the bottom spot. Having proven they can go toe-to-toe with the top clubs in the league, Jeonnam now need to show they can put up a fight against the traditionally mid-table sides they have tended to stumble against in recent years.

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


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