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Preview: K League 1 Round 15

K League 1 returns to action after more than a month off for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. As luck would have it, the match ups are wonderfully set with National Team hero Cho Hyunwoo set to face the capital club at home, new manager Jørn Andersen getting his K League career started against the reigning champions, and a 2nd vs 3rd show down in Suwon. All of these games and more in your comprehensive Round 15 preview. 

Saturday, July 7th

#JHMvINC: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) vs Incheon United (11th) 19:00 

In spite of being in their usual places at the bookends of the table, this is a surprisingly even match up between two of K League's more drastically different clubs. Continental powerhouse Jeonbuk Hyundai have just one more win (13) than citizen-owned Incheon United (12) in this 39 game series. A mark that drew closer to level thanks to Incheon's shock 3-2 victory in Round 2 this season. Playing in the magnificent Incheon Football Stadium, United delighted the home fans by taking the lead three separate times with the last coming from their World Cup winger Moon Seonmin in the 55th minute. Although Moon isn't likely to see significant minutes this weekend, new manager Jørn Andersen may have him come on for a late appearance in an attempt to recreate the same magic.

To prevent any such magic happening, Jeonbuk will do what they've done better than anyone else all year: defend. Daegu keeper Cho Hyunwoo rightly grabbed the headlines in Russia, but it's Jeonbuk's Song Bumkeun who leads the league with 10 clean sheets through 14 rounds. At just 20 years of age, the young backstop has cemented his spot between the sticks for Korea's best team and seems primed to shine on the international stage himself with the Asian Games coming up in Jakarta later this summer. His battle with K1's third highest scorer, Stefan Mugoša, should be a fun one to watch in Jeonju Saturday night.

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

#SSBvJEJ: Suwon Samsung Bluewings (2nd) vs Jeju United (3rd) 19:00 

The K League Worldwide Live Match of Round 15 sees second place Suwon in need of all three points yet again if they're to stay within touching distance of Jeonbuk, who sit nine points ahead of them in first place. The World Cup break came at something of an ideal time for the Bluewings as the strong form they showed in April had turned sour, seeing them win just one league match in five before festivities kicked off in Russia. With seven matches in two competitions scheduled for the remaining days of July, Suwon will be relying on the break being long enough to rest their key players and to hit the ground running against a Jeju side that was just rounding into form before the break.

After being knocked out of ACL for the second straight year, United were able to turn their focus solely onto K League and it paid dividends immediately. Having taken 13 points in their previous six matches, Jeju will be hoping to pick up exactly where they left off with some strong road form carrying the weight. Five of Jeju's seven wins this season have come away from home, and Suwon's struggles at Big Bird are well documented. With some fresh faces set to take the field and these two sides attempting to make a push for the title, the Worldwide Live audience is primed for some late drama.

You can read Scott Whitelock's full preview on KLeague.com as part of our partnership with the league.

#GYEvPOH: Gyeongnam FC (4th) vs Pohang Steelers (8th) 19:00 

Back in the top flight for the first time since 2014, Gyeongnam FC continue to defy expectations and remain in the top half of the table largely by playing the same attack-minded football that won them the second division last year. Manager Kim Jongboo has publicly stated he has no intention of changing the Reds' identity and with the league's third highest goal total, why would he? The Brazilian Marcão continues to lead the line for them with 10 goals already, and should return to his starter role this weekend after injury forced him into more of a super sub prior to the break. Having had some down time to fully recover, look for the 196cm target man to wreak havoc on the Steelers backline, potentially with new strike partner Paulinho, who joins on loan from Brazilian side Flamengo.

While Gyeongnam look to put on another high octane show for their home crowd, Pohang are simply hoping to stop the rot. With just two wins in their previous 10, the Steelers need a morale boost to kick off the second half of their season this weekend. That would ideally come in the form of all three points, but simply scoring some goals may be enough to get them off the schneid. Although Pohang sit 8th in the table, only two of their five losses have come by multiple goals, and their four draws is tied for third highest in the league. If someone other than Léo Gamalho or Kim Seungdae can get on the score-sheet against the somewhat porous Gyeongnam defense, it may well set the team up for a summer run into the top half of the table by turning those close losses and draws into wins.

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

Sunday, July 8th

#GANvJND: Gangwon FC (6th) vs Jeonnam Dragons (10th) 18:00 

Gangwon FC welcome a rather new-look Jeonnam Dragons to Chuncheon for Sunday's early kick off in hopes of breaking their five match winless streak at home. With Lee Keunho moving to Ulsan Hyundai for the second time in his career, the scoring burden lays more squarely on Golden Boot leader Uroš Đerić's broad shoulders, which seems to suit the Serbian just fine. Leading the way with 11 goals this season, Đerić has accounted for half of Gangwon's goals and much like his team, has seen the majority of his success on the road. Just four of Đerić's goals have come in front of his home crowd, and it will be interesting to see if he can notch another one (or two) this weekend without the service and additional goal scoring threat Lee Keunho usually provided.

The Jeonnam man likely tasked with stopping the Golden Boot leader is new signing James Donachie. The 25-year-old Australian defender is playing abroad for the first time after an eight year career in A-League saw him win the title three times, including last year with Melbourne Victory. Standing at 195cm and well versed in the physical aspects of the game, Donachie won't be intimidated by Gangwon, but will need to hit the ground running in a new system to keep this one close. Having conceded at least one goal in all seven of their away matches thus far, and facing the league's second best attack, Donachie and the Dragons backline have their work cut out for them.

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

#DAEvSEO: Daegu FC (12th) vs FC Seoul (9th) 19:00 

The hero of South Korea's World Cup comes home this weekend when Cho Hyunwoo returns to the Daegu FC net. Long known to Daegu fans, and readers of this site, as one of the nation's finest, the rest of the world is now aware of the talent regularly on display in Daegu World Cup stadium. Unsurprisingly, this acclaim has come with a bump in ticket sales this weekend with the temporary stands behind the goal and premium table seats selling out midweek. In order to get some of those new patrons back, Daegu will need to reverse a few of the trends that have cemented them to the bottom of the table for most of the season. First and foremost, Cho Hyunwoo and co. have only held one clean sheet this season, and that came away from home. Daegu are also winless in seven, and have lost their past three home matches conceding two or more in each outing. The backline will need to improve dramatically if Cho's homecoming is to go unspoiled. Something else that may help keep things festive is the influx of new attacking talent brought in this summer with Cho Sukjae making his return to Korea and former Buriram United star, Edgar, set to see his first minutes in K League.

The visiting FC Seoul find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of being party crashers away to Daegu. Still languishing near the bottom of the table, the capital club will hope a fresh start to the season can put behind a forgettable first half that saw them pick up just three wins. With 11 of their 15 points and nine of their 12 goals coming at home, things don't look overly promising for caretaker manager Lee Eulyong's men. Given his limited minutes at the World Cup, newly minted captain Go Yohan may see significant time this weekend in an attempt to spoil Daegu's party and up the chance creations for one of the league's worst attacks.

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

#SANvULS: Sangju Sangmu (5th) vs Ulsan Hyundai (7th) 19:30 

In one of the more interesting quirks of Korean football, Sangju Sangmu will welcome back Kim Minwoo and Hong Chul to active military duty just days after they played in the World Cup. Both played admirably in Russia and given their somewhat limited minutes, they could slot back into the starting lineup this weekend. Their presence would obviously be a boost to Sangju, but far from a necessity for a club that continued their seven game undefeated run when the pair left for National Team duties in May. Still without a clear cut goal scoring threat, Sangju have been piling up the points by keeping matches tight and taking advantage of the mistakes opposition eventually make. With a new-look Ulsan Hyundai coming to town this weekend, expect more of the same from one of K League's best organized squads.

Just like their hosts, Ulsan head into Sunday night riding an impressive unbeaten streak they will hope to keep rolling beyond its current mark of 10 games. They may well push that streak to 11, but it seems unlikely they will pick up a win given the departure of their most dynamic playmaker, Mislav Oršić, during the break. Lee Keunho has been brought back to replace Oršić, but much like Ulsan's other top attacking options, Junior and Lee Jongho, he is recovering from an injury and isn't quite ready to go yet. While those three remain on the road to recovery, this weekend is a perfect opportunity for a youngster like Kim Seungjun or Jang Seongjae to show the manager they deserve to be the first attacking sub called off the bench once Ulsan's top line is back on the field.

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

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