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Preview: K League 1 Round 19

K League 1 continues to make up games in rapid fashion following the World Cup with its fifth match day in three weeks. Squad depth and endurance will be on display this weekend when several teams near each other in the table square off attempting to climb the ladder. The 2nd vs 3rd matchup between Gyeongnam FC and Suwon Samsung highlights the weekend, but the Gyeongin and POSCO Derbies may steal the show. These matches and more in your comprehensive Round 19 preview. 

Saturday, July 21st

#POHvJND: Pohang Steelers (8th) vs Jeonnam Dragons (10th) 19:00 

The second POSCO Derby of 2018 kicks off this Saturday when Pohang welcome Jeonnam to the Steelyard. 3-2 winners of their last match up, Pohang pushed their unbeaten streak in the rivalry to five games and haven't lost to their Southern counterparts in nearly two full years. Interestingly enough, this Saturday's league match may wind up being more of a curtain raiser than anything else with the two set to return to the Steelyard for an FA Cup affair just days after the final whistle blows. With both teams still lamenting near the bottom of the table, a strong FA Cup run is essential to saving face this season. Expect each of the mangers to put out something of a B-squad this weekend to blood in some of the younger players that have yet to get significant minutes. With the likes of 22-year-old striker Lee Keunho for Pohang and 21-year-old striker Kim Kyungmin for Jeonnam both having already found the back of the net this season and in search of a spot in the Starting XI, a B-squad may not be a bad thing for neutral fans.

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


#GYEvSSB: Gyeongnam FC (2nd) vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings (3rd) 19:00 

Coming off their third win in four, Gyeongnam FC return home to face Suwon for the second time this year and undoubtedly have revenge on the mind after the 3-1 drubbed the Reds suffered at Big Bird back in April. Suwon's thorough Round 9 performance seemed to well and truly signify the end of Gyeongnam's honeymoon period back in K1, but manager Kim Jongboo stuck with an attack-first gameplan and righted the ship. The strike-force of Marcão and Negueba rightly take most of the headlines, but oddly enough, it's been Gyeongnam's defense that has seen them undefeated in four straight. After starting the season with one of the most porous backlines in the league, the Reds have held four straight clean sheets and will look to keep the streak alive this weekend when a potentially tired Suwon Samsung comes to town.

Much like this weekend's match up, the stage seemed set for Gyeongnam to pull off an upset the last time these sides met. However, Suwon put on one of their best showings of 2018 and easily fended off their Southern rivals. With that win in their back pocket and having scored in seven of their eight away matches this year, Suwon won't exactly be intimidated by Gyeongnam's newly stingy defense. Especially following the high-flying 5-2 victory over Incheon United last round. A frustratingly up and down team all season, managing back to back wins for the first time since late April would go a long way to smooth over any concerns the Suwon faithful may have at the moment as the FA Cup and AFC Champions League loom large over the club.

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


#GANvJEJ: Gangwon FC (6th) vs Jeju United (4th) 20:00 

Gangwon FC remain at home following an absurdly wild 3-3 finish against Ulsan Wednesday night that saw all six goals come after the 83rd minute. A Moon Changjin PK deep into stoppage time snatched a point for the home club and saw Gangwon extended their unbeaten streak to six games. Having conceded in all but one home game this season, Gangwon seem poised for yet another shootout this weekend. Golden Boot leader Uroš Đerić will lead the charge yet again and will be hoping to extend the unbeaten streak with a rare home win, where Gangwon have gone seven without picking up full points.

Meanwhile, Jeju enter this weekend looking to end a rough patch that has seen them pick up just a lone point in three matches, and a scarce few goals. The usually high octane attack was cut short with an odd Starting XI against Jeonbuk midweek, and was held scoreless for the second time since returning from the World Cup break. With 19 of their 28 points and 14 of their 23 goals coming away from home this year, the flight North may actually be a welcome reprieve for the Islanders. Add in Gangwon spoiling Magno Cruz's hat trick with a 5-3 victory last time these sides squared off, and some high scoring revenge may well be in the cards.

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

Sunday, July 22nd

#GyeonginDerby: Incheon United (12th) vs FC Seoul (7th) 18:00 

The second Gyeongin Derby of 2018 sees the rivalry shift to Incheon where the home side remain in desperate need of some points to get off the bottom of the table. Picked as this weekend's K League Worldwide Live Match, this 7th vs 12th match up may not seem like one to watch on paper, but there's plenty for neutral fans to keep an eye on. Namely United's attacking duo of Stefan Mugoša and Moon Seonmin who have climbed to third and fourth in the K1 scoring charts and continue to do what they can to keep Incheon in the first division next season. Unfortunately for them, the Incheon backline remains in shambles and has cost the team dearly this season. The nine goals United have conceded after the 85th minute have cost them 11 points this year. A point total that would be enough to bump them up to 9th and somewhat comfortably away from the relegation heap. It's been incredibly frustrating for Incheon fans, but has made the last 10 minutes of their matches must watch for neutrals!

Still far from the powerhouse they're used to being, FC Seoul head into Sunday's affair on the up after dispatching Jeonnam 2-1 midweek. The win was enough to push Seoul up to 7th, and another three points this weekend could see them back in the top half for the first time in a long time. Unbeaten since K League's return, Seoul may be rounding into form with youngster Cho Youngwook finding his feet at the professional level and new signing Bojan Matić primed to make his debut. Not having won back to back games since October, a rivalry win this weekend could serve as a morale boost as much as anything else for the capital club.

You can read Paul Neat's full preview and prediction on KLeague.com.


#ULSvDAE: Ulsan Hyundai (5th) vs Daegu FC (11th) 19:00 

Winners of four of the past five in this series, Ulsan will hope to continue their streak this weekend when they host Daegu FC. Still unable to truly find their footing in K1 this year, Ulsan shift gears yet again with United States international Mix Diskerud set to replace the dynamic Mislav Oršić as the linchpin to the Horangi attack. Having conceded at least one goal in each of their last five home matches, Ulsan need Mix to hit the ground running and get his team on the board early against a Daegu side that's rather stingy away from home. With Lee Keunho and Junior both returning from injury with substitution appearances in Ulsan's wild 3-3 draw midweek, the tide may well be turning for the Horangi attack and their push for ACL could get a much needed boost with all three points against the still struggling Daegu.

As the world found out this summer, Cho Hyunwoo is very good at football. But even the nation's best keeper hasn't been enough to get Daegu further up the table and away from the relegation drop zone. Because no matter how much Cho Hyunwoo may do between the sticks, his team simply has not been getting it done at the other end of the pitch. With just 13 goals to their name, Daegu are easily the lowest scoring side in K1 this year and are hoping summer signings Edgar, Zé Roberto, and Cho Sukjae can reverse those fortunes. The trio all saw the pitch midweek and couldn't find the back of the net against Pohang, but may perform better with additional time to gel. Unfortunately for Daegu, their time is extremely short and they'll need production sooner rather than later.

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


#SANvJHB: Sangju Sangmu (9th) vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (1st) 19:30 

After a strong start to their nearly summer long home stand, Sangju Sangmu have dropped four in a row at home and won't have it very easy this weekend when the reigning champions come to town. Still far enough away from the relegation drop to concern themselves with it for now, Sangju will simply be looking to stop the rot with a steady performance. While it's doubtful the military outfit will pick up their fifth ever win against Korea's powerhouse club, they can at least solidify some roster spots with the annual September exodus quickly approaching.

Similarly, Jeonbuk may also be looking to solidify roster spots with FA Cup and AFC Champions League returning soon. As they proved with a youthful squad midweek, no one in K League has the depth Jeonbuk do, and they will absolutely need it while fighting for a trophy on three fronts in the dog days of summer. With an astounding 13 clean sheets in 18 league matches, the Jeonbuk midfielders and attackers trying out for minutes can rest assured most of their mistakes will be covered up and they can focus solely on putting the ball in the back of the net.

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

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