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Can Gangwon push themselves towards safety against Jeju?

Looking to kick on after their first away win since June, Gangwon go into Sunday’s game against Jeju United with a chance to pull away from the relegation playoff position. The visitors are in fine form though, winning four of their last five games.

Recent Form

Although they have only racked up six points in their last five games, the Bears have won two out of the last three, with the only loss being to title challengers, and reigning champions, Jeonbuk. Solid recent performances are now starting to pay dividends for Kim Byung-soo, with their improved defensive displays a key factor in their improving fortunes, and increasingly paramount to any chance of survival.

On the other hand, Jeju are firmly in the running for a top-half finish, with an impressive five wins in their last six fixtures (even if one did come via forfeit) leaving
 them nestled in 5th place. Should they wish to cement their status in the upper-tier come the league split, a win against Gangwon would go a long way.


Team News

The home side come into proceedings with a few issues, the most notable of which being the injury that Ko Moo-yeol suffered on Wednesday; one which will see him sidelined for eight weeks, and thus the rest of the season. Elsewhere, Rustamjon Ashurmatov misses out through his international call up, whilst the game may still come too soon for Yun Suk-young and Kim Dong-hyun after their respective injuries. Given the amount of fixtures Gangwon have had recently, there may well be some rotation too, with chances potentially afforded to the likes of Shin Se-gye and Lee Jeong-hyeop.

Jeju, however, don’t really have any selection headaches. Oskar Zawada could return, which would in turn mean a clean bill of health for the Islanders. With a lot of players in good form, and the squad generally not having the same level of intense scheduling as their opposition, large amounts of tinkering is probably unlikely here.

Head-to-Head

There’s a fairly even head-to-head record between these two sides, with Jeju coming out on top in ten of the 23 meetings, and Gangwon in eight. However, the two fixtures this season have both been score draws, meaning that the last time either of the two won was in September of 2019 when Gangwon triumphed 2-0. Such a result this weekend would see the Bears rise to 9th, so the incentive is there for Kim Byung-soo’s men going into what could be a vital match in their survival push.

What to Watch

Can Gangwon’s defensive improvements continue?

In Gangwon’s last three games, they have only conceded once, whereas in the prior three they shipped six. With the Bears’ goal return poor after their return to action in September, these improvements have allowed them to somewhat break away from the foot of the table, and consequently gain two important wins. Should such rearguard progress continue, Kim Byung-soo may well spearhead his squad to comfortable safety come the end of the season.

Can Nam Ki-il find the formula to beat the Bears?

In both draws this campaign, it has been Jeju who have surrendered the lead. In the first meeting it was a smart Kim Dae-won finish which allowed Gangwon to deservedly draw level at 1-1 and ultimately secure a point
, but in the second it was a comfortable 2-0 scoreline which was dramatically surrendered in a frantic closing stretch. Bearing that in mind, the task for Sunday couldn’t be more clear for the Islanders, with Nam Ki-il hoping he can put what he will have learnt from two disappointing experiences into fruitful practice.

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