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Can managerless Gangwon pull themselves together against Incheon?

After a dismal showing last time out saw Gangwon fall to a 4-0 defeat against Pohang, the Bears will be looking to once again change their fortunes when they come up against Incheon. They’ll have to do so without Kim Byung-soo for the first time in over three years, though, after he was dismissed on Thursday with relegation looming.

Recent Form

Gangwon have seemingly slipped back into bad habits of late, with their small resurgence well and truly a thing of the past. They are now three games without a win, a run which includes a home thrashing against FC Seoul, and a truly terrible performance against upcoming Champions League finalists Pohang Steelers. With Kim Byung-soo now out of the equation, there could be a clean slate for the Bears, but with their current form in mind, it could just as easily be a case of too little, too late.

On the other hand, Incheon are stabilising after a dire run of their own, winning in two of their last three, and in the process pushing themselves a respectable six-points clear of Sunday’s opposition. They’ll look to avenge last month’s 1-0 defeat this weekend, which would secure their status in the division next season.


Team News

The home side go into proceedings with a few issues. Han Kook-young may continue to miss out with an ankle issue, whilst Ko Moo-yeol remains sidelined with a ligament issue. Kim Young-bin is available again after suspension, which when added to the fact that a number of players struggling for form, means caretaker Park Hyo-jin’s first eleven is certainly one that could differ greatly from Wednesday night’s.

Incheon similarly have a number of problems, with Kim Kwang-suk and Kim Jun-yub expected to miss out. Stefan Mugosa could return, but may be without full fitness following his rib injury.

Head-to-Head

There’s a relatively even head-to-head record for the two sides, with Gangwon generally coming out better (they have 14 wins out of 28 games, Incheon have 10), but neither team have a resolute stranglehold on the fixture in recent years. Gangwon edge the last five meetings by boasting three wins, but with survival at stake, such statistics won’t matter going into Sunday.

What to Watch

Will Park Hyo-jin make an impact?

It could be argued that it’s a massive risk to sack a manager with just three games remaining, but it’s exactly what Gangwon saw as their best option heading into a period which could define their first division status going forward. Morale looked to be floundering dramatically in recent games, with players devoid of both confidence and conviction, in addition to former manager Kim Byung-soo often cutting a sorry figure on the touchline. Now the buck is passed to Park Hyo-jin, who isn’t unfamiliar with the caretaker task, but finds himself realistically needing to steer the Bears towards two wins out of the final three fixtures to survive. Whether or not he can do it, though, remains to be seen.

Will Incheon confirm their safety?

Although they’re already safe from finishing at the foot of the table, there is still technically a chance of Incheon being pulled into the promotion/relegation playoff should they fail to pick up any more points this season. While that thought is rather far fetched, it would do no harm for Cho Sung-hwan’s men to confirm their status for next year as early as possible, and before the international break, especially when up against a team in potential disarray.

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