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ACL Matchday 6 Preview: Will all the K League teams make it?


Matchday 6 of this season’s Asian Champions League was split up over two weeks, with the potential for all four K League teams securing progression to the knockout stages. Pohang Steelers are currently the only Korean team to have guaranteed their berth - in fact they had confirmed top place in their group even before last week’s 1-1 draw against Wuhan Three Towns. This week sees K League champions Ulsan Hyundai, Incheon United, and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors try and book their places in the last 16 of this season’s competition. 


Whilst Pohang made winning their group look easy, finishing with 16 points, the rest of the K League contingent have a bit of work to do in their respective games. As things stand, finishing as group runners-up won’t automatically guarantee a team a position in the knockouts. With five groups in the eastern half of the competition, only three more teams will join the group winners in the next stage. Currently, with one match still to play, Ulsan and Jeonbuk have it in their own hands, whilst Incheon will need to hope that Shandong turn up in Japan.


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What do K League teams need to do?

#UHDvKWF: Ulsan Hyundai vs. Kawasaki Frontale, Tuesday 7pm (KST)

Easier said than done, but Ulsan need to beat Kawasaki Frontale to guarantee they reach the knockouts of the ACL. But if they fail to win, they face a nervy wait on other results. With 9 points in the bag, a win will guarantee an unassailable 12 points. A draw will see them on ten and the potential for other clubs to surpass their total.

The two teams met on Matchday 2 but are no strangers to each other having locked horns in 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2014. Overall, there have been 10 previous meetings with Ulsan winning five, losing twice, and drawing three.


#KAYvICN: Kaya FC-Iloilo vs. Incheon United, Wednesday 5pm (KST)

Incheon need to win and hope that the result in the other group game goes their way. The Blue-Black will face Group G’s bottom club Kaya, who are without a point after five games. A win for Incheon in Manilla will mean they will finish on 12 points. However, if Yokohama win at home to Shandong, then things get complicated. Given the tiebreakers being head-to-head goals first, and the potential for three teams to be on twelve points, the goal difference from those games will come into play:

Incheon, in their four games against Yokohama and Shandong, have a goal difference of -1. Yokohama are on -2 GD and Shandong are on +5 GD. This means that, realistically, Shandong are safe and should progress. 

Incheon will remain on -1 GD for head-to-head as Tuesday’s game won’t count in head-to-head. If Yokohama win by two goals, they will qualify as group runners-up. If they win by a single goal, Incheon will finish second – above Yokohama – due to Incheon winning both games against Yokohama. Shandong would have to lose by five goals to be eliminated.


#JBHvBKU: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors vs. True Bangkok United, Wednesday 7pm (KST)

With Bangkok United already confirmed as group winners, Jeonbuk face perhaps the easiest task of the three Korean teams vying for qualification. The game, which will take place in Jeonju, will see Jeonbuk aim to take a measure of revenge following a 3-2 reverse in the previous meeting between these two clubs.

A win in this game will see them finish on 12 points, which will be enough to secure one of the three places as the best second-place teams.


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What games elsewhere do K League teams need to keep tabs on?

Melbourne City vs. Zhejiang FC in Group H and Urawa Reds vs. Hanoi FC. A win for either Melbourne (currently 8 points) or Urawa (7 points), coupled with a defeat for a K League team, would spell elimination for that K League team.


What are the tiebreakers?

First, it's points in head-to-head matches between the teams level on points. Then, if the record is even, it comes down to goal difference in those head-to-head matches. If, after having applied the head-to-head criteria and two or more teams still have an equal ranking, the head-to-head criteria is reapplied exclusively to the matches between those teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, the group results criteria shall apply. Next is goal difference in all group matches and then goals scored. 


Stay tuned to @KLeagueUnited during the games for squad news and live updates.


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