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Incheon United vs. Gwangju FC Preview: Both teams look for a positive response


Incheon United play at home for the first time since the controversial Gyeongin Derby two weeks ago, which saw the final whistle marred by unsavoury scenes of bottle-throwing at the opposition team. The incident has led to widespread condemnation, apologies from the club and fans, and ultimately disciplinary action against Incheon. Consequently, the club faces the first game of a five-game partial stadium closure, potentially impacting their home advantage. 

Recent Form

After a tough start to the season, Gwangju appear to have turned their form around. After losing six games in a row earlier in the season, the Griffins have won three of their last five matches and currently sit two points and a place below their hosts this weekend. Three points against both Jeju United and Daejeon Hana Citizen, in addition to a surprise win at home against defending champions Ulsan HD, have seen Gwangju move up the league standings. Last time out, they were soundly beaten by then bottom-of-the-table Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, but fans are generally seeing performances more akin to their heroics of last year, which saw Gwangju finishing third in the league.

Meanwhile, Incheon have been more resilient in recent matches. The Blue-Black have two wins and two draws in their last five games, losing only the derby game with Seoul in recent weeks. Victories against Daejeon and Jeonbuk, plus draws with Pohang and Gimcheon, suggest an upturn in form that has coincided with the return to fitness of Harrison Delbridge. This spell has also seen Incheon keep clean sheets in three of their last five games.


What to Watch

Games between Incheon and Gwangju usually offer a plethora of goals, with Gwangju winning 6-1 at Incheon two years ago and then 5-0 at home last spring. Earlier this year, Incheon scored at the death to win Saturday's reverse fixture 3-2. Over the last six games between the two clubs, we've seen a total of 25 goals, which is an average of 4.2 per game.


Both teams have aspirations to at least finish in the top half of the table, knowing that games like this are early six-pointers. With the promotion of Gimcheon last season and their strong start this year, there is one fewer place for teams like Incheon and Gwangju. Considering that it already looks like Gimcheon, Ulsan, and Pohang have their top-half places sewn up, there are at least six, if not nine, teams playing for the final three spots. We say every year that the league is close, but there are only ten points between fourth place and bottom, which means any run of wins could see a team move up - and of course, the opposite is true.

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Heading into this weekend's game, Incheon will hope to build on last week's victory and put together a run of wins. The reintroduction of Kim Boseop to the squad following a preseason ankle injury could also be a driving force for the Durumi. Boseop brings pace and an additional attacking dynamic to the Incheon front line. He is keen to take on players and regularly gets shots on target. It's a refreshing change to see players beating their man and taking shots, and Incheon look more dangerous when playing a little more direct.


This weekend's atmosphere could also be interesting, given the stadium closure and Thursday's announcement that all cheering paraphernalia is banned from the game. Flags, megaphones, banners, and drums will not be allowed into the ground, so the oft-loud Incheon fanbase will have to rely on old-fashioned singing. During last week's Daejeon game, the fans usually responsible for creating an atmosphere were sitting at the back of the stand and directed others not to lead organised cheering. Sporadic songs did emanate from the away end when Incheon were on the attack, but it was nothing like the usual repertoire you'd expect. With fans scattered across different stands, the atmosphere at Saturday's game could be more akin to a COVID-era match. Whether that gives Gwangju an advantage remains to be seen.



Who to Watch

With Gerso finishing the last of his two-game suspension, there is space for an additional foreign player in the starting XI. This, coinciding with the long-term injury to Lee Myungjoo, could be the perfect opportunity for Paul-Jose M'Poku to step up and join the team. Due to regulations regarding foreign players, M'Poku has often found himself playing from the bench this season. However, in those games, he has proven that he has the ability to help move Incheon forward on the pitch.

Incheon have struggled creatively in the middle of the field since the departure of Elias Aguilar, and M'Poku has generally been overlooked in team selection. After a good performance against Daejeon, another opportunity to drive the Incheon midfield this week could go a long way in helping cement his place long-term. With the situation being three-from-four in terms of foreigners who start, it would be nice to see M'Poku getting the prolonged run in the team that his ability deserves.


Where to Watch

The games will be available to stream online at K League TV outside of Korea, and in all the usual places inside. The game takes place on Saturday 25th May and kicks off at 19:00 KST.


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