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NEWS

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2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 Round 1 Preview

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K League returns this weekend starting with the official curtain-raiser that sees the reigning champions Ulsan Hyundai take on last season's FA Cup winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. It's a third February start to the new campaign in as many years but it's a first top-tier appearance in eight years for Daejeon Hana Citizen who host Gangwon FC. Before that, last season's K League 2 champions Gwangju FC are away to Suwon Samsung Bluewings and there's also a Gyeongin Derby to look forward to, not to mention Jeju United versus Suwon FC and Pohang Steelers at home to Daegu FC. A comprehensive guide to 2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 Round 1.

Saturday 25th February

#ULSvJEO: Ulsan Hyundai vs Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors - 14:00


The season's curtain-raiser sees reigning champions Ulsan Hyundai take on last year's FA Cup winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. In this 'champion vs champion' league fixture, since the first in 2007, the previous season's league champions have gone on to win seven times, lose just twice, and draw four. Ulsan and Jeonbuk have met before in this fixture, back in 2018 when the Green Warriors won by two goals to nil. Over the last 10 years, Ulsan have a record of seven wins, one draw, and just two losses. Last season, the Horangi began the season with a draw against Gimcheon. Jeonbuk, meanwhile, are unbeaten on opening day over the last 10 seasons, picking up nine wins and one draw. Last year, Jeonbuk began the season with a win over Suwon FC.

Both teams have been busy in the transfer market over the winter and both will be keen to lay down a marker on Saturday. One particular subplot will be the return to the Munsu of two former Ulsan players - Lee Dong-jun and Amano Jun who have both signed for Jeonbuk. The latter may not be given a particularly warm welcome as Ulsan were reportedly keen to keep hold of one of their best players from last season. In 2022, Ulsan picked up two wins and a draw against Jeonbuk, including the dramatic late comeback at the Munsu in October which saw a red card and two Martin Ádám goals deep into time added on.

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here

#GyeonginDerby: FC Seoul vs Incheon United - 16:30


FC Seoul and Incheon United kick off the new campaign with a Gyeongin Derby, a fixture that often produces excitement and drama. It's a fixture that Incheon have a good record in too in recent years, having gone unbeaten against Seoul in their last six encounters. Of the last four meetings in the capital, United have two wins and two draws. Both teams are likely to hand debuts to some of their winter signings, FC Seoul in particular have been very busy. Hwang Ui-jo is set to make his K League return having joined on loan until the summer, while Willyan, Lim Sang-hyub, Kwon Wan-kyu, Park Soo-il, Lee Si-young, and Hosam Aiesh will be hoping they've done enough in pre-season to earn a starting berth. For Incheon, Gerso Fernandes and Shin Jin-ho are set to make their debuts.

FC Seoul have won just twice on opening day in the last 10 years, drawn three, and lost five.
The capital club went from 2013 to 2018 without a win but managed two wins from their last four season openers. Last term, An Ik-soo's men began with a 2-0 away win over Daegu FC. Incheon have won just once over the last 10 years - that was last year in fact, a 1-0 victory over Suwon Bluewings - and have drawn five and lost four.

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here

#SSBvGWA: Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Gwangju FC - 16:30


After having to go through the promotion-relegation playoff last year, Suwon Samsung Bluewings will be looking to get off to a good start to the new campaign. The Bluewings take on newly-promoted Gwangju FC in what is an exact repeat of the 2021 season opener. For Gwangju, it's an instant return to the top flight and a good start to the campaign will be exactly what boss Lee Jung-hyo will be expecting from his players. There's been goals in this fixture, 11 in the last two meetings in fact after a 2-2 draw in September 2021 and a 4-3 Bluewings win that May. Overall, from 22 previous encounters, Gwangju have managed three wins, Suwon 13 and six draws. Suwon's last defeat to Gwangju was in June 2020.

Suwon Bluewings have won three times on opening day over the last 10 years, drawn one, and lost six. Gwangju, meanwhile, have two wins, three draws, and five losses on opening day since 2013. Their last opening-day win was back in 2019 in K League 2 away to Seoul E-Land, their last K League 1 opening-day win was in 2017 against Daegu. Last year they began with a shock defeat to Gimpo FC. Bluewings bows are expected for Kim Bo-kyung, Fejsal Mulić, Rodrigo Bassani, Maxwell Acosty, and Kim Kyung-joong. For Gwangju, Dutch centre back Timo Letschert, wingers Jasir Asani and Thomás, and former Daegu and Gwangwon forward Shin Chang-mu could make their debuts. 

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here


Sunday 26th February

#POHvDAE: Pohang Steelers vs Daegu FC - 14:00


Kicking off their 50th anniversary year, Pohang Steelers entertain their North Gyeongsang region neighbours Daegu FC. Pohang have a decent opening-day record with five wins, two draws, and three losses and have won their last three season openers in a row. Last year, the Steelers beat Jeju United away 3-0. Daegu, meanwhile, have only managed two wins on opening day. Their last goes all the way back to 2016 in K League 2 away to Daejeon and have actually never won a K League 1 season opener. Last season, Daegu began the new term with a 2-0 loss at home to FC Seoul.

Brazilian striker Zeca is set to make his Pohang debut against his previous employers having left DGB Daegu Bank Park just last season. Pohang boss Kim Gi-dong could hand debuts to his other winter recruits such as midfielder Kim Jong-woo, Kim In-sung, and Baek Sung-dong. Now the full-time manager of Daegu FC, Choi Won-kwon could hand a second debut to the returning Edgar while Marcos Serrato and Lucas Barcelous could make their Sky Blues bows. Pohang ran out 4-1 winners the last time these two teams met in September last year after Daegu emerged as winners in a five-goal thriller in the FA Cup that June.

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here

#JEJvSUW: Jeju United vs Suwon FC - 14:00


Like last season, Jeju United begin the new term at home only this time it's Suwon FC who make the short flight to the island. Jeju missed out on AFC Champions League qualification last season and so will be keen to get off to a good start in 2023. Kim Do-kyun's Suwon side got their first point on the board last term thanks to a 0-0 draw away to Jeju in Round 4 but will be hoping to get off the mark a bit quicker this time around.

Jeju’s opening-day record reads won three, drawn five, and lost just two over the last 10 years. Their last win, though, goes all the way back to 2017 - a 1-0 victory away to Incheon United. Last season, they began with a loss - a 3-0 reverse at home to Pohang. For Suwon FC, meanwhile, it’s three wins, two draws, and five losses. At K League 1 level, though, it’s two draws and one defeat. Last season, Suwon began with a 1-0 loss away to Jeonbuk. Jeju begin life without Joo Min-kyu and Gerso Fernandes and will be looking to new signings Yuri Jonathan and Reis for inspiration in the final third. Suwon FC, meanwhile, have bolstered their defence and have added former Jeju midfielder Yoon Bit-garam to their ranks. He's set to make his debut against the team he departed over the winter.

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here

#DHFCvGAN: Daejeon Hana Citizen vs Gangwon FC - 16:30


Daejeon Hana Citizen this Sunday head into what will be their first K League 1 season opener since 2015. Last season's playoff winners host Gangwon FC, the team they lost to in the playoffs the previous season. Revenge may well be on the minds of the Purple Arena faithful, and perhaps manager Lee Min-sung but for the players, very few remain from that fateful day in Gangneung - just four who started the match in fact. There could be debuts for strikers Tiago Orobó and Yu Kang-hyun, defenders Oh Jae-suk and Kim Hyeon-woo for Daejeon while ex-Purple Alibaev could start for Gangwon, as too defenders Kim Woo-seok and Yu In-soo. Dino Islamovic is back fit after missing most of last year with an Achilles problem.

Daejeon have won three and lost seven on opening day since the year 2013. Their last two K League 1 season openers ended in defeat - 3-1 at home to Jeonbuk in 2013, and 1-0 away to Busan in 2015. In fact, their last win on opening day in the top tier goes back to 2011 - winning 2-1 away to Ulsan. Last year, Daejeon sat out the first round of K League 2 but their season opener in Round 2 was a 2-0 loss to Gwangju. For Gangwon, it’s four wins, one draw, and five losses. There’s a pattern of win, lose, win, lose over the last four seasons. Last season, Gangwon began with a 2-0 home win over Seongnam.

Watch live on TV.KLeague.com here

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