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Playoff Preview: Gimpo FC vs. Gangwon FC

notice 2023.12.04   I   hits 552

The 2023 K League 1 Promotion-Relegation playoff kicks off on Wednesday, where the fates of four teams will begin to be decided. 

Over at the Solteo Stadium, Gimpo FC host Gangwon FC, hoping they can fair better than they did against the Bears during May’s FA Cup clash. For Gimpo, they progressed to this playoff by beating Gyeongnam FC 2-1 in the final stage of the K League 2 Playoffs last time out. They’ll need to be the better team over two legs this time around, though, and show the kind of form that lifted them to third place in this year's second division. If they do, Gimpo could well reach K League 1 for the first time in their history.

On the other hand, Gangwon find themselves in the same situation as two years ago, needing to win a two-legged playoff to secure their K League 1 safety. And, while the Bears were ultimately successful against Daejeon Hana Citizen in 2021, they enter this tie with Gimpo having managed 34 points across 2023, their lowest points total over a 38-game first division season.

Recent Form

In their 2-1 win over Gyeongnam, Gimpo stopped their end-of-season three-game winless streak and secured their 10th home victory in all competitions this year in the process. On the whole it's been a successful 2023 for the club, given they knocked FC Seoul out of the FA Cup, and built on last year's eighth-place finish by a commendable five places. With a bit of momentum back amongst the group, Gimpo will now have their eyes firmly set on a potential spot in K League 1.

Gangwon, meanwhile, are in some of their best form of the season. With two wins and two draws during the final four games of Final B competition, the Bears moved up to 10th, and avoided the threat of automatic relegation. That end-of-season period was Gangwon’s longest league unbeaten run since a four-game stretch across April and early May, which is bound to add confidence going into a second promotion/relegation playoff in three years.

Team News

Gimpo come into proceedings with a healthy side, meaning they’ll have the luxury of being able to go as full-strength as they wish to on Wednesday. With key man Luis Mina backfiring too, there may well be confidence amongst Ko Jeong-woon’s men that they can utilise home advantage in midweek to put the pressure on Gangwon in the second leg.

With that being said, the visitors have a relatively healthy side too. That, and manager Yoon Jong-hwan appears to have found something of a settled first eleven, with players such as Ikromjon Alibaev, Yun Suk-young, Lee Jeong-hyeop and Hwang Mun-ki all nailing down more consistent starting roles in recent weeks. Having players that can be relied upon in these upcoming big games could pay dividends as Gangwon look to maintain their first-division status.


There has been just one meeting between these two teams, one which ended in a 3-2 away victory for Gangwon during this year’s FA Cup. It took an injury-time Galego winner to separate the sides back in May, where the Bears got a taste of what Gimpo's star striker, and K League 2 top scorer, Luis Mina can do after the Colombian netted a brace. 

What to Watch

A battle of two solid defences

In this playoff, it’s a battle between K League 2’s best defence and the strongest in the bottom half of K League 1. Gimpo conceded just 25 goals across their 36 second division matches, keeping 19 clean sheets in the process. Nevertheless, less than half were kept on home turf (eight), and Gimpo had more league losses at Solteo (five) than on their travels (three). Gangwon, meanwhile, conceded 41 goals in the league this year, their lowest-ever total across a 38-game K League 1 season. Only 18 of these were conceded away from home, a number that may bring belief that the Bears will have what it takes to shut Gimpo out, and perhaps claim a second win of the season at the Solteo Stadium.

Who to Watch

Kim Jong-seok, Gimpo FC

The main man in the final stage of the K League 2 playoffs, Kim Jong-seok helped Gimpo reach this key two-legged game with one goal and one assist against Gyeongnam. During the match, the 28-year-old accumulated an xG of 1.2 from his three shots, competed in 23 duels, recovered the ball twice in the opposition half, and took four touches in the opposition penalty area. Another proactive, attack-minded display this Wednesday from Kim Jong-seok may provide a massive boost for Gimpo, as they look to break down a Gangwon defence that has kept three consecutive clean sheets.

Kim Dae-won, Gangwon FC

Gangwon’s ace Kim Dae-won has found some of his best form towards the tail-end of the season. The 26-year-old managed one goal and one assist in Final B, taking his overall tally to five goals and four assists across all competitions this year. Proving his importance to the team, without Kim Dae-won’s contributions, Gangwon would’ve been six points worse off. In Final B action, the forward averaged, per game, 3.2 touches in the opposition penalty area, 2.4 successful dribbles, three progressive runs, and two shot assists (with a total xA of 0.79).

Where to Watch

Watch LIVE, for FREE, and in HD on TV.KLeague.com.