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2023 Hana 1Q K League 1 Round 36 Preview

notice 2023.11.09   I   hits 2155

With just three rounds of the 2023 K League 1 season remaining, it’s perhaps the relegation battle which carries the most interest. After all, there’s still plenty of room for movement at the bottom of the table, and the potential for the race to avoid automatic relegation to go right down to the final day.

Match of the Round

Ulsan Hyundai (1st) vs. Pohang Steelers (2nd) - Sun. 12th November, 16:30

Sunday sees a clash between K League 1 champions and FA Cup winners when Ulsan Hyundai host Pohang Steelers. The home side sealed their first-ever title retention in Round 35 with a 2-0 home win over Daegu FC, an overall success strongly aided by their early season form. Ulsan have one victory and one defeat so far in Final A competition, though have only lost twice at home in the league all season.

As for Pohang Steelers, they come into proceedings with their first bit of silverware since 2013, after triumphing over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the FA Cup final last weekend. That, and the Steelers were the only K League side to score a win in the AFC Champions League during midweek, something which also led to Kim Gi-dong’s men qualifying for the knockout rounds of the tournament. Nevertheless, Pohang’s league form is less spectacular, with two draws their results thus far in Final A, and no wins in their last five K League 1 games.

In the three meetings between the sides this year, there have been two draws, and one Ulsan victory. That is the Steelers’ only loss in the last six times this fixture has been played, a statistic they’ll hope to extend this weekend, where a win could see second place close to secured.

Team of the Round

FC Seoul (vs. Jeju United, Sat. 11th November - 16:30)

Hitting their stride in Final B, FC Seoul are the only team in the league to win both of their games since the split, and as a result, they have nearly guaranteed themselves a seventh-place finish. The capital city club are also the league’s highest scorers with 61 goals scored, a number they’ll be looking to continue to better as we reach the year’s tail-end. Last round, Seoul were 4-3 winners in a dramatic match with Suwon FC, where six of the seven goals were scored in the second half.

Up next for FC Seoul is Jeju United. The Islanders have gained four points since the split, the last of which came courtesy of a 96th-minute equaliser away at Gangwon. This now means Jeju are seven points clear of Suwon FC below them, with one more win all it would take to guarantee automatic safety for 2023.

Player of the Round

Vitor Gabriel, Gangwon FC (vs. Daejeon Hana Citizen, Sat. 11th November - 14:00)

With two goals in his last two games for Gangwon FC, there are signs that Vitor Gabriel is starting to build some momentum up front for the Bears. The 23-year-old has largely been Yoon Jong-hwan’s main outlet in recent weeks, with the striker taking seven shots in his last couple of matches, accumulating an xG of 1.36 in the process. Gabriel enjoys getting stuck in too, with his performance against FC Seoul in particular one where he competed in 26 duels. Such a willingness to be involved in all aspects of play could be key for both Vitor Gabriel and Gangwon in the final few weeks of the season, as they look to avoid relegation.

This weekend, the Bears travel to Daejeon Hana Citizen, a club they have two losses against this season. The Purples are going steady with a pair of draws so far in Final B, but with survival already secure, can rest knowing nothing will carry risk of pulling them into late danger. Last time out, Daejeon earned a dramatic comeback draw against Suwon Samsung Bluewings, and now sit three points away from the 50-point mark.

Elsewhere in Round 36

After two consecutive losses, Daegu FC are finding their season is coming to a bit of a stand-still. The Sky Blues are certainly still in contention for a top-four finish, but will now play two of this year’s top three back-to-back. The first of these games is against Gwangju FC, a side hoping to return to winning ways following a loss to Incheon United last round. The Griffins are still in strong form, however, as they have six wins out of their last eight, and at three points behind Pohang Steelers, a chance to finish second. This year, there is an even 1-1-1 record when these two teams have met.

Despite both Incheon United and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors enjoying decent league form, the two sides will enter this weekend’s clash with something to prove. For the home side, it’s improving on their midweek showing against Shandong Taishan, one which saw the Chinese club move three points clear of the Durumi in their AFC Champions League group. That, and Incheon will want to pay this week’s opposition back for knocking them out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage. Jeonbuk, meanwhile, will want to avenge their FA Cup final defeat, as well as their 2-0 loss to Lion City Sailors in midweek Champions League competition. If Incheon are victorious here, they will leapfrog the Green Warriors, though a win has only came once in this fixture for the Durumi in their last 18 attempts.

In a Suwon derby with plenty of stakes attached, Suwon FC welcome Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The hosts are still in with a chance of automatic survival, despite picking up one point from their last two games, but realistically need a win this weekend if they are to stand a chance of closing the seven-point gap on Jeju United. As for the Bluewings, they missed a chance to move away from bottom place last time out when a late Masatoshi Ishida equaliser meant Daejeon Hana Citizen earned a comeback draw at the Suwon World Cup Stadium. In all three meetings between these two teams this year, it’s been Suwon FC who have came out winners.

K League 1 Table

K League 1 Round 36 Fixtures

Saturday 11th November

#DHFCvGAN: Daejeon Hana Citizen (8th) vs. Gangwon FC (11th) - 14:00
#DAEvGWA: Daegu FC (6th) vs. Gwangju FC (3rd) - 16:30
#JEJvSEO: Jeju United (9th) vs. FC Seoul (7th) - 16:30

Sunday 12th November

#INCvJEO: Incheon United (5th) vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (4th) - 14:00
#SuwonDerby: Suwon FC (10th) vs. Suwon Samsung Bluewings (12th) - 14:00
#ULSvPOH: Ulsan Hyundai (1st) vs. Pohang Steelers (2nd) - 16:30