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2024 Hana Bank K League 1 Round 2 Preview

league 2024.03.07   I   hits 391

In Round 2 of the Hana Bank 2024 K League 1 season, there are plenty of intriguing matchups. Newly promoted Gimcheon Sangmu, who marked their first division return with a win last week, welcome reigning champions Ulsan HD, while entertainers Gwangju FC have a chance to make it back-to-back wins on home soil when they host Gangwon FC. Elsewhere, Jeonbuk will hope to get their first win against a solidified Suwon FC, Pohang and Daegu will both be looking to get points on the board, FC Seoul will want to make quick amends against an Incheon United side also hoping for better fortunes, and both Jeju United and Daejeon Hana Citizen should have confidence promising opening round performances can potentially lead to victory this weekend.

Match of the Round
Gimcheon Sangmu vs. Ulsan HD FC - Sat. 9th March, 16:30

After making a winning start to their top-flight return, Gimcheon Sangmu have the task of hosting reigning champions Ulsan HD FC this weekend. The military side were impressive against Daegu, comfortable in defence throughout despite their opposition’s 36 touches in the penalty area and xG of 1.4, (they made 27 clearances, 17 successful tackles, and 12 interceptions), meaning they were well-equipped to hold onto their lead when the time came.

As for Ulsan, they came away victorious in Friday’s East Coast Derby, a second-half Ataru Esaka goal enough to seal all three points. It was the kind of performance the Horangi will be pleased with, owing to their control of possession, the number of chances created, and overall quality in areas like passing. This weekend, a first away win of the year would go even further in Ulsan demonstrating that they're ready to tackle another title defence head-on.

The last time these two teams met, which was in the 2022 season, Ulsan were 2-1 away winners, well on their way to the K League 1 title. As a matter of fact, the Horangi have only lost once to the military side since 2018, and are enjoying an 11-game unbeaten run in this fixture (nine wins, two draws).

Team of the Round
Gwangju FC (vs. Gangwon FC, Sun. 10th March, 16:30)

It was an excellent start to 2024 for Gwangju FC on Saturday, as the Griffins ran out comfortable 2-0 winners against FC Seoul. Much like last year, Lee Jung-hyo’s men were well organised in all phases of play, happy to showcase the sort of attractive football that has led them to AFC Champions League qualification whenever necessary. In opening round action, Gwangju managed an xG of 1.6, had 31 touches in the opposition box, won possession six times in the final third, and completed seven accurate crosses.

This week, Gwangju welcome Gangwon. The Bears put in a solid shift last Saturday, drawing 1-1 with Jeju United, and looked willing to play a more front-footed style compared to the counter-attacking system that has been associated with the team over recent years. New forward acquisition - and goalscorer - Lee Sang-heon was a particular strong point against the Islanders, although 17-year-old Yang Min-hyuk has rightly earned himself plenty of acclaim too after getting an assist. Still, Gangwon failed to beat Gwangju last year (two draws, one loss), and will have to maintain a resolute defence should they wish to get their first win of 2024 in round two.

Player of the Round
Song Min-kyu, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (vs. Suwon FC, Sat. 9th March, 14:00)

Making a strong impression from off the bench at the weekend, Song Min-kyu was a major reason Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors ended up with a point against Daejeon. Not only did the 24-year-old get himself a crucial assist, but he created five chances for the Green Warriors, with an overall xA of 0.6. And, after getting on the scoresheet in midweek AFC Champions League action, the winger will be looking to continue his fine form as his team looks for a first league victory of 2024.

The challenge at hand for Song Min-kyu and co. in round two is a trip to Suwon FC. The leakiest side of 2023 were a changed outfit last weekend under new manager Kim Eun-jung, putting an emphasis on defensive solidarity before a Lee Seung-woo penalty deep into injury time (Suwon's only shot on target of the game) gave them all three points. A similar showing on Saturday would certainly go a long way in giving Suwon a chance at claiming all three points on home turf, something they did against Jeonbuk last season in round seven.

Elsewhere in K League 1 Round 2

With both sides on zero points, Pohang Steelers and Daegu FC will be hoping for better results coming into the weekend. The hosts were decent enough against Ulsan, remaining competitive throughout and generally coping with their opposition’s threat competently. Pohang will be looking to display more attacking bite this round knowing they're at home, and improve on their nine touches in the opposition box, as well as two shots on target. For Daegu, however, they'll strive to further develop on some of the positive attacking signs shown last week (the Sky Blues won possession seven times in the final third, took 36 touches in the opposition penalty area, and had an xG of 1.4), but prove they can be more clinical this time around. If Daegu can achieve that aim, they may just end up with their first league win in this fixture since 2021.

After Jeju United and Daejeon Hana Citizen were held to draws amidst impressive showings last week, they’ll both be looking to claim all three points this weekend. The Islanders were decently organised against Gangwon, coming from behind to take a point, and looking particularly settled in the second half. Still, Jeju will want to show they can capitalise on momentum when it’s gained, after failing to take some chances that would’ve put them ahead against the Bears. Similarly, Daejeon may rue missing the opportunity to have made it 2-0 against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors before the Green Warriors equalised, and subsequently went on to record an xG of 1.9. The Purples’ midfield was impressive in the opening round, though, and could be key again this Saturday. Last year, these teams met five times with two wins apiece (Jeju the first two meetings, then Daejeon the last two following a 1-1 draw in round 19), making this a fairly hard-to-call fixture.

Wanting to improve on last week’s showing, FC Seoul host Incheon United this Sunday. Kim Gi-dong’s men were the only team to concede more than one goal in opening round action, conceding the second-highest xG (1.6) of the week in the process, whilst having the second-lowest xG (0.6) themselves. Meanwhile, Incheon couldn't capitalise on the relative control they had of possession against Suwon FC, managing five shots on target and an xG of 0.5. Instead, the Durumi came away from the opening round with nothing to show after a late Lee Seung-woo penalty was dispatched, leaving the home fans disappointed. It could also be the home debut of Jesse Lingard in front of a bumper crowd of well over 30,000. This fixture had an even record last year, with one win for each team on either side of a 1-1 draw.

K League 1 Round 2 Fixtures

Saturday 9th March

#SUWvJEO: Suwon FC vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors - 14:00
#GIMvULS: Gimcheon Sangmu vs. Ulsan HD FC - 16:30
#POHvDAE: Pohang Steelers vs. Daegu FC - 16:30

Sunday 10th March

#JEJvDHFC: Jeju United vs. Daejeon Hana Citizen - 14:00
#GyeonginDerby: FC Seoul vs. Incheon United - 16:00
#GWAvGAN: Gwangju FC vs. Gangwon FC - 16:30

Where to Watch

Suwon FC vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Saturday and the Gyeongin Derby between FC Seoul and Incheon United on Sunday are the two matches picked for overseas broadcasting and English commentary.

Tune in to all the action LIVE, for FREE, and in HD on TV.KLeague.com.