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2024 Hana Bank K League 1 Round 3 Preview

league 2024.03.14   I   hits 320

Before the first international break of the season, there is plenty to look forward to in Hana Bank K League 1 Round 3. FC Seoul will continue their quest for a first win of 2024 when facing Jeju United, Pohang Steelers will welcome in-form Gwangju FC to the Steelyard, and Ulsan HD are hoping to make it three league wins in a row when they take on Incheon United. Elsewhere, Daejeon Hana Citizen, Gangwon FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and Daegu FC are all aiming for their first victories of the year too, while Suwon FC and Gimcheon Sangmu should be looking to continue showcasing their progress.

Match of the Round
FC Seoul vs. Jeju United - Sat. 16th March, 16:30

Hoping for their first win of the year, FC Seoul host Jeju United in Round 3 this Saturday. The capital city side have yet to find their groove thus far, struggling against Gwangju FC in the opening matchweek, and unable to successfully break down Incheon United during last week’s draw. But it’s a long season, and fans will trust Kim Gi-dong can soon start getting more out of his squad. Seoul, though, currently rank ninth in the division for xG (1.6), 11th for shots on target per match (2.5), and seventh for touches in the opposition box (30), highlighting a current lack of attacking vigour.

As for Jeju United, they built on a strong opening round performance with an excellent showing at the weekend, beating Daejeon Hana Citizen 3-1. The Tangerines currently have a low xGA of 0.8, and are appearing to be finding their feet under Kim Hak-bum with a more organised style of play, one that certainly looks to ensure consistent competitiveness throughout the year. Of course, having an outlet like Yuri Jonathan helps, with the Brazilian forward averaging (per 90) four touches in the opposition box, 1.5 shots on target, and a non-penalty xG of 0.41.

In 2023, it was FC Seoul who had the advantage in this fixture, winning twice and drawing twice across the four meetings. Those victories were the first the capital city side had gained in league competition against Jeju since 2018, with the Islanders enjoying a 10-game unbeaten run (seven losses, three draws) until round four of last year.

Team of the Round
Pohang Steelers (vs. Gwangju FC, Sun. 17th March, 14:00)

After defeat in the first round, Pohang Steelers bounced back with a 3-1 comeback victory against Daegu FC, which in turn gave manager Park Tae-ha his first win in charge of the club. Positively, the Steelers looked better as the game progressed, giving optimism that this year, which will almost certainly be one of transition for the team, can still be a relative success, and that their new manager is already finding ways to get the most from his squad. Currently, Pohang are joint-first in the division for big chances created (three) and lead outright in accurate long balls per 90 (34).

Up next for Pohang, however, is quite the task. Currently sat at the top of the table, Gwangju FC are not showing any signs of slowing down, instead appearing to be entirely enthused at the task of topping their headline-grabbing 2023. Last time out, the Griffins scored four in the second half to take all three points from Gangwon - who had arguably looked the better side in the opening 45 and led 1-0 at the break - propelled by winger Gabriel Tigrao, who is already becoming a focal point of Lee Jung-hyo’s attack after scoring three goals in the opening two games. In this fixture last season, there was one win for each team, prior to two draws.

Player of the Round
Lee Dong-gyeong, Ulsan HD FC (vs. Incheon United, Sun. 17th March, 16:30)

With two goals and one assist, Lee Dong-gyeong was vital in Ulsan HD claiming all three points away to Gimcheon Sangmu last weekend. In addition to his notable, match-winning contributions, the 26-year-old managed an xG of 0.46 from his four shots, made two passes into the final third, took seven touches in the opposition box, and completed two recoveries. Continuing this form would massively help the Horangi, who are looking to make it three consecutive wins in K League 1 action for the first time since July of last year.

This week, Ulsan face-off against Incheon, who gained their first point of the season on Sunday in a 0-0 Gyeongin Derby draw away to FC Seoul. It’s not been the brightest of starts for the Durumi, who are yet to score a goal, but that isn't to say there's a complete lack of positives. Not only does the Incheon squad possess plenty of quality capable of turning the team's fortunes around, but thus far they have been defensively resolute, a Lee Seung-woo penalty the only concession over the opening two rounds. That, and in two out of the last three clashes between these teams, it has been Incheon on the winning side (the other meeting ending in a 0-0 draw).

Elsewhere in K League 1 Round 3

In a game where both teams will be looking to show more quality than in round two, Daejeon Hana Citizen host Gangwon FC in their first home game of the year. The Purples gave away two first-half penalties away to Jeju on Sunday following some early chances. Gangwon, meanwhile, weren’t exactly poor in defeat against Gwangju, with their high pressing particularly impressive, but will similarly rue preventable defensive errors and missed opportunities as they continue to search for their first win of the year. In 2023, Daejeon won the first two of the four clashes, but Gangwon boast the most recent triumph, a 1-0 away victory during the Bears’ late-season upturn in form which ultimately led to their first-division survival.

As the last side remaining yet to earn a point in 2024, Daegu FC will hope this weekend they can put some early concerns to rest against Suwon FC. The Sky Blues actually lead the division in some attacking metrics such as touches in the opposition box (61), and possession won in the final third per match (8) while ranking fourth in xG and third in accurate crosses per match. Suwon, on the other hand, have started 2024 completely refreshed. Two games into the season, Kim Eun-jung’s men look reformed in defence, comfortable in dealing with opposition threats in the midst of operating a more balanced overall style compared to the years prior (Suwon have the second lowest xGA, second highest interceptions per 90, and fourth highest clearances per 90 in the division). Nevertheless, Daegu are currently on an unbeaten run of six matches in this fixture, which includes two draws and one victory from last year.

It’s been a fairly promising start to life back in K League 1 for Gimcheon Sangmu, who have the task of hosting Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors this weekend. Although they lost last time out at home to Ulsan, the military team showed resilience to score two second-half goals to get back into the game, and know the crossbar potentially came between them and a point. Thus, Gimcheon will have confidence going into Sunday, knowing they can at least take the game to a currently winless Jeonbuk. Speaking of the Green Warriors, despite failing to win in the opening two rounds, may well be pleased that they’ve come from behind on two occasions to claim a point - especially against Suwon considering they were a man down. Jeonbuk are unbeaten in their last five in this fixture (two draws, three wins), with the last meeting a 2-2 draw in round 29 of the 2022 season.

K League 1 Table

K League 1 Round 3 Fixtures

Saturday 16th March

#DHFCvGAN: Daejeon Hana Citizen (9th) vs. Gangwon FC (8th) - 14:00
#DAEvSUW: Daegu FC (12th) vs. Suwon FC (4th) - 16:30
#SEOvJEJ: FC Seoul (11th) vs. Jeju United (3rd) - 16:30

Sunday 17th March

#POHvGWA: Pohang Steelers (5th) vs. Gwangju FC (1st) - 14:00
#GIMvJEO: Gimcheon Sangmu (6th) vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (7th) - 14:00
#ULSvINC: Ulsan HD FC (2nd) vs. Incheon United (10th) - 16:30\

Where to Watch

FC Seoul vs. Jeju United and Ulsan HD vs. Incheon United are the two matches picked for English commentary this week.

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