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2024 Hana Bank K League 1 Round 4 Preview

league 2024.03.28   I   hits 218

As we return from the international break, there is plenty to look forward to in Hana Bank K League 1 round four action. For starters, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors host Ulsan HD FC, in a match that may appear to hold lower stakes than usual, but could give either side vital momentum as the season kicks further into gear. Elsewhere, Pohang Steelers will hope to continue their hot streak against Jeju United, FC Seoul will visit Gangwon looking to make it two-in-a-row, while teams like Daegu, Daejeon Hana Citizen and Incheon United all continue to play for their first wins of the year.

Match of the Round

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (11th) vs. Ulsan HD FC (1st) - Sat. 30th March, 14:00

In this week’s marquee matchup, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors host Ulsan HD. The Green Warriors are still looking for their first league win of the 2024 season, having lost last time out away to Gimcheon Sangmu, and they currently sit in 11th place. Dan Petrescu’s men have managed two goals from their current xG of four, average a relatively small 3.3 shots on target per match, and despite taking 82 touches in the opposition penalty area.

As for Ulsan, they remain undefeated at the top of the table, but a 3-3 draw at home to Incheon United prior to the international break means the Horangi have lost their 100% record. Still, Ulsan are averaging a more than healthy 2.3 goals per game currently, 7.3 shots on target per 90, with seven big chances created.

Recently, this fixture has massively favoured Ulsan, with the Horangi winning five of the last seven meetings (including one in the AFC Champions League this year), compared to Jeonbuk, whose only triumph over this period was in round 16 of last season. Still, all five of Ulsan’s recent victories against the Green Warriors have been by a one-goal margin, perhaps showing how tightly contested this fixture is. Overall, Ulsan have 42 wins, Jeonbuk 45, and there have been 31 draws.

Team of the Round

Pohang Steelers (vs. Jeju United, Sat. 30th March, 16:30)

Building on their win against Daegu, Pohang Steelers became the first side in 2024 to defeat Gwangju FC, the 1-0 victory at the Steelyard particularly impressive given their opposition’s attacking potency. Such defensive solidarity is no surprise for Pohang fans so far this season, though, given they currently rank as the best unit for overall xGA (2.2) and interceptions per match (14), whilst also averaging (per 90) 12 successful tackles, and 0.7 goals conceded.

The challenge for Pohang this weekend is Jeju United. Unfortunately for the Islanders, they couldn’t follow up on their comfortable round two victory over Daejeon Hana Citizen before the international break, and as such will be seeking to respond to their first loss under Kim Hak-bum (a 2-0 away defeat to FC Seoul) in round four. However, Jeju have lost their last three clashes with Pohang (after winning three of the four prior), which could give an accurate representation of a potentially uphill struggle for the Tangerines this Saturday.

Player of the Round

Ki Sung-yueng, FC Seoul (vs. Gangwon FC, Sun. 31st March, 14:00)

With something of a throwback performance last time out, 35-year-old Ki Sung-yueng showcased some of his timeless qualities to help FC Seoul claim their first win under Kim Gi-dong. From the centre of midfield, Ki made 13 passes into the final third, eight recoveries, and won ten duels, all in addition to scoring his team’s second goal of the afternoon. Certainly, more showings of that ilk will undoubtedly help Seoul in 2024, as they hope to compete in the upper echelon of the table.

Up next for FC Seoul is Gangwon FC. The Bears have been somewhat steady so far this year, earning two points from their three games, but may be concerned that in each of those matches, they have failed to keep hold of a lead. Positively for the Bears, their overall xG of 4.1 is currently being matched, inspiring optimism that the provincial club may not end up suffering from the attacking issues that caused them to be last year’s lowest scorers, thanks in part to signings like Lee Sang-heon, and the impact of youngster Yang Min-hyuk.

Elsewhere in K League 1 Round 4

In a clash between two currently winless teams, Incheon United host Daejeon Hana Citizen. The Durumi will be massively encouraged by their showing away to Ulsan, though, where they came from behind on two occasions to ultimately earn a point. In fact, Incheon currently top the xG table with a figure of 5.5, with Jo Sung-hwan’s men already creating nine big chances across their three games. As for Daejeon, a late equaliser spared them from defeat against Gangwon following a patchy performance, though fans will be encouraged by the impact made by goalscorer Peniel Mlapa off the bench. Interestingly, Incheon have not been beaten by Daejeon since 2013 (a run of nine matches), and have only failed to win once against the Purples over that period (a 3-3 draw in round two of last year).

Both Suwon FC and Gimcheon Sangmu have impressed early in 2024. Suwon rank first for touches in the opposition box (99) and second for shots on target per match (6.3), but equally have conceded the second lowest xGA total (2.8). Meanwhile, Gimcheon returned to winning ways with a 1-0 home victory against Jeonbuk, lifting themselves up to fifth place. The military side have been an efficient outfit thus far, having taken the lowest amount of touches in the opposition penalty area (37), but on the other side of the equation, they’ve only conceded in one match (a 3-2 defeat to reigning champions Ulsan), and have retained both of their leads when in front. In 2022, Suwon beat Gimcheon on three occasions, although the most recent meeting finished 2-2, the military side coming from behind twice to secure a point.

Hoping to return to winning ways, Gwangju FC welcome winless Daegu FC in this weekend's final game. The Griffins will have been disappointed against Pohang, given they were unable to break down a sturdy defence and showcase the attacking qualities prevalent in the first two rounds, but equally, the game will have provided plenty of learning for manager Lee Jung-hyo. Nevertheless, this season Gwangju are averaging two goals per game (from an average xG of 1.4), and are winning possession in the opposition third an average of 6.3 times per 90. Bottom-place Daegu earned their first point of the campaign in a 1-1 draw at home to Suwon FC before the break. There, the Sky Blues were relatively solid, having created two big chances and an xG of 1.65, as well as managing to win 43 duels, 11 tackles and seven interceptions, yet a victory still alludes them. In the four meetings between these sides last year, two 1-1 draws followed one win for each team, both of which came for whoever was away from home.

K League 1 Table

K League 1 Round 4 Fixtures

Saturday 30th March

#JEOvULS: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (11th) vs. Ulsan HD (1st) - 14:00 [ENG]
#INCvDHFC: Incheon United (9th) vs. Daejeon Hana Citizen (10th) - 14:00
#JEJvPOH: Jeju United (6th) vs. Pohang Steelers (3rd) - 16:30
#SUWvGIM: Suwon FC (5th) vs. Gimcheon Sangmu (4th) - 16:30 [ENG]

Sunday 31st March

#GANvSEO: Gangwon FC (8th) vs. FC Seoul (7th) - 14:00 [ENG]
#GWAvDAE: Gwangju FC (2nd) vs. Daegu FC (12th) - 16:30

Where to Watch

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