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2024 Hana Bank K League 1 Round 6 Preview

league 2024.04.04   I   hits 193

After the first midweek round of fixtures in the 2024 Hana Bank K League 1 season, normal service resumes this weekend, with plenty of intriguing matches. Fresh off their first wins of the season, Daejeon Hana Citizen and Gangwon FC will be looking to continue their upward trajectories against Pohang Steelers and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors respectively, while teams like Gwangju FC, Daegu FC, Gimcheon Sangmu, and Ulsan HD will all hope to bounce back from round five defeats. Elsewhere, FC Seoul will want to build on a rousing 5-1 win on Wednesday, Suwon FC will want to convert a solid draw into forward momentum, Incheon United will be keen to continue their unbeaten run, while Jeju United flex their potential top-half credentials.

Match of the Round
Daejeon Hana Citizen (10th) vs. Pohang Steelers (1st) - Sun. 7th April, 16:30

In the marquee match of the round, Daejeon Hana Citizen host Pohang Steelers. The Purples got their first win of 2024 in Round 5, beating Ulsan HD 2-0, and looked a more comfortable side than they have done so far this season. Bolstered by the return of Anton Kryvotsyuk, who in midweekstarted for the first time this year, a previously leaky defence (seven goals conceded from the opening four matches) looked resolute, whilst the attack maintained a strong consistency, with Daejeon scoring from both of their shots on target.

As for Pohang Steelers, they drew 1-1 at home to Suwon FC last time out, meaning they failed to make it four victories in a row, but by the same token strengthened a healthy unbeaten run, and rose to first place. The Steelers will have been disappointed not to come away with all three points in midweek, though, having dominated possession, and generally showcased their defensive prowess (under Park Tae-ha, the team averages 0.6 goals conceded per game, the lowest number in the division). If Pohang are to avoid defeat this weekend, it will be their longest league undefeated streak since September.

In the three meetings between these teams last year, there were two Pohang victories and one 0-0 draw. Daejeon have not beaten the Steelers since 2010 (a run of 15 games), and have lost 11 times in this fixture over that period.

Team of the Round
FC Seoul (vs. Daegu FC, Sun. 7th April, 14:00)

Returning to form in a big way, FC Seoul put last weekend’s blunt performance against Gangwon to the back of their minds in midweek, as they thrashed Gimcheon Sangmu 5-1. Anchored by Stanislav Iljutcenko, who himself racked up two goals and two assists (the most goal contributions he’s managed in a single game since arriving at Seoul), the capital city side were ruthless, with 11 shots on target, and much improved attacking play. Before midweek, FC Seoul had the lowest xG in the division (3.6), but with more performances of this ilk, that’ll be sure to continue changing quickly.

This weekend, Seoul travel to face Daegu FC, who suffered a 3-0 loss to Gangwon. Despite being sat in 11th, though, the Sky Blues have displayed positive signs throughout the beginning of 2024, and before Wednesday’s game ranked fifth for possession won in the final third (4.4 times per 90), fourth for accurate crosses per 90 (4.4), as well as fifth for touches in the opposition box (94). In this fixture last year, there was one win for either team prior to a 2-2 draw in round 27.

Player of the Round
Lee Sang-heon, Gangwon FC (vs. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Sun. 7th April, 14:00)

As Gangwon FC managed their first win of 2024 in midweek, beating Daegu FC 3-0 at home, forward Lee Sang-heon once again stood out. Thanks to his second-half brace, the 25-year-old has reached five goals for the year, a total more than any other Gangwon player managed across the entirety of the 2023 regular season. Per 90, the current K League 1 top goalscorer averages 1.08 goals, 3.02 touches in the opposition box, 3.24 recoveries, and 0.86 chances created.

Up next for Gangwon is a trip to Jeonju, where they will play the bottom-placed, and only remaining winless team, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The Green Warriors are on three points, having drawn three times and lost twice. Last year, whoever was the away side got the win in this fixture, with Gangwon emerging victorious twice in the ground they’ll travel to this Sunday.

Elsewhere in K League 1 Round 6

Looking to bounce back having lost last time out, and after failing to win in three successive games, Ulsan HD face off against Suwon FC. Ulsan also failed to score for the first time in 2024. Meanwhile, Suwon FC will be content with a 1-1 comeback draw away at Pohang, with Kim Eun-jung’s men having gained a point from a losing position for the second consecutive away game. Nevertheless, Ulsan have won the last eight meetings between these teams, with 2021’s 5-2 Suwon victory - one which did come on their travels - their only ever win in this fixture.

In a clash between two sides currently occupying top-half places, Incheon United host Jeju United. The hosts were in clinical form in their midweek win against Gwangju, scoring three times from five shots on goal, claiming the three points deep into injury time through Gerso, and effectively using their 26% possession to cause as much danger to the opposition as possible. Jeju, meanwhile, exploited Jeonbuk’s current woes in a comfortable 2-0 victory, ending a run of two consecutive losses, and moving into sixth. Last year, there was one Jeju win sandwiched between two Incheon triumphs in this fixture, with whoever played at home having the advantage on all three occasions.

When Gimcheon Sangmu welcome Gwangju FC, they’ll do so needing to show a 5-1 loss to FC Seoul was just a blip following an overall solid beginning to 2024. The military side currently remain second despite what happened on Wednesday, though will undoubtedly be disappointed that their 4-1 victory over Suwon FC last weekend, where they created an xG of 2.74 from eight shots, had five big chances, and looked a constant threat, was unable to be followed up on. Gwangju, meanwhile, have lost three consecutive games for the first time since being promoted, and so will be keen to ensure their attacking potency - the Griffins, like their opposition this Saturday, are joint top-scorers in the division - can soon carry them to better results. The last time these teams met was in 2020, when the military club operated in Sangju, and in that season all three games went the way of this week's hosts by a score of 1-0.

K League 1 Table

K League 1 Round 6 Fixtures

Saturday 6th April

#ULSvSUW: Ulsan HD FC (3rd) vs. Suwon FC (9th) - 14:00
#INCvJEJ: Incheon United (5th) vs. Jeju United (6th) - 16:30
#GIMvGWA: Gimcheon Sangmu (2nd) vs. Gwangju FC (7th) - 16:30

Sunday 7th April

#JEOvGAN: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (12th) vs. Gangwon FC (8th) - 14:00
#DAEvSEO: Daegu FC (11th) vs. FC Seoul (4th) - 14:00
#DHFCvPOH: Daejeon Hana Citizen (10th) vs. Pohang Steelers (1st) - 16:30