The quarterfinals are now set. From a four-way battle for a spot in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) to a fight to avoid relegation to the bottom of the K League 2 (2nd Division). With five games left in the final round, the battle for the top spot has only intensified.
Round 34, the first round of the 2023 season’s K League Final Round, begins this weekend. The most anticipated matchup will be between leaders Ulsan Hyundai and third-place Gwangju FC, the “team of the year,” when they meet at the Gwangju Football Stadium on Nov. 21.
Ulsan will be looking to win back-to-back league titles for the first time in franchise history. They currently have 67 points (20 W, 7 D, 6 L), which gives them a comfortable lead over the second-place group. However, they face a daunting task against Gwangju, who have not been in the best of form in their last 10 matches, going 3-5-2-2, including a 0-0 draw at Pohang Steelers and Incheon United.
Gwangju (54 points), the third-placed promoted team this season, is determined to make a splash in the final round. “We were loud and boisterous all the way up to Final A, so we’ll be loud in the Final Round,” Gwangju head coach Lee Jung-hyo said at the Final Round media day.
For Ulsan, the fitness of key players such as Seol Young-woo, Uhm Won-sang, Kim Young-kwon, Jung Seung-hyun, and Kim Tae-hwan will also be key, as well as goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who is back after playing a national team schedule.
Second-ranked Pohang (58 points) hosts sixth-ranked Incheon (48 points), who qualified for the Final A for the second straight year, on Tuesday at Anbang. Pohang is aiming to catch up to the leaders, but foreign players such as Oberdan and Wandelsson are unavailable due to injuries.
Incheon is in better shape. Incheon is cruising in the Champions League for the first time in its history with back-to-back wins over Yokohama Marinos and Kaya FC. They are also in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. Their foreign offense has been ignited by the firepower of Mugosa, Gerso, and Hernandez.
Jeonbuk Hyundai, whose pride is in tatters after slipping to fourth place in the league, travels to fifth-place Daegu FC, who are also on 49 points. Daegu leads the season head-to-head 2-1.
All eyes will be on the toe of Go Jae-hyun, who scored the multi-goal winner that secured Daegu’s place in Final A in their previous meeting in Round 32. After scoring 13 goals and adding two assists last season, Go is one goal shy of double-digit points for the second straight year (9 goals, 1 assist in 32 games). 메이저놀이터