The 26th round of the K League 1 2023 is here. What are the key points to watch?
Match of the Round – Unbeaten ‘Pohang VS Gwangju’
In Round 26, Pohang and Gwangju meet in a match between two unbeaten sides.
The home team is unbeaten in four matches with two wins and two draws, and is in second place (45 points). There are seven points between them and first-placed Ulsan, and five points between them and third-placed Jeonbuk, so Pohang will need to continue their good form if they want to catch up with Jeonbuk and chase down Ulsan.
One of Pohang’s biggest advantages is its versatility in scoring goals. Pohang has scored nine goals in its last four unbeaten matches, and even more impressively, all nine goals have come from the toes of different players. In the last two matches, midfielder Oberdan scored his K League debut and defender Ha Chang-rae scored his second goal of the season. Pohang also had Kim Jong-woo return last round after being sidelined by injury, and the return of Jung Jae-hee, Shim Sang-min, and Shin Kwang-hoon is imminent.
The return of these mainstays could make Pohang’s squad even stronger.
Gwangju, meanwhile, continued their winning streak with a 3-0 victory over Daejeon in Round 25. With the win, Gwangju also surpassed the 10-match win plateau for the season. Gwangju have been on a good run of form in their last 10 games, winning five, drawing four and losing one, and have moved up to fifth place in the standings with 37 points. Gwangju are characterised by playing attacking football with a high volume of possession, and contrary to fears that they would struggle with a thin squad and summer fitness issues, they have actually gone from strength to strength. With a good run of form, Gwangju will be challenging for the best K League 1 finish in the club’s history this season. Gwangju’s previous best K League 1 finish was sixth in 2020.
Looking to continue their unbeaten streak, Pohang and Gwangju will meet for the third time this season at Pohang Steel Yard on Sunday, the 13th at 8pm.
Team of the Round – Ulsan needs to regain its firepower
Ulsan (57 points) have been at the top of the table all season, but have seen a slight dip in form recently. After a dominant start to the season with two six-game winning streaks and one five-game winning streak, Ulsan has faltered in its last five matches with two wins, one draw and two losses. If Ulsan are to win back-to-back league titles for the first time in franchise history this season, they will need to regain their dominant firepower.
For Ulsan to rebound, they will need their top scorers, In-Joo In-gyu and Bako (11 goals each), to come alive. Lee hasn’t scored since the 21st round against Pohang, and Bako hasn’t scored since the 23rd round against Suwon, so both players need to find their feet to get Ulsan’s offence dancing again.
It is also urgent to fill the void left by Park Yong-woo, who moved to Al Ain in the UAE in the summer. Ulsan have been using Kim Min-hyuk and Bojanic as replacements since Park’s departure, but they have yet to fully establish themselves as the core of the midfield. Ulsan will need to regain control of the centre of the park to be able to dominate opponents like before.
With their attacking and midfield issues taken care of, leaders Ulsan face 12th-placed Gangwon (17 points) in this round. Ulsan has been strong against Gangwon for nearly 11 years, going unbeaten in 24 matches (21 wins and four draws), and has won both meetings this season. The match between Ulsan and Gangwon, which comes at a crucial time, will take place at the Gangneung Sports Complex on Saturday (12 December) at 7.30pm.
Player of the Round – Han Gyo-won (Jeonbuk) ‘sharper in the summer’
Han scored a goal and an assist in Jeonbuk’s 2-0 win over Incheon in Round 25. His performance helped Jeonbuk leap to third place (40 points) with nine consecutive home wins.
This season, Han is a veteran in his 13th year as a professional and 10th season with Jeonbuk. This season, Han had a low offensive point total of just one goal and one assist through round 24, but he showed sharpness in his last game, raising expectations for the future.바카라사이트
In particular, Han has a unique history of being a strong player in the summer. He holds the record for the most goals scored in July and August (20) among active K League 1 players. As such, Jeonbuk, who are in a fierce battle for the top spot, will be counting on his sharp toes even in the sweltering heat of August.
Jeonbuk meets 11th-placed Suwon (18 points) in this round. This season, Jeonbuk has recorded one win and one draw against Suwon. The third meeting of the season between the two teams will take place at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on Saturday, 12 August at 7pm.