Gangwon v Jeonbuk | Saturday 30th May 2020, 08:30
The first of our two plays from the South Korean K-League arrives on Saturday morning when reigning champions Jeonbuk travel to Gangwon. They’ve actually won the league for the last three seasons running, so it is fair to say they’re the team to beat at this level. Barnsley fans will be familiar to the name of José Morais, with the former Tykes boss winning the most recent of those titles.
We may only be three games into the campaign and this new normal of being behind-closed-doors but already we’re seeing a familiar trend in the K-League. That is quite simply that Jeonbuk will generally find a way of getting the job done on the day. Three wins from three include two requiring the winner goal beyond the 80th-minute, whilst the other was goalless at half-time. This edge will probably win them the league for the fourth time running.
However, Jeonbuk have been known to be caught cold when you least expect it, so they aren’t necessarily a team to stake your life on at this level. That is certainly the case away from home, which is when they tend to face a bigger challenge. This was noted in their only away clash so far when beating Busan 2-1. That being said, they’ve still only lost three away league matches since the start of 2018.
Gangwon are a team that does find winning tough to come by. Extending on from last season, they’ve won just twice in 12, although they did open this campaign with a 3-1 home victory versus Seoul. They’ve followed it up with an away loss and home draw, which probably reflects a lack of consistency that was so often their problem last season.
This has ultimately been a one-sided affair over the years as Gangwon has won just one of the last 17 meetings, and they were priced at just shy of 10/1 to win on that occasion only as recently as last year. However, as mentioned before, if there is a time to catch Jeonbuk out then it is generally away from home.
Jeonbuk will of course play to win and playing in this manner on the road has sometimes given them issues in relation to being caught out defensively. Although we did say that they rarely lose away, it is in fact quite rare as well for them to keep a clean sheet on the road. They’ve conceded in ten of their last 14 league encounters away, whilst Gangwon are on a 14-game home streak for scoring, too.
With that in mind, Both Teams To Score at 4/5 (Bet365) has to be of worthy consideration.
Gwangju v Ulsan Hyundai | Saturday 30th May 2020, 11:00
Whilst Jeonbuk Motors tends to dominate this league, Ulsan Hyundai are normally the closest challengers and that again looks set to be the case this time around. They were runners-up last season and already find themselves again in that familiar second spot three games into this campaign. They are yet to taste defeat, but saw their two-match winning streak ended when drawing at home to Busan last time out when needing a late penalty to earn a 1-1 draw.
Gwangju stand in their way of this occasion and they have endured a tough start to life at this level having lost all three, without scoring, following promotion last season. They are probably one of the teams who would have most benefited from having a crowd in their home stadium as they need those type of marginal gains, especially versus the better sides at this level.
Perhaps the biggest worry for Gwangju is not only losing three from three and not scoring, but two of those opponents finished the last regulation season in the relegation section, although they did only narrowly lose to Seoul.
It is pretty clear that Gwangju are going to adopt a relatively defensive approach to proceedings, and that’ll certainly be the case on Saturday when facing a much more talented Ulsan outfit. Even though the home team, they’ll probably look to play more like the away side and then try to play on the break or utilise set pieces. That tactic may work, as Ulsan can sometimes be frustrated, but they’ll likely need some luck.
I say that as this Ulsan team do possess plenty of attacking quality and creativity is something they don’t lack. Gwangju are going to have to stand up to the challenge for 90-minutes, and that won’t be so easy with Ulsan likely to be frustrated having dropped two points last time out.
A very noticeable trend about this Ulsan side is the sheer amount of late goals that they get. They will fight until the very, very end and their fitness levels must be through the roof. Opponents tend to sit back if the scores are level or ahead, and they can struggle to contain this Ulsan unit, which is spearheaded by Júnior Negrão, who already has five goals to his name this season.
Ulsan already have six second-half goals this season, compared to two in the first. They do however only have three clean sheets across their previous 16 away league encounters, and similar to Jeonbuk it is on the road where they may be caught out. Therefore, I am not so willing to just pile in on Ulsan to win the second-half.
Instead, I will favour the Ulsan to Score in Both Halves approach considering it is available at 19/10 (William Hill). Now we’ve made a pretty strong case for a second half goal, but considering they were disappointed to only draw with Busan last weekend I do feel they’ll be fast out of the traps. They was 2-0 up at half-time in their season opening win over Sangju Sangmu, so they aren’t purely a 45-minute team. At this great price, we just have to get involved.
Gangwon v Jeonbuk – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)
Gwangju v Ulsan Hyundai – Ulsan Hyundai To Score In Both Halves (19/10 William Hill)