After five more matches, the 12 teams in the top South Korean football league will be split into two tiers. The top six will comprise "Final A," and the rest will make up "Final B." Teams will then play five more matches within their own group to round out the season. Teams in the upper tier are guaranteed a stay in the K League 1 for the following season, while those in the lower group face the danger of relegation to the K League 2.
Entering the new weekend of action, three clubs are in a virtual tie for sixth place, with matches against top-five teams and regional rivals coming up.
Suwon FC, Gangwon FC and FC Seoul all have 36 points. Suwon FC are occupying sixth place now thanks to their tiebreak edge in goals scored, with 44. Gangwon FC have scored 40, and FC Seoul have netted 34.
Suwon FC will host Jeju United at 7 p.m. Friday, trying to shake off a loss to last-place Seongnam FC on Sunday.
Jeju are in fifth place with 41 points, and Suwon FC have a chance to make the top-five battle more interesting.
Jeju have just three wins in their past 10 matches, but in those three games, they scored 10 goals. They beat Suwon FC 3-1 in their most recent meeting on May 15.
Gangwon FC will visit No. 4-ranked Incheon United at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Gangwon dropped the first two games against Incheon this year by a combined score of 5-1, and Incheon, riding a five-match undefeated run, have legitimate top-three aspirations. With 44 points, they trail third-ranked Pohang Steelers by just one.
Incheon received some devastating injury news Wednesday, as forward Hernandes was diagnosed with torn ligaments in his right ankle.
He suffered the injury just eight minutes after scoring a goal in a 2-0 win over FC Seoul on Saturday. If the Brazilian opts for surgery, he will likely be out for four to five months.
Incheon said the forward wants to take the rehab route so that he could potentially return to action this season.
Incheon acquired the 22-year-old this summer after losing striker Stefan Mugosa to the Japanese club Vissel Kobe. And Hernandes has been everything Incheon had hoped, scoring four goals and collecting four assists in eight games to push the club on the cusp of a top-three finish.
FC Seoul will host Suwon Samsung Bluewings at 4:30 p.m. Sunday for their latest "Super Match" derby. FC Seoul claimed the first two meetings between the regional foes this season, winning 2-0 in April and then 1-0 in June.
Suwon Samsung are in ninth place with 30 points, barely out of the relegation zone. Their much-maligned offense has come to life of late, however, with 12 goals in five matches last month after two goals in five games in July.
Also on Sunday, first-place Ulsan Hyundai FC will try to pad their lead when they play Seongnam FC at 7 p.m. Seongnam will be playing their second game under caretaker manager Chung Kyung-ho. Despite beating Suwon FC on Sunday, Seongnam FC remain in last place with 21 points, six behind Gimcheon Sangmu FC.
With 59 points, Ulsan hold a nine-point lead over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, which will play Gimcheon at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The one other match Saturday will pit Pohang against Daegu FC at 4:30 p.m.
Steelers, with only two wins in their past seven, are trying to put more pressure on Jeonbuk, while Daegu will look to snap their 11-match winless slide, a drought that pushed them down to 10th place at 28 points. They failed to score in each of their past three games. (Yonhap)