The K League action for 2021 kicks off on February 27 and it’s a mouthwatering clash between two of the biggest names in South Korea to get us started.
Here’s what you need to know for Round 1.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors v FC Seoul – Saturday February 27
There’s no better way to start a season than with a match that screams. Jeonbuk will be going in heavy favourites as defending champs of the last four seasons. The Warriors have won nine of their last 10 opening day matches.
For Seoul, it’s a harsh welcome back. They had the second worst defensive record last year but will be hoping new signing Aleksandar Paločević will cause enough problems up front that their defensive woes will go unnoticed.
Daegu FC v Suwon FC – Saturday, February 27
There’s a lot of expectation on Daegu this season to back up their qualification for the Asian Champions League last year. Daegu have focused on strengthening defence in the offseason with the exciting signing of Kim Jin-hyuk.
Suwon will be fielding a vastly different team from last season after winning promotion, particularly after their entire backline. The pressure is on Lars Veldwijk to step up in the big league after the departure of their main goal scorers.
Pohang Steelers v Incheon United – Sunday, February 28
Aussie Alex Grant will be lining up at the back for his K League debut for the Steelers. After scoring the most goals in the league last season, Pohang are a perennial threat up front and will be favourites heading into this game.
Incheon are gunning for a better start to their season than last year, which saw them stay in the top flight by the skin of their teeth. Eyes will be on new signing Guilherme Negueba to provide some much needed spark in front of the goal.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings vs Gwangju FC – Sunday, February 28
The Bluewings have been floundering mid-table lately, but signing Uroš Đerić will breathe new life into their attack if he can stay injury free. Socceroo Terry Antonis is challenging for a starting spot after two seasons in South Korea.
Brazilian Felipe’s shooting boots were the best for Gwangju last season and they will go into their second season in the top flight with confidence after a tidy sixth spot last year.
Ulsan Hyundai vs Gangwon FC – Monday, March 1
Kicking off March, last year’s runners up Ulsan will be favourites going into their first round match.
It will be a first outing for new manager Hong Myung-bo who has already cleared out the roster for the 2021 season.
Gangwon are known for their possession-based game but have been unable to convert that into goals. That’s where new signing Masatoshi Ishida comes in. The Japanese midfielder has the creativity and scoring ability Gangwon have been crying out for.
Seongnam FC vs Jeju United – Monday, March 1
Closing out Round 1, Seongnam will be unrecognisable with 12 new signings over the winter. Hardest of those to miss is Fejsal Mulic, who stands at 6 feet eight inches, who has been brought in to provide attacking creativity sorely lacked last season.
Jeju are an exciting an unknown prospect this season having bounced back from K League 2 in their first attempt. Seongnam won’t be counting their blessings for playing a newly-promoted team first up — Jeju may not be the strongest on paper but showed they understood what the game plan was during an impressive 16-win streak to secure promotion.