Incheon United and Jeonbuk Hyundai will face off in the 36th round of the “Hana One Q K League 1 2023” at Incheon Football Stadium at 2 p.m. on the 12th. Currently, Incheon ranks fourth in the league with 52 points, and Jeonbuk ranks fourth in the league with 53 points.
The situation between the two teams is similar. Both Jeonbuk and Incheon failed to win the FA Cup and are also struggling in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Champions League (ACL). There is only one goal left. It is important for both teams to qualify for the ACL next season.
According to the announcement by the Korea Football Association (KFA), Ulsan Hyundai, the winner of the K League 1, and Pohang Steelers, the winner of the FA Cup, will compete in the Asian Champions League Elite (ACLE) next season. If Pohang takes the final second place, the third-place team will advance to the ACLE playoffs. In addition, except for ACLE and the teams competing in the ACLE playoffs, the highest ranked team will qualify for ACL2.
Incheon and Jeonbuk compete for this ticket. The difference between fourth-place Jeonbuk and fifth-place Incheon is only one point, and both teams intend to widen the gap by taking advantage of the slight brake on the pursuit of Daegu FC (50 points). Both teams are in a losing streak, but Jeonbuk bears more physical burden.
Incheon arranged the physical strength of its main players through rotation against Gwangju FC, but lost to Shandong Taishan in the ACL group stage after losing the FA Cup semifinals against Jeonbuk. Jeonbuk lost to Pohang in the FA Cup final after the semifinals and drank a bitter cup, and also bowed its head in the away game of Ryan City. They used a large number of key players in both games.
Both Incheon and Jeonbuk are physically and mentally exhausted. Incheon has played one fewer game, but key resources such as Shin Jin-ho, Delbridge, and Lee Myung-joo were injured at the end of the season, making it more difficult to operate the squad. Jeonbuk played one more game than Incheon and must be out of steam because there were also away games.
But I can’t back down. With three games left until the end of the season, one loss is likely to lead to a failure to advance to the ACL next season. This game is also expected to be an unyielding match.