Preview: Gangwon FC vs Incheon United
Last time out, a 1-0 home defeat to Jeju saw Gangwon continue their unenviable start to the season, and also meant the provincial club surrendered their three game undefeated streak (this run was made up entirely of 1-1 draws, though). Going forward, the misfiring Bears will need to show a greater clinical edge, as their current lack of goals is no doubt one major reason they've found themselves in such a precarious position.
Incheon, on the other hand, come into proceedings in only slightly better shape. With just one win in their opening matches, and the most goals conceded (12), 2022's surprise package find themselves sat in 9th. Yet they are just two points away from the top-half, so it's certainly not time to hit the panic button. And, while a 2-0 loss to Jeonbuk last time out won't inspire much confidence, there's certainly enough quality in this side to enable a swift turnaround in form.
Things are getting better for Gangwon from an injury perspective, with just Lee Jeong-hyeop and Kevin Jansson expected to be missing on Sunday. Other than that, the only issue for Choi Yong-soo is who to choose in his front three, as no forward has managed to offer a great deal of consistency so far this campaign. With that being said, star player Kim Dae-won does look to be coming back into form, which will be a great help for the Bears.
Incheon go into the weekend boasting a near clean bill of health themselves. Lee Myung-joo is the sole player predicted to be unavailable for selection, with the other interesting point of discussion being whether or not Kim Dong-heon will be afforded a chance to reclaim his position as first-choice goalkeeper.
Historically, this is a pretty even fixture. In 34 matches, there have been 15 Gangwon wins, six stalemates, and 13 times Incheon have taken the spoils. However, the Bears have won just once in the last five meetings, and haven't managed to better Sunday's opposition on home soil since March 2021. Given the situation Gangwon are in, now is the perfect chance to change that.
What to Watch
Can paper planes inspire Gangwon to their first victory of 2023?
It's a fair comment to make that following six winless matches, something has to change. For Gangwon, that includes producing an event centred around fans writing "cheering messages" on paper, turning them into paper aeroplanes, and flying them at kick-off.
While this is admittedly a nice concept, the hope has to be that the display genuinely does inspire the Gangwon players, who looked dejected at the end of last week's game. After all, this is currently the Bears' worst start to a top-flight season since 2013, the year they were last relegated.
Can Incheon pick up the pace?
So far, Incheon have failed to utilise the momentum they garnered last campaign. Despite what seemed to be a successful winter window, it's been a sluggish start to the year for Jo Sung-hwan's men, whose sole win so far is a 1-0 triumph over fellow present strugglers Jeju.
Still, it hasn't all been negative, and Incheon are definitely a side you'd be rash to write off. So with that in mind, why not back Sunday to be the date they pick up their first away point(s) of 2023?
Who to Watch
It might be a bit of a cliché, but in times of strife, your captain should be there to inspire the rest of the squad to go the proverbial extra mile. For Gangwon, that particular task falls at the feet of Rim Chang-woo, though it's certainly no easy undertaking. Nevertheless, the 31-year-old has been one of the Bears' most consistent performers since his arrival, and he certainly has what it takes to lead his teammates to what would be a massive first victory of the calendar year.