The K League will return this Friday, in what is a monumental sign of sport’s gradual post-COVID 19 recovery.
Initially scheduled to start in February, South Korea’s top flight was one of the world’s first sports leagues to be effected by the global Coronavirus outbreak. However, reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will get the new season underway this Friday, when they host Suwon Samsung Bluewings at an empty Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Here’s our preview of the 2020 K League season.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
The bookies’ favourites heading into the new season, Jeonbuk are going for a fourth consecutive and unprecedented eighth K League title this term. Their dominance was challenged thoroughly last season by Ulsan Hyundai, who despite winning more games than Jeonbuk, were pipped to the title on goal difference.
A number of Jeonbuk’s top players have departed since the end of the 2019 campaign. Moon Seon-min was the K League’s top assist provider and won a number of accolades for his performances last season, but has since departed for Sangju Sangmu, the K League’s military club, whilst he completes a mandatory two years of national service.
Jeonbuk have also seen 2019 top goalscorer Ricardo Lopes leave the club. The Brazilian now wears the number nine shirt for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG.
As mentioned previously, Ulsan missed out on last season’s championship on goal difference, and look set to be Jeonbuk’s main challengers this season.
Brazillian forward Junior Negrao has scored 41 goals in 67 appearances since arriving at Ulsan in 2018 and with 19 of those goals coming last season, he’ll be looking to top the goalscorer charts this season.
Ulsan have a rich history, having won the 2012 AFC Champions League, but they’re quickly gaining a reputation as perennial runners-up, having finished second in the K League no less than eight times. Can they go one better this season?
Australia international Adam Taggart fired 20 goals for Suwon Samsung Bluewings last season, making him K League’s top goalscorer.
The striker struggled to make the grade after signing for then Premier League Fulham, after impressing for Newcastle Jets in his native A League. However, since returning home to Perth Glory in 2016, the Socceroo has scored 51 goals in 88 games for Glory, Brisbane Roar and the Blue Wings.
Still only 26, Taggart is very much one of the K League’s poster boys and he was still firing in the goals during Suwon’s recent tune-up matches ahead of their game at Jeonbuk this weekend.
You could probably be forgiven for not recognising the name, but Park Chu-Young once wore the number nine shirt for Arsenal, had a prolific spell in Ligue 1 with Monaco and featured for Celta Vigo in La Liga. Now 34, Park is in the twilight of his unique career.
With 24 goals in 68 appearances for South Korea, he is something of a national icon, and he is loved at his current club FC Seoul for scoring a title winning goal on the final day of the 2016 season. Could this season’s shorter 22-match format provide the platform for a fitting swansong for Park?