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Long week ahead for K League clubs playing rescheduled matches during pandemic

Aug. 17, 2021 - 11:04 By Yonhap
Fejsal Mulic of Seongnam FC (C) celebrates his goal against Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the clubs' K League 1 match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul, last Saturday, in this photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League. (Korea Professional Football League)
There are many ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has changed sports, not the least of which is unexpected disruption to playing schedules.

Four clubs in the K League 1 are staring at a long week, as they play rescheduled matches on Wednesday following bouts with COVID-19, and then have to return to the pitch on the weekend for regularly-scheduled contests.

Incheon United will host Seongnam FC at 7 p.m. Wednesday, while FC Seoul will bring home Jeju United at 7:30 p.m. on the same day.

These two matches were initially scheduled for July 20 but were moved after players from Seongnam and Jeju were diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the month.

Incheon, Seongnam, and Jeju will be back at it on Saturday, facing Gangwon FC, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Suwon FC, respectively. FC Seoul will take on Pohang Steelers on Sunday.

There will be more weekday action next week, but these four clubs would do well to focus on the more immediate matches that have serious implications on the league table.

Incheon just had their eight-match undefeated run snapped on Sunday and sit one point back of Suwon FC for the sixth spot with 30 points. The 12 clubs in the K League 1 are divided into two tiers after 33 matches, and they will play the remaining five matches of the season within their own groups. And for a perennial bottom feeder like Incheon, which have played with relegation fire in recent campaigns, just making it to the top six and guaranteeing themselves a return to the K League 1 for 2022 constitutes a major accomplishment.

Jeju, Seongnam and FC Seoul, on the other hand, currently occupy ninth, 10th and 11th spots. Jeju and Seongnam have 25 points apiece, and FC Seoul have 24. Gwangju FC are bringing up the rear with 22 points, in position to be relegated to the K League 2 next year, but there's still too much football left this year to call any one of Jeju, Seongnam or FC Seoul safe from that ignominy.

Jeonbuk, making a run at their fifth consecutive title, will be licking their chops when they face a fatigued Seongnam club Saturday. Jeonbuk, thanks to a recent three-match home winning streak, are three points back of the leaders, Ulsan Hyundai FC, but have two matches in hand.

Ulsan will host Suwon Samsung Bluewings at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, a great opportunity to stay in front.

Suwon have just one draw and four losses in their five matches, with only three goals in that span. They'd scored 17 times in eight matches prior to this skid. (Yonhap)