So they meet again.
Ulsan Hyundai FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the two best teams in South Korean football so far this year, will square off for the third time this season on Sunday. The kickoff is 7 p.m. at Jeonju World Cup Stadium, Jeonbuk's home located some 200 kilometers south of Seoul. They split the first two meetings.
Ulsan lead the K League 1 with 51 points, and Jeonbuk trail them by six points, with 14 matches left this season.
Both teams had rather uninspiring matches earlier in the week. Ulsan settled for a 1-1 draw with FC Seoul on Tuesday, and Jeonbuk lost to Gangwon FC 2-1 the following day.
Ulsan are trying to win their first title since 2005, while Jeonbuk are going for their sixth straight championship. Each of Jeonbuk's past three titles came at the expense of Ulsan, which own the record for most runner-up finishes in K League history with 10.
A victory will give Ulsan a nine-point cushion, their biggest lead over Jeonbuk since June. But if Jeonbuk prevail, the gap will be cut to just three points, once again throwing the title race into chaos.
Ulsan will look to get their new Hungarian forward Martin Adam into the flow of things. He made his K League debut against FC Seoul and played the first half.
Jeonbuk recently had a fiasco with forward Tornike Okriashvili, withdrawing their contract offer to the Georgian player after he failed a physical. Jeonbuk will be stuck with just two foreign players for the rest of the season, Gustavo and Mo Barrow. Those two are the top two scorers for Jeonbuk, with seven and four goals, respectively, and Jeonbuk will need more contribution from their homegrown players. Attacking midfielder Han Kyo-won has been limited to just eight matches due to injury, and has just one goal so far. Moon Seon-min's stock has also fallen of late, and the former national team midfielder has scored only once in 16 matches this year.
On Saturday, Pohang Steelers, in third place with 40 points, will try to keep the pressure on the top two dogs when they host Gangwon FC.
Suwon FC and Suwon Samsung Bluewings will have their third intra city derby of 2022 on Saturday. Suwon FC are trying to hold on to sixth place at 30 points, with Gangwon FC and FC Seoul also sitting at 30 points but trailing Suwon FC in goals. Suwon Samsung Bluewings are in 10th place at 24 points.
The one other match on Sunday will pit FC Seoul against a reeling Jeju United.
Though Jeju have managed to stay in fourth place with 34 points, they have recorded just one victory in their past eight matches, with two draws and five losses.
That lone loss came against the worst team in the league, Seongnam FC, on July 8, and Seongnam beat Jeju 2-1 Tuesday. In a surprise shakeup, Jeju stripped Kim Oh-kyu of captaincy and handed the armband to fellow defender Chung Woon. (Yonhap)