The top two collide this Sunday when Ulsan Hyundai make the trip to Jeonju to take on Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Six points separate these two teams heading into what is a genuine six-pointer. A win for either of these two K League giants is likely to have a big say in which team will go on to win the title.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were on a run of nine matches unbeaten in all competitions before losing to Gangwon FC on Wednesday night. The defeat meant that Jeonbuk missed the chance to capitalize on Ulsan dropping points at home to FC Seoul 24 hours prior and now the gap between the Green Warriors and the Horangi is six points. Han Kyo-won's late consolation goal in the defeat to Gangwon, though, meant that Jeonbuk have been able to score in each of their last 10.
The visitors Ulsan drew 1-1 with FC Seoul on Tuesday night. Vako Qazaishvili's 58th-minute equaliser cancelled out Stanislav Iljucenko's opener eight minutes prior. The Horangi are on a run of five unbeaten with three wins having successfully bounced back from the East Coast Derby loss to Pohang in Round 19. All three wins have been by the same 2-1 scoreline and with two 1-1 draws, Ulsan haven't kept a cleansheet since the 0-0 draw with Seongnam in Round 18. The last time Ulsan won and kept a cleansheet was against Gimcheon in mid-May.
Gustavo is likely to return to the starting lineup having started on the bench against Gangwon. Paik Seung-ho is out through injury, as is captain Hong Jong-heo.
For Ulsan, Um Won-sang and Leonardo are expected to start having been named among the substitutes last time out. Amano Jun and Lee Chung-yong are both one booking away from a one-match ban.
Jeonbuk have had the upper hand over the last 10 meetings with five wins to Ulsan's two and two draws. This forthcoming clash will be the 107th in K League overall. Jeonbuk have 40 wins, Ulsan 38, and 28 draws with 143 goals scored to Ulsan's 138.
Each side, though, has one win each from the two meetings this term. The most recent, from mid-June, ended Ulsan 1-3 Jeonbuk thanks to goals from Modou Barrow and Takahiro Kunimto (2) inside the first 30 minutes. Um Won-sang pulled one back for the Horangi four minutes before the interval but the goal proved to be scant consolation.
Ulsan won the first clash of 2022, a 1-0 victory in Jeonju courtesy of a 40th-minute Leonardo strike.
What to WatchThe all-important first goal
The first goal will prove key if the recent meetings are anything to go by. In the last five meetings where goals were scored, the team which broke the deadlock went on to win the match. This goes back as far as eight meetings when only looking at league play. The two teams have also won the most points after taking the lead with Ulsan and Jeonbuk both unbeaten after scoring the game's first goal - Ulsan have 15 wins and two draws while Jeonbuk have 13 wins and three draws.
The first goal, then, will be important in deciding the three points. The three points could prove key in deciding where the K League title goes. Jeonbuk have been able to narrow the gap down to just five points despite, at one stage, being 12 points behind Ulsan. However, heading into this upcoming meeting, a Green Warriors win would move them within just two of Ulsan which could be a huge psychological advantage heading into the last few rounds before the league splits into two.
A key battle to keep an eye on will be the two Brazilian strikers, one at each end of the field. With Stanislav Iljutcenko now gone, Gustavo is Jeonbuk's only recognised, out-and-out centre forward. He has seven goals for the campaign but has never scored against Ulsan in the league. For the Horangi, Leonardo has nine and bagged the winner against the Green Warriors earlier in the campaign.
Fans in countries with K League overseas broadcasting rights can follow the game live on television. More information can be found here
Alternatively, the match is also available for FREE on tv.kleague.com