With Ulsan surging, Jeonbuk has a formidable challenger

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With Ulsan surging, Jeonbuk has a formidable challenger

Local football powerhouse Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors is no longer dominating the K League 1 this season.

Throughout the 2019 K League 1 season, Jeonbuk has been trading the top spot with Ulsan Hyundai Motors, and recently, they’ve dropped back down to second.

After Ulsan earned three points when they defeated FC Seoul 3-1 on Tuesday, Jeonbuk played to a 2-2 draw against Jeju United on Wednesday, giving Ulsan the upper hand and the top spot for the first time since July 10.

Until Tuesday’s match, Ulsan and Jeonbuk had the same number of wins but Jeonbuk was the leader with more points.

Ulsan has now won 15 matches, with six draws and two losses, totaling 51 points, while Jeonbuk has 14 wins, seven draws and two losses, totaling 49 points.

Since only two points separate the two teams from each other, their standings could change after this weekend.

Both teams have away matches, with Ulsan heading to Jeju to play Jeju United today at 7:30 p.m., and Jeonbuk playing against Gangwon FC tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Although Jeju is ranked 10th out of 12 clubs in K League 1, they are not a team to ignore - as evidenced by their 2-2 draw against Jeonbuk. Also, Jeju is expected to be a different team compared to their performance in the first half of the season as they’ve added forwards Lim Sang-hyub and Ighodaro Christian Osaguona, and goalkeeper Oh Seung-hoon from the summer transfer market.

Like Ulsan, second-ranked Jeonbuk’s match against Gangwon isn’t going to be easy. The fourth-ranked Gangwon is starting to blend their new manager Kim Byung-soo’s style and strategy into their play and has made significant progress as of late.

Throughout July, Gangwon picked up three wins, a draw and a loss.

Also, looking at their head-to-head statistics against Jeonbuk this season, they have each won and lost a match.

Gathering as many points as possible will be necessary for both Jeonbuk and Ulsan before the two teams play against each other in their highly-anticipated matchup at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on August 16.

In addition to those matches, over the weekend, Sangju Sangmu will be hosting Gyeongnam FC at Sangju Civic Stadium today at 8 p.m.

Seongnam FC will play their away match against Incheon United at Incheon Football Stadium while Suwon Samsung Bluewings will host the Pohang Steelers at Suwon World Cup Stadium.

Both matches will be played tomorrow at 8 p.m.

On Friday afternoon, FC Seoul started the weekend with a match against Daegu FC at Seoul World Cup Stadium in western Seoul.

BY KIM HEE-SEON, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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