Title rivals Ulsan and Jeonbuk to face off this weekend

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Title rivals Ulsan and Jeonbuk to face off this weekend


From left: Moon Seon-min of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors competes in a K League match against Daegu FC at DGB Arena in Daegu on Nov. 3. Kim Bo-kyung of Ulsan Hyundai FC, right, competes for the ball during a match against FC Seoul at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Nov. 3. [K LEAGUE]

One club will be going for its first title in 14 years. The other is chasing its third straight championship.

In one of the most anticipated matches of the season, Ulsan Hyundai FC and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will square off in their penultimate contest of the 2019 K League 1 season on Saturday.

The kickoff is 3 p.m. at Ulsan Stadium in Ulsan,.

Ulsan are in first place with 78 points, and Jeonbuk are right behind with 75 points. Ulsan will clinch their first championship since 2005 with a victory, and will deny Jeonbuk their third straight title in the process.

But if Jeonbuk win Saturday, they’ll climb to first place. The two teams will be tied at 78 points, but Jeonbuk will have the edge in the first tiebreaker, goals scored. They currently have the 70-69 edge in that department. In that case, the championship battle will come down to the season finale on Dec. 1.

Ulsan has the most runner-up finishes in league history with seven, most recently in 2013. That was also the most heartbreaking one to date, as Ulsan, needing only a draw against Pohang Steelers in the final match of the season, gave up a go-ahead goal during stoppage time in the second half.

Jeonbuk have dominated the K League 1 for the better part of this decade. They have won four of the past five championships, and they’ll try to join Seongnam FC (1993-1995 and 2001-2003) as the only teams to pull off a “three-peat.” A championship this year will tie Jeonbuk with Seongnam for most in the K League with seven.

Both clubs recently saw key players get called up for the national team duties for the World Cup qualifying match against Lebanon in Beirut and a friendly match against Brazil in Abu Dhabi.

For Ulsan, goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu and midfielder/defender Park Joo-ho were on the national team, but Kim didn’t get much work when he started in a scoreless draw against Lebanon and Park didn’t play in either of the two matches.

And Ulsan will also welcome back midfielders Shin Jin-ho and Lee Dong-gyeong from injuries. On offense, they’ll join MVP finalist Kim Bo-kyung, who leads all Korean players with 13 goals in 2019.

Jeonbuk’s fullbacks Lee Yong and Kim Jin-su both saw significant minutes during the national team road trip. And Lee is experiencing some knee trouble.

Plus, midfielder Moon Seon-min, the league MVP candidate who leads all players with 10 assists, will not be available for Jeonbuk on Saturday because of his accumulated yellow cards. He picked up his third caution of the season on Nov. 3, which resulted in an automatic one-match suspension.

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