Bangkok United host Buriram United in the big match of Thai League (T1) Matchday Four, with the champions taking on the team expected to be their number one challengers this year.
Buriram will be buoyed by the midweek AFC Champions League victory over Jeonbuk Hyundai but the Bangkok Angels know they could open up a five-point gap if they can beat the Thunder Castle for the first time in almost five years.
Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday Four.
- Another early test for Mano’s men
Taking on your biggest rivals in the first few weeks of the season is tough, with new signings bedding in and fitness still to hit the top levels. Bangkok United overcame Muang Thong United a couple of weeks back and now face another team who usually get the better of them.
Mano Polking’s side have lost defender Mika Chunuonsee and playmaker Vander Luiz to injury, making an already challenging task even tougher. Centre-back Everton Saturnino will need to provide strong leadership at the back as they try and keep a third clean sheet in a row. Nelson Bonilla’s goals have won them the last two matches and all eyes will again be on him to make the difference.
Photo credit: Bangkok United
A slow start to the season had Buriram looking less likely to run away with the T1 title again but Wednesday’s victory over the K League champions completely transforms the morale of the team and they will approach the game with confidence.
There were signs that striker Pedro Junior is starting to hit his stride and Supachok Sarachat has made an excellent start to the season, with four goals already to his name.
This game could potentially have a huge impact on the direction of the title race and it is difficult to predict how it will go with neither side yet to hit top form. A draw would surprise few.
- Can JET defy low expectations?
When PTT Rayong signed Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, much was made of his connections to Arsenal – a club at which he failed to make the breakthrough. A quick look at his Wikipedia page had many writing him off as another foreign has-been, coming to Thailand for an easy pay day.
But his performance in PTT Rayong’s 2-1 victory over Samut Prakan City last weekend has started to change perceptions. The English striker was in outstanding form as he scored the opener and set up the second goal.
He poses a challenge that defenders in T1 are unaccustomed to. He is obviously physically imposing and his schooling at Arsenal has clearly equipped him with the skills to effortlessly drift past defenders without appearing to change pace.
Photo credit: PTT Rayong
Robbie Fowler, Jay Simpson, Jay Bothroyd and Leroy Lita are some of the English strikers who have failed to make a positive impression in the Thai League. At just 28, Emmanuel-Thomas is far from a jaded veteran and has the talent to revive his career with the right attitude.
Port FC host PTT without their top defender David Rochela and JET will fancy his chances. His strike partner Ariel Rodriguez was frustrated at the Englishman’s insistence on going it alone at times last weekend but if the two of them click, they could well form one of the top strike pairings in the league.
- Suphanburi and Chonburi aim to put false starts behind them
Suphanburi and Chonburi were two teams that looked like they were better equipped to push back into the top half of the table after some promising close season acquisitions.
But both clubs have had underwhelming starts to the campaign, with neither having won a game yet. The War Elephant at least remain unbeaten but they show no signs of ridding themselves of their point sharing tendency, having drawn all three matches so far. They have scored just once – a penalty – but have looked solid defensively, conceding just once and that was a special strike from Sukhothai’s Kabfah Boonmatoon.
Photo credit: Suphanburi FC
It is Suphanburi’s attacking game that must improve if they are to start climbing the table. Cleiton Silva netted from the penalty spot last week but Jonatan Reis has rarely looked like scoring.
They may just have found the right opponent, with Chonburi’s shaky back line having conceded seven times in three games. Nevertheless, the Sharks proved unpredictable last year and sometimes performed well away from home when least expected. They won as many on the road as they did at home and the 2-2 draw at Buriram United on Matchday One has been their best result of this campaign.
This is another very tough one to call and neither side will wish to contemplate a defeat.