Resurgent Muang Thong have bitter rivals Port FC in their sights

Muang Thong United can make a huge statement of intent when they visit Port FC on Thai League Matchday 23.

The Kirins have gone from the relegation zone to within two points of the Top Five in less than a month and victory in this fixture would suggest that a wildly unlikely title bid is on.

Leaders Buriram United will hope to maintain at least an eight-point gap between them and Muang Thong with a second match at Trat in four days, while Nakhon Ratchasima can take a significant step towards safety when they host struggling Suphanburi.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 23.

  1. Muang Thong aim to turn tables on Port 

Having lived in the shadow of their bitter rivals for several years, the last three seasons have allowed Port FC fans some welcome opportunities to celebrate at the Kirins’ expense.

They have been beaten just once by Muang Thong since returning to T1 in 2017 and have recorded three memorable T1 victories as well as one in the FA Cup this year.

However, their triumphs have all come at the SCG Stadium – once at an empty stadium and on other occasions without the backing of their own fans due to the ban on away supporters. The two matches at the PAT Stadium in that period have ended with one draw and one defeat.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Having finished below Port in the T1 table in 2018, Muang Thong have an opportunity to reassert themselves with a victory and start to emerge from over 18 months in Port’s shadow.

Form is certainly on the Kirins’ side, having won seven of their last eight T1 games, while Port have won just two league matches in that period. The visitors also have the benefit of a week’s rest, with the hosts having played a cup tie in midweek.

But recent history has shown that the Port Lions tend to raise their game when up against their rivals and Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final win over Chiang Rai was a timely boost. An intriguing clash awaits.

  1. Trat plot revenge after cup defeat leaves a sour taste

Not for the first time, a beaten side was left to rue a sub-standard refereeing performance in a match against Buriram United. It is rare to hear fans, players or pundits reflect on a game and say that Buriram were hard-done by, but the opposite is true for many of their opponents.

Trat were 2-0 leading Buriram in their FA Cup quarter-final on Wednesday but the Thai champions managed to level the score before a red card for Trat turned the game in Buriram’s favour. A penalty shootout was still required to separare the sides but Baihakki Khaizan and Adefolarin Durosinmi were two of the players to question the quality and partiality of the referee after the match.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

On Twitter, Durosinmi wrote, “People telling you to get used to bad officiating in the country is mediocrity. Maybe they need to be educated again that the rules doesn’t change because you play against some certain teams”. Khaizan highlighted the selection process by writing “Quarter Final, no FIFA grade referee?”

Four days later, the two sides get to play again at the same location and Trat will be motivated by revenge, while Buriram will be desperate to stay at the top of T1. The hosts will hope for a more positive outcome than on Wednesday but the champions are reaching the business end of the season and they have a good record at getting the right results in these types of matches.

  1. Samut Prakan need to stop the rot

In the space of five games, Samut Prakan City have seen their impressive underdog title challenge blown away by four demoralising defeats – three of them on home soil. Those four losses have seen 15 goals conceded as a previously solid team unit has crumbled.

The injury absences of inspirational skipper Peeradol Chamratsamee and goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai have clearly had an impact, though Peeradol may be back for this one.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

Chiang Rai United visit on Sunday and will pose their usual threat, though it seems a long time since the thrill of destroying champions Buriram United just over a week ago. Last weekend’s fortuitous draw at home to Ratchaburi was followed by a midweek FA Cup defeat at Port FC, so they are also in desperate need of a lift.

The Beetles remain just a point off the top of T1 so victory will keep them in firm contention. Defeat for Samut Prakan could see them fighting to stay in the Top Six, instead of battling to be champions.

  1. Swatcats hoping to keep Suphanburi at a distance 

The classic relegation six-pointer takes place in Nakhon Ratchasima as the Swatcats have the opportunity to put nine points between themselves and Suphanburi, while the War Elephant can move to within three points of their opponents with a game in hand.

Despite a six-game unbeaten run built on a solid defence, Suphanburi need to turn draws into wins if they are to extend their stay in T1. They may have conceded just twice in that six-match sequence but they have scored just four times. They will be missing the suspended Alvaro Silva, who has done so much to shore up the defence since joining in mid-season.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

There have been more goals in games involving Nakhon Ratchasima but they have struggled for consistency and depend strongly on their talented front three for inspiration.

This is a huge opportunity for both sides to make a decisive move, but given recent form, a low scoring or goalless draw would not be a huge surprise.

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