Buriram hope to keep Muang Thong in their unfamiliar place

Buriram United host Muang Thong United in unusual circumstances on Thai League (T1) Matchday 12.

Over the past 10 years, this has generally been a clash between two of the top teams in the country, with one of them going on to become champions. On Sunday, Muang Thong kickoff in Buriram at the bottom of T1.

Leaders Port FC also have a trip to the northeast as they take on Nakhon Ratchasima on Saturday.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 12.

  1. Buriram set to inflict more pain on Muang Thong 

There is no love lost between Buriram and Muang Thong and the home side certainly won’t be showing any mercy as they bid to stay close to top spot. Buriram sit five points behind Port FC but with two games in hand. Another three points here would keep them in a very strong position.

The Thunder Castle will have been boosted by a positive end to a disappointing AFC Champions League campaign in midweek as they took a point at Jeonbuk Hyundai despite resting several players.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Meanwhile, Muang Thong have endured a week of speculation around the future of head coach Yoon Jong-hwan. There have been rumours that the South Korean will be replaced by former Buriram boss Alexandre Gama as the Kirins seek to find their way out of trouble. They have also been rocked by the news that Myanmar striker Aung Thu is set to cancel his contract with the club.

All is not well at Muang Thong and Buriram will do their best to prolong the suffering.

  1. Swatcats in good shape ahead of Port challenge 

Nakhon Ratchasima have become a force to be reckoned with on home turf. Since a defeat to Chiang Rai Utd on Matchday 2, the Swatcats have been undefeated in five games in their own backyard and have won the last three by an aggregate score of 11-3.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

This is not the side that ground out low scoring draws and wins in 2018 and Port FC will know they are in for a tough match. Sergio Suarez’s suspension hurts the visitors and the hosts will hope that the trio of Amadou Ouatarra, Leandro Assumpcao and Henry Doumbia can provide the attacking flair to hurt Port at the back.

Having dropped two points at home to Bangkok United last weekend, Port FC will not want their rivals to close the gap at the top of the league. However, the Bangkok side will need a strong performance to come away with three points.

  1. Bangkok United aim to reel in rivals 

Seventh place is not where Bangkok United would have expected to be at this stage of the season. Two wins in eight matches is certainly not the form of champions.

However, they have gone on impressive winning runs in previous years and this Sunday would be a good time to start. The Bangkok Angels can nudge ahead of Samut Prakan City on goal difference with a victory on Sunday.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They will, of course, have to do it without Sanrawat Dechmitr after the midfielder was hit with an eight-match ban for striking the referee in last week’s match at Port FC. The general behaviour of the Bangkok United players will be under the microscope as every week seems to see them lose their heads in frustration.

Good form and good results will help that frustration go away and perhaps Sanrawat’s punishment will encourage them to focus more on maintaining their discipline, which may ultimately have a positive impact on performance.

Samut Prakan have a suspension of their own to deal with as midfield general Peeradol Chamratsamee misses out.

  1. Something has to give as Trat FC host Chiang Rai 

Chiang Rai United have edged into second place in T1 with a series of narrow victories that have highlighted their ruthless efficiency. They have won 16 of the last 18 points to suggest that they might just be challengers in the most open league in years.

But the Beetles will have to win games like this to ensure they don’t end the season out of the top three again. It will not be easy against a Trat side that is unbeaten in five games with a team that has gelled well despite being put together more or less from scratch at the start of the year.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Up front, Lonsana Doumbouya will provide the biggest threat as usual, while veteran Bireme Diouf will offer his usual nuisance value. However, Chiang Rai have managed to overcome stiffer challenges than this and it would be no surprise to see them come away with three points.

Port FC fans prepare to pay emotional tribute after tragedy strikes

Tragedy casts a shadow over Thai League (T1) Matchday 11 following the passing of five Port FC fans in a road accident on Wednesday.

Tributes have been pouring in for five of the club’s most dedicated supporters since they became the latest victims of Thailand’s treacherous roads on their way to the League Cup clash with Nongbua Pitchaya.

Port’s home clash with Bangkok United on Saturday had been shaping up as a potentially pivotal clash in the title race but the importance of the match has been put into perspective as the club mourns.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 11.

  1. Off-pitch tragedy overshadows big match

Port FC sit on top of T1 a third of the way into the season, eight points ahead of Bangkok United – many people’s pre-season favourites.

While the Bangkok Angels have flattered to deceive, Port have shown the value of continuity as the squad that was inconsistent last year has clearly grown into a stronger unit.

This game may have a significant impact on the outcome of the season but the result is not something that too many home fans will be concerned about at this time. It promises to be an emotionally charged occasion as the club pays tribute to five people who represented the best of Thai fan culture.

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Long-time Port fan Dominick Cartwright described what the fans meant to the club and its supporters.

“As a foreign fan these are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, fans who would walk up to me, tell me it’s good to see me at PAT Stadium, offer me a beer and we’d have a chat before the game,” said Dominick. “I have enjoyed years of following the club and they’ve made me feel welcome and part of the Thai Port family. They were all part of the club and they will all be sadly missed.”

Port FC are donating gate receipts to families of the deceased and there will be a memorial service from 5pm, with fans asked to dress in black for the occasion.

  1. Better days haunt Totchtawan and Muang Thong

It is amazing that just two years have passed since Totchtawan Sripan and Muang Thong United were making headlines across Asia as they reached the last 16 of the AFC Champions League, following some scintillating performances from Chanathip Songkrasin.

Since then, Chanathip has become a superstar with Consadole Sapporo in Japan, while the fortunes of the club and its former head coach have nosedived.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

This Sunday sees Totchtawan’s 14th-placed Suphanburi take on T1’s bottom side Muang Thong in a stunning reversal of fortune.

Despite investment in two of T1’s top strikers, the War Elephant have lost five of the last six games. Muang Thong have taken just one point from their previous six fixtures so both sides come into this with morale very low.

You have to imagine both would be happy with a point just to stop the rot.

  1. Samut Prakan aim to prolong Prachuap travel sickness

Few would have expected to see Samut Prakan City so high in the table at this stage but the club has made light of the upheaval of taking on the licence of Pattaya United and moving to a different province.

Players who came from Pattaya have given the side a solid foundation while the additions of Slovenian centre-back Aris Zarifovic and Brazilian striker Ibson Melo have been inspired.

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Photo credit: Samut Prakan City

With Peeradol Chamratsamee pulling the strings in midfield after missing most of 2018 through injury, Samut Prakan look to have the potential to finish in the top five.

On Sunday, they host 2018’s surprise package Prachuap FC, who sit just two points behind them in fifth place. Prachuap remain a formidable opponent at home but have lost four times on the road this year and were spanked 6-1 (at Bangkok United) and 5-0 (at Port FC) on their last two visits to Bangkok.

Samut Prakan have taken 10 out of 12 points from their home games so the hosts must be favourites to consolidate fourth spot as we approach the halfway point of the season.

Port FC aiming to avoid becoming another big-name scalp for Chainat

League leaders Port FC face a tricky trip to Chainat as they attempt to maintain their four-point cushion at the top on Thai League (T1) Matchday 10.

Three of last year’s top five teams have visited the Khao Plong Stadium in 2019 and none have emerged victorious.

Meanwhile, the pressure remains on Buriram United and Bangkok United to stay in touch at the top, while Muang Thong United sit bottom of the table and desperately need three points.

Chainat test for rampant Port

The Hornbills have seen off Bangkok United and Muang Thong United at their home ground this year, while Chiang Rai United could only manage a point. Port were also victims of Chainat’s ability to raise their game against the top sides when they fell to a 2-1 defeat here last year.

But Port look a different proposition to the team whose inconsistency in the first half of 2018 denied them a chance to mount a sustained bid for the title. Victories in matches like this decide titles and three points here would set them up very nicely for the visit of Bangkok United next weekend.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Chainat have lost Leandro Resida for the season, while Gorka Unda will not be fit to return for another several weeks at least. The Hornbills’ morale was punctured by the concession of a last-minute equaliser at Chiang Mai in midweek and this can only help a Port team that have won four in a row, netting 14 times. For good measure, they slammed six past Samut Sakhon in last week’s FA Cup fixture.

If Port can negotiate this match successfully, they can approach their upcoming matches with great confidence.

Bangkok United hope to cure travel sickness

Consecutive home defeats to Buriram United and Chonburi looked set to derail Bangkok United’s title bid but they responded in style with thumping home wins over Suphanburi and Prachuap that included 10 goals.

But to become champions, Bangkok United will have to do much better on their travels, having recorded just one away victory so far – a 1-0 win at Trat FC. Their last T1 trip ended in a fractious 2-1 defeat at Chainat. In the absence of the injured playmaker Vander Luiz, they have also become very dependent on the goals of top scorer Nelson Bonilla, who has netted eight times so far.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

This looks the perfect opportunity to earn another three points on the road, against a Chiang Mai side that has conceded 13 times in the last three T1 games. Despite an indifferent start to the season, the Bangkok Angels still sit in fifth spot – six points behind leaders Port FC. If they can win this and then win at Port FC next weekend, they will be right back in the title race.

Pedro key to Buriram recovery

Despite having a poor season by their standards, Buriram United remain very much in touch with the T1 leaders, sitting just four points behind with a game in hand. The disappointing exit from the AFC Champions League in midweek means they can now fully focus on the league, which must be ominous for those who wish to challenge them.

But things have not looked right at Buriram all year, with only the ACL victory over Jeonbuk Hyundai showing what they can do with the right intensity. Modibo Maiga had his contract terminated, 20-year-old striker Supachai Jaided looks like he needs a rest, while there is no consistency in the centre of midfield, with constant changes of personnel.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

On the bright side, the performance of Pedro Junior really caught the eye in the 2-1 defeat to Urawa Reds on Tuesday. As well as netting Buriram’s goal, the Brazilian put in an energetic shift that troubled the Urawa defence throughout.

If he can repeat that form in Sunday’s Isaan derby at home to Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram may just earn the victory that they need to stay in a good position. They were very fortunate to win 2-1 at Ratchaburi two weeks ago and they have won just one T1 match by more than one goal in 2019. They will hope to start using more than luck and slender advantages to edge them past their opponents.

Time for Teerasil to lead Kirins out of trouble

The return of Thailand’s top striker to Muang Thong United gave grounds for great optimism at the start of the season, with Teerasil Dangda having spent a year in Japan.

While you might have expected him to hit the ground running, he has hit the net just twice in T1 this year and this is symptomatic of the club’s struggles.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

But last week’s 3-0 FA Cup victory at Prachuap FC was a sign that things may just be turning around for Muang Thong. The 2-2 draw in the previous T1 match at PTT Rayong ended a run of four straight defeats and with Teerasil, Heberty Fernandes and Adisak Kraisorn on target last week, Yoon Jong-hwan’s side appear to be heading in the right direction.

Samut Prakan City visit the SCG Stadium on Saturday and will not make for easy opponents as they sit 12 places above T1’s bottom side. Teerasil and his teammates have underperformed this year and this is an opportunity to prove that they are ready to start climbing back up the table.

Striking problems for misfiring Buriram as they prepare for Ratchaburi challenge

Misfiring Buriram United may still be unbeaten in the Thai League (T1) this season but they have dropped eight points in seven games and sit four points off the lead ahead of their clash at Ratchaburi on Matchday Nine.

The Thunder Castle still have a game in hand on leaders Port FC but they have drawn the past two T1 games, scoring just once. In that period, they have also lost two ACL games by an aggregate score of 5-1.

The Thai champions need a lift but they still appear to be struggling to cope with the departure of top attacking talents Diogo Luis Santo and Osvaldo.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday Nine.

  1. Buriram strikers have a point to prove 

While Pedro Junior has struggled to make an impression and Modibo Maiga has already been sent packing, several other foreign strikers have not found goals hard to come by this year.

Trat FC’s Lonsana Doumbouya was on target against Buriram last weekend for his sixth of 2019, while Lukian struck five times for Chonburi to make it 10 for the season. Ratchaburi’s Yannick Boli is another to have hit the ground running and he will be taking aim at Buriram on Sunday as he seeks to add to the six he has already scored in this campaign.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

20-year-olds Supachai Jaided and Supachok Sarachat have blown hot and cold so far for Buriram as you might expect for players of that age. The more experienced Pedro and scarcely used Javier Patino have to do more to help the team out of a rut.

Ratchaburi are on a high after a 3-1 win at PTT Rayong last week and this looks a tricky assignment for the stuttering champions.

  1. Stretched Port staying positive

Port FC are on a roll and they have yet to be knocked off their stride by injuries to key players. David Rochela and Nurul Sriyankem have been out for most of the season to date, while Sergio Suarez has become a recent addition to the injury list.

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Photo credit: Port FC

This weekend sees Go Seul-ki and Nitipong Selanon suspended and Pakorn Prempak also out injured, meaning five regular starters miss out. But injury means opportunity and Bordin Phala and Sumanya Purisai have proved more than adequate replacements for Nurul and Suarez, while Tossapol Lates has deputised well for Rochela.

Suphanburi emerged from a slump with a battling 3-1 win over Nakhon Ratchasima last weekend and may pose a decent challenge with their strikers scoring again. But league leaders Port sense a title bid might just be on and victories in home games like this will be key.

  1. No margin for error for stuttering Bangkok United

With three defeats and just one win the last five games, it has been a grim period for would-be title challengers Bangkok United. Much was expected of a revamped squad in a transitional season for rivals Buriram United.

But the Bangkok Angels have flattered to deceive and seem to lack the necessary leadership on the pitch as they struggle to find consistent form.

Nelson Bonilla has netted five times and only his goals have prevented a disappointing start from being disastrous. It is time for others in the team to start contributing more when they host Prachuap FC on Sunday.

Head coach Mano Polking must know that his time could be up after almost five years in the jobs if his players do not respond to the latest challenge. There can be no more excuses and no more slip-ups. The slogan for the season is ‘The Time is Now’. It is definitely time for this group of players to make it happen.

Yoon Jong-hwan handed tough opening night as he begins Muang Thong career

All eyes will turn to the SCG Stadium on Saturday evening as Yoon Jong-hwan attempts to lift Muang Thong United out of their Thai League (T1) slump.

The new head coach has a job on his hands, with his club having lost five out of seven games this year. A tough start sees the Kirins host league leaders Port FC but a victory could trigger a turnaround in their fortunes.

Here are three things to look out for in this week’s T1 fixtures.

  1. Muang Thong need a reboot

It has been a dreadful start to the season for Muang Thong United – a club that boasts some of the best attacking talent in T1 and is usually expected to compete for honours.

They sit 15th in the table after seven games and are in need of a new manager bounce as Yoon Jong-hwan takes charge for the first time. The South Korean has a strong CV and his profile makes it a very promising appointment.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

However, the 46-year-old’s biggest challenge will be to manage upwards as well as downwards at a club that is notoriously difficult to work at. He has plenty of talent at his disposal and should be able to take them in the right direction if he is given time, space and support.

After three defeats on the spin, they have their work cut out as they face Port FC, who have struck nine goals in their last two games on their way to the top of the league.

Muang Thong do have the advantage of a stadium with only home fans as the away support has once again been banned. That it took until two days before the match to confirm the latest ban was another poor example of how T1 fans are sometimes treated…

  1. Chiang Rai hope to find home comfort

Chiang Rai United have been on the road for the last three games, a run that has seen them take seven points without conceding a goal. A good point at Buriram United was followed by wins at Ratchaburi and Chiang Mai, taking the Beetles into joint second spot in the table.

Poor air quality has delayed their return home, but they have taken just one point from two games at the Singha Stadium. To maintain their rise up the table, they will need to improve upon the form that saw Muang Thong United take three points from Ailton Silva’s side last month.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Chiang Rai will hope that William Henrique and SIvakorn Tiatrakul can keep up their strong recent form as they bid to ensure that Samut Prakan City return south with nothing.

The managerial instability that struck Chiang Rai at the start of the season does not seem to have affected them too adversely as their policy of keeping faith with a very stable lineup continues. Samut Prakan will have to work very hard to take something from this game.

  1. Totchtawan on a tightrope as Sintaweechai absence bites

The sudden collapse of Suphanburi’s form has coincided with an injury to goalkeeper Sintaweechai Hatthairattanakool and they have leaked 10 goals in three consecutive defeats having lost just one goal in the previous four unbeaten fixtures.

Head coach Totchtawan Sripan’s tenure at Muang Thong United ended around this time last year following a 6-1 humiliation at Prachuap FC. Now sitting bottom of the league at the War Elephant, Totchtawan needs to turn things around quickly if he is not to follow his predecessor Pairoj Borwonwatanadilok by losing his job.

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Photo credit: Suphanburi FC

Pairoj led Suphanburi to safety in 2018 but quit after just five games in charge at Muang Thong this year. Totchtawan’s reputation was hurt by a poor spell at Police Tero last year and another failure would be another serious blow for a coach who was hot property in 2017.

Two years ago, Totchtawan was on his way to the last 16 of the AFC Champions League with defending T1 champions Muang Thong. When Nakhon Ratchasima visit Suphanburi on Sunday, he will need his players to rise to the occasion and start rising up the table again.

Mano and Totchtawan feeling the heat ahead of crunch T1 clash

The pressure is building on several head coaches in the Thai League (T1) ahead of a break for the country’s New Year celebrations.

Muang Thong United and Ratchaburi have already seen a head coach depart this year and there is definitely pressure on Bangkok United’s Mano Polking and Suphanburi’s Totchtawan Sripan after unimpressive starts to the season.

Two matches  from this weekend’s schedule – Chiang Mai Vs Chainat and Buriram United Vs PTT Rayong – have been postponed.

Here are four things to look for on T1 Matchday Seven.

Old rivals meet in difficult times 

Three years ago, Mano Polking and Totchtawan Sripan had a thrilling battle for the T1 title as head coaches of Bangkok United and Muang Thong United respectively. Muang Thong eventually prevailed after being pushed all the way by Polking’s exciting team, with the two teams sharing 11 goals in their two league games.

There’s a very different feel about Saturday’s clash between the two. With Totchtawan now at Suphanburi, there is no talk of them being title rivals but Bangkok United’s expected challenge to be champions is under serious threat after a series of poor results.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The Bangkok Angels’ 4-2 defeat at home to Chonburi in midweek was their third game without a win and only Buriram United’s own indifferent form ensures they remain just four points off the leaders.

Meanwhile, the wheels have come off at Suphanburi, with consecutive defeats by Trat and Chiang Mai following on from a four-game unbeaten start to the season.

Both head coaches find themselves under significant pressure ahead of this one. Whatever the result, Totchtawan is likely to keep his job but another slip from Bangkok United might cast doubt on Polking’s future after almost five years at the club.

Swatcats need more firepower to punish struggling Muang Thong 

It looks like the perfect time to host Muang Thong Utd, with the Kirins having lost their last two away games without scoring a goal. Muang Thong have failed to score in each of their four defeats this year.

However, Nakhon Ratchasima have their own problems in front of goal, having netted just once in the last three games. The arrivals of the attacking talents of Amadou Ouatarra and Henri Doumbia have yet to address the Swatcats need to balance a stubborn defence with an efficient attack.

Leandro Assumpcao will hope to pile on the agony for his struggling former side but a 0-0 score line would surprise few.

Chonburi looking for three in a row

In an incredible turnaround, Chonburi have gone from rock bottom to rising stars, having won two on the trot and scored seven goals in the process. They needed a late winner to beat Prachuap after blowing a two-goal lead while they had their share of luck against Bangkok United in midweek with two deflected strikes giving them a two-goal lead.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

The Sharks will hope that the change of fortunes continues this Sunday at unbeaten Sukhothai. The Firebats have drawn five of their six matches so far and on form, you have to say another draw would be on the cards.

But if the Chonburi that showed up at Thamassat Stadium in midweek are as focused on Sunday, we might just see a third victory in midweek in a row for Chonburi. 

Simone needs a quick rebound 

Much optimism was generated by Ratchaburi head coach Marco Simone’s debut win at home to Muang Thong Utd. But the feelgood factor was short-lived as the Dragons were defeated at Samut Prakan City in midweek, while some perspective on the victory over Muang Thong was provided by Chainat’s subsequent win over the same opponents.

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Photo Credit: Ratchaburi FC

As always, Chiang Rai Utd will pose a challenge and the Beetles have problems of their own having won just one match so far this year. The mood in Ratchaburi will soon turn dark if Simone cannot conjure up a positive outcome in this one, while the pressure will also build on Chiang Rai head coach Ailton.

Muang Thong test awaits Marco as he aims to breathe fire into Dragons

Ratchaburi’s latest head coach Marco Simone has a tough task in his first match in charge of the Dragons as Muang Thong United visit the Mitr Phol Stadium on Thai League (T1) Matchday Five.

The AC Milan legend has had a modest coaching career to date and faces a big challenge in his attempt to outlast the previous five head coaches.

Here are four things to look out for on Matchday Five.

  1. Marco starts with Muang Thong test

The appointment of Marco Simone as Ratchaburi’s new head coach was met with understandable scepticism by many, with the very brief stay of Christian Ziege still fresh in the memory.

Like Ziege, Simone had an excellent playing career at several top clubs but has achieved little as a manager. With Ratchaburi on a three-game losing streak and low on confidence, the Italian must quickly lift spirits before in-form Heberty Fernandes takes aim at his former club.

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Dragons fans must hope that Simone’s fluent French can get more out of Yannick Boli and Steeven Langil, while Pairot Eiam-mak may well be replaced in goal following a series of howlers.

Not many expect Simone to see out a contract that lasts until the end of the season, but this game will give an early indication of what he might bring to a club whose ambitions have not been matched by performances over the past 18 months.

  1. Can Havenaar get Bangkok United scoring?

Mike Havenaar arrived at Bangkok United with a strong reputation but the former Japan international’s struggles to adapt to the climate and reach match fitness saw him left out for the first three games of the season.

The striker finally got a chance when his side fell behind to Buriram United two weeks ago. While it was too little, too late to save the game, he did enough in his brief cameo to suggest that he can be quite an asset in the games to come.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

The Bangkok Angels have a reputation as a free-flowing attacking side but have found the net just three times in four games. Nelson Bonilla has scored two of them but after a trip the USA to play for El Salvador, head coach Mano Polking may be tempted to turn to Havenaar for his first start at Nakhon Ratchasima.

The Swatcats have yet to win at home this season and Bangkok United will be desperate to keep it that way after the dispiriting defeat at home to Buriram. Havenaar may just be what’s required to break down a resolute Swatcats defence as the visitors try and stay near the top of the table.

  1. Sharks need to get their bite back

Chonburi’s 3-0 defeat at Suphanburi two weeks ago came due to a listless performance from a team that has started to look very different from the one that drew at Buriram on Matchday One.

The Sharks are now bottom of the T1 table and host leaders Prachuap on Saturday, with another defeat unthinkable.

There must be room for change in the side that has been underperforming and goalkeeper Chanin Sae-ear’s position must be under threat after some uninspiring displays.

A victory in this game could relaunch the Sharks’ season and lift the players back to the levels they are capable of. A defeat would see them stay bottom and begin to seriously contemplate a season-long battle to beat the drop.

  1. Sukhothai out to prove more than a point

Sukhothai head coach Ljubomir Ristovski has not surprisingly toughened up a side that conceded 63 goals in 2018, with his new team losing just two goals this year. However, they have also netted just twice to leave them looking pretty toothless in attack.

The loss of the prolific Nelson Bonilla was always going to have an impact but Petar Orlandic looked a decent replacement, having played for Red Star Belgrade as recently as 2017.

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Photo credit: Sukhothai FC

The Montenegrin striker has struggled in front of goal so far, but he has been getting into the right positions. Fire Bats fans will be hoping that the near misses soon turn into goals.

Port FC will be a tough opponent on Saturday but the atmosphere at the Thung Thalay Luang Stadium can lift the home side as they seek to take their first win of the year.

Bangkok United face Buriram in what could be crucial early season showdown

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.

  1. 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.

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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.

  1. 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.

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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. 

  1. 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.

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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.

 

 

Muang Thong must stop the rot as pressure builds on Pairoj

Just two games into the 2019 Thai League (T1) season, Muang Thong United head coach Pairoj is already the subject of speculation over who will succeed him

After two 1-0 defeats for the Kirins  at the hands of 2018’s 6th and 2nd placed teams, Thai football’s most eligible head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang was linked with the Muang Thong job, forcing him to dismiss the possibility.

While it is an absurd over-reaction to question coach Bae’s credentials so soon, it is clear that nothing less than a win is necessary when his team host Chiang Mai on Saturday.

Here are five things to look out for on T1 Matchday Three.

  1. Time for Teerasil’s return to scoring form

The return of Teerasil Dangda created much excitement for the Muang Thong United faithful in the close season. After a year on loan at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, the Thailand legend was back and it was the equivalent of signing a new top striker.

But after two games in which the overloaded Muang Thong front line has failed to deliver, it is surely time for Teerasil to unlock the opposition defence. When a combination of Teerasil, Heberty Fernandes and Adisak Kraisorn fails to provide goals, there is something amiss.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Pairoj was seen as a safe but uninspiring choice of head coach when appointed. At the moment, he simply looks uninspiring. Goals from Teerasil may just help him start to turn things around.

  1. No room for Trat fall

 Bangkok United successfully negotiated a huge hurdle when they beat Muang Thong United last weekend. As well as earning three points against a potential title rival, they also rid themselves of a damaging psychological barrier with their first ever home win over the Kirins.

Now that they have reinforced their pretensions to be serious title contenders, Mano Polking’s side must ensure that they can travel to tricky places like Trat and come away with a victory.

The newly-promoted side proved a difficult opponent for Ratchaburi on Matchday One and were only denied victory last week by an added-time equaliser from Chainat. Lonsana Doumbouya will give the away side’s backline a challenge and a vociferous home crowd should be in attendance.

Title wins are built on wins in fixtures like this and this is Bangkok United’s chance to make an early statement.

  1. Buriram must take sting out of Killer Wasps

Thai champions Buriram United have made an inauspicious start to the T1 campaign, taking just two points from two games. They have also failed to score in the last two fixtures, having drawn 0-0 at Suphanburi last weekend and lost 3-0 to Urawa Reds in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

On Sunday, they host T1’s joint leaders Prachuap FC, who have taken six points out of six without conceding a goal. With expected challengers Bangkok United potentially five points ahead of them by kickoff time, there is no margin for error for Bozidar Bandovic’s side.

Prachuap are looking good again and will approach the fixture without fear but this is surely the time for Buriram to flex their muscles.

  1. Dragons and Swatcats in early battle for supremacy

It may not be a fixture that immediately catches the eye but Ratchaburi vs Nakhon Ratchasima could be a hugely significant match for the sides involved.

The hosts’ excellent home record was severely damaged last year in a season to forget, while Nakhon Ratchasima’s positive start to 2019 was swiftly punctured by a home defeat to Chiang Rai United last week.

These are two clubs who aspire to be in the top half of the table and head-to-head clashes like this could be hugely influential in deciding which team is battling against relegation and which is sitting comfortably in mid-table.

Ratchaburi’s Matchday One hat-trick hero Yannick Boli was just about stifled by Port FC’s Elias Dolah last weekend. With Kang Soo-il fit again and possibly joining Boli up front, Swatcats defenders Chalermpong Kerdkaew and Lee Won-jae will have to be at their best to help their side take at least a point.

  1. PTT need to turn things around

Samut Prakan City sit on top of the T1 table alongside Prachuap FC – two unlikely pace-setters in a league with many twists and turns to come.

At rock bottom sit PTT Rayong – a club that’s invested much in ensuring that their second T1 adventure did not end like the last one – after one season.

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Photo credit: PTT Rayong

It is vital that PTT start to put points on the board to prevent the season becoming a slog to survive. With T1 champions like Anawin Jujeen, Koravit Namwiset alongside talents like Victor Cardozo and Ariel Rodrgiguez, PTT should be aiming for the top half rather than survival.

The visit of Samut Prakan City on Sunday is a challenge that could have a profound effect on the season ahead. A third straight defeat for the hosts would be hugely damaging, while a win could be the launchpad for better things to come.

Buriram need new boys to make their mark in tough ACL opener

Buriram United begin their 2019 AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign under something of a cloud, having failed to win either of their first two Thai League fixtures.

The Thai champions are in Japan to face Urawa Reds, who lifted the trophy just 16 months ago, so they have their work cut out to get off to a positive start.

However, Buriram upset the odds by taking a point away to Guangzhou Evergrande on Matchday One last year and will be hoping for a similar outcome in Saitama.

Here are three things to look out for in Buriram United’s ACL clash with Urawa.

  1. Strikers have to step it up

While Diogo Luis Santo was scoring and putting on a man-of-match performance for JDT and Edgar Silva was scoring for Daegu against Jeonbuk Hyundai, Buriram’s new strikers drew a blank at the weekend.

Diogo and Edgar made for a formidable strike pairing in 2018 but they have since moved on, while Buriram wait for their replacements to prove themselves. Mali’s former West Ham striker Modibo Maiga hit the net in the Thailand Champions Cup last month but has yet to get off the mark in the league, while Pedro Junior’s late arrival means he has had little time to adjust.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

Most clubs in East Asia lean heavily on their foreign strikers for goals and now would be a good time for this pair to show what they are made of. Former Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers forward Pedro may be more likely to start given his familiarity with Japan and the fact that he has looked the sharper of the two.

Whoever has the opportunity is unlikely to get too many opportunities so they will have to make the most of any that come their way.

  1. Hosogai injury opens door for Xuan Truong

Injury has ruled Japanese midfielder Hajime Hosogai out of Buriram’s ACL squad, scuppering a sentimental return to the club where he spent the early years of his career. Hosogai won the ACL with Urawa Reds back in 2007, before his career took him to Germany for several years. Buriram no doubt had this kind of occasion in mind when they signed the 32-year-old from Kashiwa Reysol.

However, as one door closed, another one opened and the first two league games of the season have seen starts for Vietnam midfielder Luong Xuan Truong. With his country riding the crest of a wave in international football, the 23-year-old would love to make an impact on this stage and demonstrate that he is a more than adequate replacement for Hosogai.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

While he has recently been outshone by international team-mates like Nguyen Cong Phuong and Nguyen Quang Hai, Xuan Truong has long been considered one of the top young talents in Vietnam and he has made a solid start to life in Thailand.

With Jakkaphan Kaewprom also having fitness issues, Xuan Truong is line for another start and, with Asia watching, he will be determined to prove he belongs in this tournament.

  1. Urawa form leaves door open

At this stage of the tournament in particular, Japanese sides often see the ACL games as a time to rest players and tinker with the lineup. Buriram benefited last year when Cerezo Osaka sent a second string to Thailand and the hosts duly won 2-0.

Urawa have taken just one point from their opening two league games and were defeated at home to Chanathip Songkrasin’s Consadole Sapporo at the weekend. It would be no surprise to see Urawa’s starting lineup looking somewhat short of full strength as they try and ensure their top team is ready for Saturday’s trip to Matsumoto Yamaga.

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Photo credit: Buriram United

Whatever team Urawa plays, it will still be a huge challenge for Buriram to come away with a point or more. The visitors have yet to see their new strikers click and are not in the best shape to get a result,

However, if Bozidar Bandovic can instill the spirit that that saw them go unbeaten in the away fixtures in the group stage last year, Buriram may just do enough to take a point.