It is only Matchday Two of the 2019 Thai League (T1) season but a huge clash looms large as Bangkok United host Muang Thong United.
Both clubs made unimpressive starts last weekend and will be desperate to earn their first victory of the campaign.
Bangkok United were lucky to escape from Sukhothai with a 1-1 draw, while Muang Thong’s much vaunted strike force drew a blank in a 1-0 defeat at home to Prachuap FC.
Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday Two.
- A match neither can afford to lose
Bangkok United have made no secret of their title ambitions and Saturday’s game at home to Muang Thong United is exactly the kind of fixture they must win to make their fans believe. They have a poor record of winning crunch games like this so a victory is essential.
A draw would be disappointing and a defeat would feel pretty disastrous in the context, with all pre-season optimism disappearing. On the other hand, taking three points from a close rival will instil belief that the team is finally coming together.
Muang Thong, meanwhile, are determined not to finish among the also-rans as they did last year and the returns of Teerasil Dangda and Mario Gjurovski energised the fans. However, head coach Pairoj Borwornwtanadilok was already having his tactical acumen questioned after he set up his team in a baffling formation last week, featuring four strikers in various forward positions.
The 1-0 loss came against a decent Prachuap side but it punctured some of the optimism that had been building.
The Kirins boss would probably take a draw but Bangkok Angels head coach Mano Polking must know that anything other than a win will see the pressure continue to build.
- Sharks face old foe in new guise
Chonburi can no longer look forward to a derby clash with neighbouring Pattaya United now that Samut Prakan City have stolen their rivals and transported them to the outskirts of Bangkok.
It is still a local rivalry of sorts, with Samut Prakan province lying just a few kilometres from the Chonburi border, so it will be interesting to see the dynamic that develops over time.
Photo credit: Chonburi FC
On the pitch, Samut Prakan may be sitting two points above their rivals after beating Chiang Mai at home last week, but Chonburi have taken great heart from a battling performance at Buriram. The Sharks were 2-1 and a man down at the home of the champions when Kroekrit Thaweekarn fired in an equaliser to earn a great point.
Patrick Cruz may be ready to make a start up front alongside the talented, if temperamental, Lukian and Worachit Kanitsribampen will again be a threat in attack.
Samut Prakan could stay top of T1 with a win but Chonburi have to be favourites to beat the club formerly known as Pattaya United.
- Weakened Port face Boli challenge
It is never a good time for Port FC to lose their top defender David Rochela to injury but it looks particularly poorly timed when one of T1’s top new attacking talents is coming to the PAT Stadium.
Yannick Boli took T1 by storm last Friday as he hit hat-trick that gave Ratchaburi a 3-2 victory over Trat to kick off their campaign. Boli’s movement and variety of finishing was the highlight of an otherwise patchy performance from the Dragons, whose backline was bullied by Lonsana Doumbouya.
Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC
Steeven Langil also impressed with his skill and direct running, suggesting that Ratchaburi will be fun to watch in attack this year but may not be the strongest at the back.
Not only are Port without Rochela, but new midfielder Go Seul-ki also misses out after last week’s straight red card in Chiang Rai. Port dug in for a goalless draw in Chiang Rai and they will have to keep things tight at the back again if they are to keep out Boli.
There should be a party atmosphere after the season launch festivities and the team will hope to keep that going with a home win.