Title-chasing Bangkok United aim to stall Muang Thong recovery

Bangkok United face one of the biggest tests of their title credentials when they meet Muang Thong United at the SCG Stadium on Thai League (T1) Matchday 17.

Mano Polking’s side earned a rare T1 win over the Kirins earlier this year and will be desperate for a repeat to keep the pressure on leaders Buriram United.

Elsewhere, Chiang Mai will look to avoid becoming isolated at the bottom of T1 when they travel to Sukhothai, while Port FC have a tricky match in Ratchaburi as they look to end their slump.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 17.

  1. Bangkok United’s test of nerve 

A matter of weeks ago, a match against Muang Thong United would have been seen as an excellent opportunity to pick up three points as the four-time T1 champions struggled in the bottom three.

Much has changed, however, with the arrival of a new head coach and the signings of several new players. Following six defeats in an eight-match winless streak, the Kirins have won three out of four to finally move out of the relegation zone.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

Bangkok United were on a strong run of their own until Sukhothai dented their title bid by taking a point from them last weekend.

The stage is now set for a clash that could make or break Bangkok United’s ambitions. A victory could provide a huge morale boost ahead of the crucial match in Buriram in a couple of weeks. A defeat or a draw could see them slip five or six points behind the champions and dim the belief that this is their year.

With Alexandre Gama in charge and striker Derley looking like a valuable addition to the squad, Muang Thong certainly won’t make life easy for the Bangkok Angels.

  1. Chiang Mai on borrowed time 

Chiang Mai put up a spirited display to hold high flying Samut Prakan City to a 2-2 draw last weekend but they still slipped to the bottom of the table and many would expect them to stay there.

Usually by this point of the year, at least one T1 team is a relegation certainty and perhaps it’s time for Chiang Mai to start preparing for life in T2.

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Photo credit: Chiang Mai FC

News that yet another Chiang Rai United player – Brazilian striker Cuque – had joined Chiang Mai on loan reinforced the impression that this is not a club that stands on its own two feet. With a temporary move to share Chiang Rai’s stadium coming up, the conflict of interest becomes even more stark.

Ownership issues aside, Chiang Mai do not look to have the quality to survive and a visit to Sukhothai on Saturday seems likely to bring about another defeat.

Chiang Mai have won just one of the last 11 games and, with the Fire Bats having lost just once at home this year, you would not expect an end to that run of form.

  1. Slumping Port look to the past for inspiration 

Having taken just one point from four recent matches against fellow Top-Five sides, Port FC’s title aspirations have taken a huge hit. Last weekend’s 4-1 loss at home to Chiang Rai United seemed to wipe out any lingering hope that this could be Port’s year.

Nevertheless, the side from Klong Toey remain just four points off the top of T1 and Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi may be the perfect opportunity to halt their three-match losing streak. The Mitr Phol Stadium was a fortress for a while after it opened in 2016 but it has since become a soft touch for visiting sides.

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Photo credit: Chiang Rai United

Port swaggered to a 4-1 victory in Ratchaburi in 2018 and the Dragons have already lost four times at their home stadium this year. Marco Simone’s side have been reinforced by the addition of striker Javier Patino but they will need to raise their game to prevent yet another home loss.

Port simply cannot contemplate another defeat. Victory could even see them back in second spot in an extremely unpredictable season.

  1. Swatcats on the slide?

Nakhon Ratchasima made a very encouraging start to the 2019 season and the feel-good factor has resulted in the highest average crowds in T1. The additions of Amadou Ouatarra and Henri Doumbia transformed the Swatcats from a stodgy hard-to-beat side to one with genuine attacking flair.

That flair has deserted them in recent weeks, as Milos Joksic’s side have scored just three times in five games, winning just one of them. Consecutive defeats to sides below them in the table must be a cause for concern ahead of a difficult run of fixtures, starting with the trip to in-form Chiang Rai United on Sunday.

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Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC

In a very congested mid-table, the Swatcats sit in a comfortable-sounding seventh place but that is just five points above the relegation zone. The suspension of Leandro Assumpcao will not help them this weekend, though that is somewhat countered by the absence of Bill from the Chiang Rai lineup.

Given the positive developments off the field, it would be a shame if this year turned into a relegation battle instead of a push towards the Top Five. To prevent this scenario, Nakhon Ratchasima have to rediscover their scoring touch.

Chonburi count on experience as they prepare for Buriram test

Chonburi host Buriram United in the standout fixture of Thai League (T1) Matchday 16 as the club that has gone from contenders to also-rans attempts to upset the odds again.

On Matchday One, the Sharks held the champions to a 2-2 draw in the northeast and on Sunday, they will be hoping a few new players are about to enjoy an Indian summer in front of an expected capacity crowd.

Elsewhere, Muang Thong United hope to earn a first T1 over bogey side Prachuap FC, while Port FC will be desperate to avoid another costly defeat when they welcome Chiang Rai United to the PAT Stadium.

Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 16.

  1. Chonburi’s trip down memory lane

Many eyebrows have been raised at a Chonburi mid-year recruitment drive that has seen the arrival of four fading talents between the ages of 33 and 35.

Left-back Mongkol Namnuad arrives from T2’s Nongbua Pitchaya while Bangkok United midfield legend Witthaya Madlam has recently had an unsuccessful stint at BG Pathum United. Another midfield legend – Datsakorn Thonglao – was at T3 side Simork before joining Chonburi a while back and Teerathep Winothai has been second or third choice striker at Bangkok United for three years.

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Photo credit: Chonburi FC

The Sharks may be looking to add depth to their youthful squad in the shape of these four veterans but, with the possible exception of Teerathep, it is difficult to see them getting much game time. Chonburi proved in February that they can be a match for the best side in the country but now sit 14 points behind Sunday’s opponents.

Buriram United visit the Sharks, having replaced Brazilian striker Pedro Junior with former Arsenal youth Nacer Barazite. They will hope to maintain or extend their lead at the top of T1 and are unlikely to fear the addition of four players in the twilight of their careers.

  1. Port turn to old friend 

In their time of need, Port FC are hoping that the player they let go 18 months ago can help revive the club’s title bid.

For much of this year, Port had set the T1 pace but just one win in five games has seen them caught by Bangkok United and Samut Prakan City, and they have fallen four points behind leaders Buriram United.

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Photo credit: Police Tero

Josimar Rodrigues has returned to Klong Toey and will be expected to provide the focal point for an attack that has been without an out-and-out striker. Having spent the first half of the year at Police Tero in T2, he should be able to hit the ground running in what looks another tough match at home to Chiang Rai United.

It is the third consecutive match against a Top-5 opponent and a third consecutive loss would surely indicate that this will not be Port’s year. A Josimar-inspired victory, on the other hand, may well be the timely boost required to restore the necessary confidence to fight for the title.

  1. Last chance for Marco?

When Marco Simone was named as Ratchaburi head coach in March, many thought he might not even make it to the second leg of the season given the club’s recent history of hiring and firing.

But the AC Milan legend has come through 11 games, featuring memorable performances against Muang Thong United and Chainat, dismal displays against Prachuap and Chonburi, and a huge sense of injustice in the 2-1 defeat at home to Buriram.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Simone’s side have lots of ability but no consistency and this has led to the first murmurs about his job security. Sunday’s trip to Trat takes on added importance and it is not a fixture that the Dragons are likely to relish.

Trat’s defeat to Muang Thong last week ended an eight-match unbeaten run and this will encourage Ratchaburi. However, it is difficult to know what to expect from a side whose form has constantly fluctuated during Simone’s brief reign.

  1. Fourth time lucky for Muang Thong?

Since Prachuap FC were promoted to T1, they have faced Muang Thong United three times in league action and taken nine points. Their 6-1 victory in March 2018 famously led to the resignation of Totchtawan Sripan, and their 1-0 win at the SCG Stadium on Matchday One of this year set the Kirins on course for their worst ever start to a season.

One of Muang Thong’s best performances this year came in a 3-0 FA Cup victory at Prachuap and this will give them confidence coming into their latest trip to the seaside town. Last weekend’s comfortable win over Trat will have added to the growing belief that Alexandre Gama can lead them to safety.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

The signings of Brazilian striker Derley, Brazilian midfielder Bruno Gallo and Filipino full-back Daisuke Sato have added to the optimism and perhaps the time is right for Muang Thong to earn a T1 victory over Prachuap at the fourth attempt.

The Killer Wasps may be able to call on the services on new strikers Jean-Philippe Mendy and Maurinho as they try to keep Muang Thong waiting for that first win.

Muang Thong aim to end Trat’s winning run and start their own recovery

Muang Thong United will be desperate to move off the bottom of the Thai League (T1) with victory over in-form Trat FC on Matchday 15.

As the season reaches its halfway point, it is time for the Kirins to show signs of life or risk a fraught end to the season and a struggle to beat the drop.

Port FC travel to Samut Prakan City as they attempt to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Buriram United, while Bangkok United will hope to keep their winning run going at PTT Rayong.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 15.

  1. Muang Thong hope to avoid Trat fall

Coming into Saturday’s clash at the SCG Stadium, one side has won four in a row, is on an eight-match unbeaten run and sits fifth in the T1 table. The other has won just one of the last 10 T1 matches and is dead last.

You would have got extremely long odds on Trat sitting 11 places above Muang Thong at this stage of the season but the promoted side – freshly cobbled together with many new signings, veterans and loan deals – have surprised everyone. The four-time champions, meanwhile, have endured a shocking first half of the campaign.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

The arrival of Alexandre Gama as Muang Thong head coach inspired much optimism but it was punctured by defeat at Chonburi last weekend. Still, it is early days for the serial trophy winner and Saturday’s home match may be the perfect opportunity for him to make his mark.

The hosts should be helped by the fact that Trat will likely be without their three Muang Thong loanees – Nukoolkit Krutyai, Wongsakorn Chaikultewin and Chenrop Samphaodi. All three have been regular starters and their absence will weaken the visitors.

Having had more time to work with his new squad and having overseen a morale-boosting 4-1 FA Cup win at Singburi in midweek, Gama will hope the recovery starts now.

  1. Port need to bounce back 

Port FC remain just one point off the top of T1 but last weekend’s deflating defeat at home to Buriram felt like the end of the title challenge to some, such was Buriram’s superiority.

To ensure that the title bid goes on, the players will need to quickly rally in a difficult match at Samut Prakan City. The club formerly known as Pattaya United sit just three points behind Port and have lost just one of their last nine matches. Last weekend’s loss means that Port have won just one of the last four as they begin to stutter.

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Photo credit: Port FC

Both sides have suspensions at the back, with Elias Dolah missing for Port and Aris Zarifovic sitting it out for Samut Prakan. Rumours abound that this could be the final match for one of the finest T1 defenders in recent seasons, as David Rochela may be on his way out to make room for the return of striker Josimar Rodrigues.

It has the feel of a pivotal match for both sides, with Port needing to win to ensure they don’t run out of momentum, while a win for Samut Prakan would suggest they can battle for a top-3 finish.

Few would be surprised if the match ended in a share of the points.

  1. Ratchaburi test for struggling Prachuap

It has taken a while but second-season syndrome is starting to kick in for Prachuap FC. The surprise package of 2018 won four of their first six games this year to suggest that may not suffer the significant drop in performance that can strike many promoted clubs in their second season.

However, the Killer Wasps have won just one of the last eight as they slip down the table and towards potential danger. The visit to Ratchaburi on Sunday looks tricky as Marco Simone’s side look a match for most sides, with the electrifying talent of Steeven Langil a threat to any defence.

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Photo credit: Ratchaburi FC

Ratchaburi’s poor start to the year saw them change their head coach after just four games, but the Dragons can move above Prachuap with victory in this one. Simone has defied some expectations by holding onto his job until now and if he can make the team more consistent, they could finish in the top half of the table.

Port ready to prove title credentials while Gama aims to start Muang Thong revival

Port FC face a pivotal moment in the Thai League (T1) title race when they host champions Buriram United on Matchday 14.

Port have taken advantage of slow starts to the season from their rivals to lead Buriram by two points and Bangkok United by six.

The outcome of Sunday’s match will give a strong indication of Port’s title credentials going into the second half of the season.

Sunday also sees Alexandre Gama take care of relegation-threatened Muang Thong United for the first time as he attempts to lead a recovery beginning at Chonburi.

Here are three things to look out for on T1 Matchday 14.

  1. Port’s big day arrives

We have yet to reach the halfway point of the season but Port FC’s clash with Buriram is set to be one of the most important matches of the year.

The side from Bangkok used to revel in their reputation as rough and tough anti-establishment underdogs from the mean streets of Klong Toey. The stadium – having apparently failed to receive any investment despite their recent-found wealth – may be as rough and ready as ever, but they shed the underdog status when moneyed Nualphan ‘Madam Pang’ Lamsam took over the club four years ago.

Her arrival may have been too late to prevent a slide into T2 in 2015 but since they returned to T1 in 2017, there has been significant investment in the playing squad, which culminated in a third-place finish last year. The shrewdest signing has probably been Sergio Suarez, with the former Las Palmas midfielder rescued from the relative obscurity of T2 to play a huge role in Port’s revival.

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Photo credit: Port FC

With Tanaboon Kesarat already recruited for the second half of 2019, there is a strong feeling that this could be Port’s year, with a collection of players who have a good blend of youth and experience, and many in their mid-20s.

They will have to do without the services of Go Seul-ki – who is on loan from Buriram – on Sunday and the attacking thrust of injured left-back Kevin Deeromram will be missed.

But Port should have no fears of a Buriram side who took just one point from recent visits to Chainat and Sukhothai. The Thunder Castle may have found their scoring touch with a midweek thrashing of PTT Rayong but Port should see this as an excellent opportunity to prove that their title challenge is the real deal.

  1. Bangkok United must close the gap

It was Bangkok United rather than Port FC who most people considered as the main contenders to Buriram this year.

After a troubled start to the season, the Bangkok Angels have started to show a bit more consistency and are now unbeaten in five. This recent form has kept them in touch with the league leaders and Sunday gives them the perfect opportunity to close the gap on one or both of their rivals.

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Photo credit: Bangkok United

They face an unpredictable Ratchaburi side that possesses some great attacking talent and whose defence has tightened up, conceding just once in the last three games.

But Bangkok United know what victory means with the two main contenders clashing elsewhere. Anything else may suggest that we have a two-horse race on our hands.

  1. Gama hopes to make it third time lucky

Muang Thong United parted ways with head coach Yoon Kong-hwan in midweek and the widely anticipated arrival of former Buriram and Chiang Rai United boss Alexandre Gama was almost immediately confirmed.

Gama is the Kirins’ third coach of a season that has seen the four-time champions reduced to relegation strugglers. The Brazilian’s time in Thailand has seen great success, with his rugged style at Chiang Rai noted for the cup wins of a side that could rise to the big occasion.

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Photo credit: Muang Thong United

Muang Thong must string together some results that have them heading up the table and away from the potentially disastrous consequences of a relegation. Victory at Chonburi on Sunday would be a huge step in the right direction and would see them move just one point behind their old rivals.

Chonburi also have a new head coach in position, though the appointment of Sasom Pobprasert has failed to generate much enthusiasm. Sasom is a veteran of many jobs but his best days at Thai Port were a long time ago.

A Chonburi Vs Muang Thong United clash used to be at a different end of the table but both may already just be looking to get to the end of this season unharmed and start again next year.

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.