Bangkok United head coach Mano Polking is looking forward to the opportunity to play at Muang Thong United on the final day of the 2018 Thai League (T1) season despite the fact that there seems little at stake for the visitors.
The Bangkok Angels sit 12 points above the Kirins and secured the runners-up spot several weeks ago. And Muang Thong stunned Thai football on Friday by announcing that head coach Radovan Curcic had left the club just two days before the final match of the year.
Here are five things to look out for on T1 Matchday 34.
- Bangkok United still have something to prove
The ‘mutual’ decision for Curcic to leave after Muang Thong’s shambolic 5-5 draw with Pattaya United in midweek comes despite the fact that the club could still finish third and qualify for an AFC Champions League qualifying place.
Bangkok United have nothing to play for in terms of league position but Polking insists that it still means a lot to his side as he attempts to match their rivals’ overall level.
The Bangkok Angels may be well ahead of Muang Thong United this year but they have yet to come close to the achievements of the Kirins.
“A game against Muang Thong always means something for Bangkok United,” Polking told ThaiFootie.com. “They are one of the best and most successful clubs in the country and because we also want to reach that level, it is always important to see how we play against them.”
The departure of Curcic comes at a very strange time but Polking insists that it will not affect how his team approaches the match at the SCG Stadium on Sunday.
“The decision against Curcic is, of course, ridiculous if we talk about serious football but because we have been in Thailand for a long time, we know that it can happen and it’s not a surprise for me,” Polking said.
“For our preparation, nothing has changed because, since we guaranteed our second place, we have kept focusing on our game and on how we are playing, regardless of our opponents.”
- Port prepare for Pattaya in Minburi
Days before the game was scheduled to take place, Pattaya United moved the venue for the clash with Port FC to the neutral territory of Minburi on the outskirts of Bangkok due to problems with the floodlights.
Many Port FC fans were more than a little outraged by the decision at such short notice which again embarrasses a league that needs to earn more credibility.
More importantly, this change could affect Port’s planning for a game they need to win to secure third place ahead of Muang Thong.
In the event that Buriram United win the FA Cup, the third-placed team earn a place in the AFC Champions League qualifiers and Port fans would like nothing more than to finish ahead of their bitter rivals.
Lukian’s suspension from the Pattaya side improves the Klong Toey side’s prospects and two 5-0 wins in the last two games suggest that Port are ready to seize the day and finish and up-and-down season on a high.
- Sukhothai’s open goal to survival
Sukhothai have been an enigmatic presence in the league this year. The Fire Bats won their first four games but despite the attacking flair of John Baggio and Nelson Bonilla, they have spent most of the last four months fretting about the prospect of relegation.
Given their relative struggles, they could not have asked for a better final day fixture than Air Force United at home.
The bottom side in the league have long since had relegation confirmed and their defence has been leaking goals. Air Force put up a good fight against Buriram in midweek but still lost 4-2, having been beaten 6-2 and 5-2 in their previous two games.
It is difficult to imagine that Sukhothai, with their attacking firepower, will fail to beat a team that has lost six of their last seven and has conceded 27 goals in that time.
- Bangkok Glass’ unlikely last chance
For the whole season, the struggles of Bangkok Glass have surprised observers of a club more accustomed to challenging for a place in the top five.
There has been a revival that has seen the Glass Rabbits lose just two of their last 11 games to climb within a point of safety. However, the last day drama comes as a result of a failure to beat relegated Ubon UMT United at home on Wednesday.
Bangkok Glass must earn at least a point at home to Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday or their worst result of the season – a 5-2 defeat at home to Chainat in April – could come back to haunt them.
If Chainat win at Suphanburi and Bangkok Glass lose to Swatcats, the side from Pathaum Thani will go down.
While a Chainat victory is not unlikely, Bangkok Glass will surely do enough against a Nakhon Ratchasima side with little to play for.
- Farewell to Tero
An iconic Thai club will drop into the second tier for the first time in 22 years after Police / BEC Tero Sasana’s relegation was confirmed on Wednesday.
As BEC Tero, the club won two Thai Premier League titles in the early Noughties before reaching the final of the AFC Champions League in 2003.
While they have not been regular title contenders since the league’s expansion in 2006, they did win the League Cup in 2014 under Avram Grant and with Chanathip Songkrasin pulling the strings.
Police Tero host Prachuap on Sunday as two sides with contrasting fortunes meet. The visitors will finish no lower than sixth after an incredible first season in T1.
Tero, meanwhile, face an uncertain future as they drop into the unfamiliar environment of T2.