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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.