Muang Thong United will try and play the role of spoilers in the Thai League (T1) title race when they host leaders Buriram United on Matchday 26.
The Kirins failed to mount a title bid of their own due to a dismal start to the campaign but they have the ability to put a dent in the hopes their rivals on Saturday.
Second-placed Chiang Rai United will aim to keep the pressure on Buriram when they face Trat FC at home, while there is a huge clash between Chainat and Sukhothai in the battle to beat the drop.
Here are four things to look out for on T1 Matchday 26.
- Muang Thong aim to damage Buriram hopes
A series of defeats in a shambolic start to the 2019 T1 campaign ensured that Muang Thong United would not be serious challengers for their first title since 2016. However, such has been their improvement, they have the best record of any side over the last 15 matches.
Buriram will certainly be wary of a team that can beat anyone on their day and who have twice beaten Chiang Rai this year. Former Buriram boss Alexandre Gama is now in charge at the Kirins and he certainly knew how to get the better of the champions during his two seasons at Chiang Rai.
Photo credit: Changsuek
Muang Thong were impressive in their recent 4-1 win over Suphanburi as Derley underlined his quality with a brace. Meanwhile, Buriram continue to blow hot and cold as they seek to tie up a sixth title win in seven years.
Kirins fans would love to see their team lay down a marker for next year and they would undoubtedly be happy for a victory to derail their rivals’ bid to win the 2019 title. Attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachat may be the key man for the visitors as he attempts to recreate his heroics for the national team in midweek.
- Chiang Rai’s chance to keep up the pressure
With Buriram facing a tough fixture at Muang Thong, Chiang Rai United must make the most of an opportunity to keep within a point of the T1 leaders or even overtake them when they host Trat.
The visitors look to have accrued enough points to secure another season in T1 so the Beetles should be the more motivated of the two sides. Nevertheless, Trat will pose a significant goal threat, having scored more than Chiang Rai this year, thanks mainly to the contributions of T1’s leading scorer Lonsana Doumbouya.
Photo credit: Chiang Rai United
This is a game in which to get the three points by whatever means as every result has a huge impact on the title race. In a normal season, Chiang Rai’s modest total of 47 points from 25 games would not enable them to challenge for the title but they have a huge opportunity to upset the odds.
Any slip from Buriram combined with a Chiang Rai win would see the side from the north in pole position with just four matches remaining.
- Desperate times for Chainat
Four defeats in five games have seen Chainat sink to joint bottom of T1. Sukhothai sit three points above them so the Firebats visit on Sunday promises to have a huge bearing on the outcome of the season for both sides.
Sukhothai are unbeaten in five, though their last four games have been drawn. The Hornbills might have been confident that home advantage would have been key when they were beating the likes of Buriram, Bangkok United and Muang Thong on home turf earlier in the year.
Photo credit: Chainat FC
However, they have failed to win any of their last three home games and capitulated late in the recent fixture with Samut Prakan City when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
We are likely to see a very tight and tense affair at the Khao Plong Stadium with both teams having everything to lose. Neither side is in winning form, with Sukhothai having taken just one win from the last 10 matches and Chainat just one from eight. It will be interesting to see if either can rediscover that winning feeling in one of their biggest games of the year.
- Life after Joksic begins with a tough test
Milos Joksic’s four-year reign as Nakhon Ratchasima head coach ended following a humiliating defeat at Chiang Mai. Veteran Chalermwut Sa-ngapol takes over and tries to steer the club to safety as they sit just three points above the relegation zone.
With just one win in 11 T1 games, Chalermwut faces a formidable challenge as he tries to lift morale and it doesn’t get much more difficult than a trip to Port FC. The Klong Toey side may have seen their title hopes disappear with a defeat at Bangkok United last time out but they remain in third spot – 15 points ahead of the struggling Swatcats.
Photo credit: Nakhon Ratchasima FC
60-year-old Chalermwut’s recent record will not inspire confidence among the Nakhon Ratchasima faithful but the club will be hoping that he can use his experience to make a quick and crucial impact in the final five matches of the season.
On a weekend on which relegation rivals Sukhothai and Chainat meet, the Swatcats will be happy with a point in this one and they would be absolutely delighted with three.