Bangkok United have an opportunity to make a significant statement of intent when they travel to face Muang Thong United on Thai League (T1) Matchday 2.
Mano Polking’s side opened their 2020 campaign with a home win over Prachuap and a second successive victory would be a huge boost for a team that has a reputation for starting slowly.
Buriram United must recover quickly from an opening day defeat when they host Chonburi, while Rayong FC and Nakhon Ratchasima will aim to get points on the board and avoid further damaging losses that will pile on the pressure even at this early stage of the season.
Here are five things to look out for on T1 Matchday Two.
- Bangkok United target victory at SCG
On Matchday Two last year, Bangkok United edged a win at home to a Muang Thong United side that were about to endure their worst ever start to a T1 season
However, the Bangkok Angels then suffered arguably their most damaging defeat in the return fixture, early in the days of Alexandre Gama’s remarkable revival of the ailing Kirins.
Much has changed since Muang Thong’s 3-2 victory last July seemed to prematurely end Bangkok United’s title bid, while helping the Kirins surge from the relegation zone to an eventual fifth-place finish.
The visitors will be without striker Nelson Bonilla, who scored in both fixtures last year, while Muang Thong’s starting XI has almost changed beyond recognition. Only Dang Van Lam, Sarach Yooyen and Derley are likely to again be in the starting lineup at the SCG Stadium.
Bangkok United again have injury problems, and defenders Everton and Mika Chunuonsee may miss out again, but new striker Brenner may be ready to start after a lively appearance as a substitute last weekend.
Early results can set the tone for the season. A second straight win for Bangkok United would underline their title credentials, while a second defeat for Muang Thong would reinforce the impression that the team is a work in progress after such a significant overhaul.
2. Buriram aim for quick recovery
As was the case on many weekends in 2019, it just didn’t happen for Buriram United when they faced Police Tero last Sunday. There was a lack of intensity and guile as Tero’s well drilled side protected a 1-0 lead for almost 80 minutes.
When chances came, finishing was poor and fans will have left feeling that it might have been a different year, but they had just seen the same old Buriram – the previously all-conquering side that failed to win 14 of 16 T1 matches last year.
It seems clear that Buriram are missing a midfielder in the mould of Jakkaphan Kaewprom. The 31-year-old made a brief appearance from the bench last week, but he has struggled with fitness for the best part of a year and may have a limited role again.
At home to Chonburi on Saturday, they will have to raise their game to give their fans hope that things will indeed be different this year. Chonburi made a solid start with a victory at home to Rayong and will aim to take advantage if any Buriram deliver another stuttering performance.
3. Champions need something to cheer
Chiang Rai United have had a tough initiation to the AFC Champions League. Two games, two defeats and no goals scored is the record for a side that is making its debut in the competition. The Beetles haven’t exactly been outclassed in their two matches, but it is clear that they lack creativity and composure in front of goal.
Having dropped two points in their first T1 fixture last week, they will be desperate to lift morale when they host Suphanburi on Saturday. The War Elephant were defeated by Sukhothai on Matchday One and are widely tipped to struggle at the wrong end of the table this year.
However, this may be the perfect time for Suphanburi to be playing the champions. Chiang Rai have looked blunt in attack, with Bill huffing and puffing and berating referees but clearly missing the chaos created by the anarchic runs of his old partner William Henrique.
If the visitors can put the shackles on Bill, they can hope for more than the defeat that looks likely on paper.
4. Fork in the road for Nakhon Ratchasima
It seems unreasonably early to place too much importance on a single fixture but it’s difficult to escape the feeling that Nakhon Ratchasima’s trip to Rayong FC may provide a strong indication of what lies ahead this year.
It was no great surprise to see the Swatcats lose at Port FC last weekend, but despite making several clear opportunities and scoring an excellent goal through Amadou Ouatarra, several aspects of the performance will have caused concern.
Against most people’s favourites for relegation, Friday evening’s clash is an opportunity for Teerasak Po-on’s side to pick up three points that would point them towards a season in mid-table. Anything else will keep them near the foot of the table and indicate that a battle against relegation may lie ahead.
With their stadium undergoing renovations, the match at Rayong is the second in a run of five away games to start the season. Challenging but hardly daunting trips to Chonburi, Ratchaburi and Suphanburi are to come.
The points return from this run of fixtures may well shape the Swatcats’ season. Friday’s scoreline will be an early indication of what the Nakhon Ratchasima fans can expect.
5. Port’s chance to push ahead
Already three points clear of Buriram United and two ahead of Chiang Rai United, it was a successful Matchday One for Port FC. With another potential title rival – Bangkok United – facing a tricky match at Muang Thong this weekend, Port may have the opportunity to open up a gap on another challenger.
Choketawee Promrut’s side are at home to Samut Prakan City – a team that proved a difficult opponent last year. After Buriram had given high-flying Port a chastening defeat mid-season, Samut Prakan followed up by making it two league defeats in a row at the start of a dreadful run of results that effectively killed their title hopes.
Port met Samut Prakan again on the final day of the season and the 2-2 draw was inconsequential given that neither side had anything tangible to gain. It is a different story on Saturday as the home side bid to make it six points out of six, while the visitors seek to earn their first win.
Port’s scattergun approach to recruitment has come in for some criticism, but two poachers’ goals last week reassured the fans that Heberty Fernandes should prove an excellent signing. There is plenty of quality on the bench to keep the regulars on their toes, so that depth in the squad may ultimately work well for them.
On the evidence of Matchday One, the title is up for grabs again. This time, Port will have to ensure there are few slips in matches like this.