Port FC could go a massive nine points ahead of Buriram United if they earn an away win over their opponents for the first time ever in the Thai League (T1).
Two defeats in three matches have seen Buriram fall six points off the pace set by Port FC, Bangkok United and Ratchaburi and Sunday’s match will answer some questions about the mental strength of this Buriram side on Matchday Four.
Champions Chiang Rai United also face a big match at Bangkok United, while Ratchaburi will aim to keep the feel good factor going when they host Nakhon Ratchasima.
Here are five things to look for on T1 Matchday Four.
- Early test of Port ambition
When Buriram eased to a 4-0 victory over Chonburi last weekend, it was widely interpreted as a sign that Buriram were back after the opening day aberration at Police Tero. Further confirmation seemed to come when they led 2-0 at Ratchaburi after 45 minutes on Wednesday.
But what happened next defied expectations. Ratchaburi’s attacking flair proved too much for Bozidar Bandovic’s side and, despite rallying to make it 3-3 after going 3-2 behind, former Buriram striker Javier Patino grabbed an added-time winner.
With Port FC grinding out a win at Sukhothai the same night, Sunday’s match at the Chang Arena represents a very early six-pointer. An away victory would take Choketawee Promrut’s side nine points clear of Buriram, while a home win would move the six-time champions within three points of their opponents.
You have to go back to 2010 for the last time Port earned a point in Buriram, and the current side have the opportunity to make history by becoming the first ever Port team to win here.
Titles are not won in the first weekend in March but with a potential nine-point gap opening up, this could be a very significant result.
2. Chiang Rai aim to regain the upper hand
Chiang Rai United became Thai champions in 2019 despite and not because of their performances against Bangkok United. The Beetles took just one point from two games against the Bangkok Angels – one of only two sides to have a superior head-to-head record over the champions.
While Chiang Rai United ended last year eight points above Mano Polking’s side, they come into Saturday’s match at Thamassat Stadium four points adrift after just three matches. It has been a tough start to the campaign for new head coach Masami Taki but his team finally looked something like their old selves as they defeated Trat FC 3-0 on Wednesday.
If Chiang Rai can take something from Saturday’s match, it will be a clear indication that they are back on the right track. However, Bangkok United have made an unusually bright start, winning three on the trot.
Wednesday’s victory at Samut Prakan City was a show of strength in depth as the likes of Hajime Hosogai, Antony Ampaipitakwong and Anon Amornlerdsak were rested despite showing decent form in the first two games.
With the replacements playing their part in an important win, Polking now has some selection headaches as he attempts to find a starting lineup that can deliver what would be a statement win over the reigning champions.
A defeat would see Chiang Rai slip seven points off the pace. For a team that won the title by hanging in rather than leading from the front, this would be ominous.
3. Rampant Ratchaburi target win No.4
It seems a long time since Ratchaburi’s relative stability led to positive outcomes. From 2014 to 2017, the club had Spanish head coaches who oversaw four straight finishes in the top half of T1, including fourth spot in 2014.
In the last two years, the club has been something of a circus, with the short-lived reigns of Christian Ziege and Marco Simone as well as multiple other brief stays from a range of coaches.
The second half of last season offered hope that things were turning around, however, as they went from relegation threatened to comfortable mid-table and an FA Cup final appearance. Three wins from three games this year suggests the improvement is continuing and they will be favourites to move onto 12 points when Nakhon Ratchasima visit on Saturday.
The Swatcats have lost two of their three matches, conceding eight goals. The five-match stretch of away games was always going to be a difficult way to start the season and Ratchaburi’s form is very different from the shambolic Dragons’ side that Nakhon Ratchasima beat 3-2 in the same fixture last year.
The attacking combination of Yannick Boli, Steeven Langil, Lossemy Karaboue and Jakkapan Pornsai is a handful for any defence and Nakhon Ratchasima must fear the worst against a team that won a seven-goal thriller against Buriram in midweek.
4. Rayong risk isolation after goalkeeping controversy
Rayong FC are pointless after three games – not entirely surprising for a team that was promoted by finishing third in T2 last season.
However, the nature of Wednesday’s defeat left a lot of questions about the management of the club. The experienced Tossaporn Sri-rueng was left on the bench, while 23-year-old Laos goalkeeper Outthilath Nammakoth made his debut. Outthilath had such a horror show that he handed three goals to Muang Thong United with errors that called into question the integrity of the fixture. Two days later, head coach Chusak Sriphum resigned as controversy whirled around his goalkeeper.
Outthilath will surely miss out in Sunday’s match at home to Suphanaburi – a side that has made a surprisingly decent start to the season. The War Elephant followed up a draw at Chiang Rai United with a 1-0 win at home to Prachuap FC, and they will come into this match with confidence.
Should Rayong lose for the fourth time on the trot, we could see them cut adrift in the manner of so many T1 sides of the past. In the following two matches they are away to Samut Prakan and Buriram, so the risk of going for several matches with nothing to show is real.
Saturday’s game at home to Suphanburi is an opportunity to pull themselves back into the pack and to begin a concerted battle to beat the drop.
5. Faded clasico still holds appeal
Harking back to memories of the late 00s and early 10s, Muang Thong United Vs Chonburi was one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures in the T1 calendar. Much has changed as neither side has put in a challenge for a title since Muang Thong’s dramatic collapse in the second half of 2017. You have to go back to 2014 for the last time Chonburi came close.
Nevertheless, the fixture remains evocative of an exciting period in Thai football and Sunday’s clash at the SCG Stadium will still attract plenty of interest as Muang Thong’s young guns take on Chonburi’s more experienced lineup.
The Sharks recovered well from last weekend’s hammering at Buriram to beat Nakhon Ratchasima in midweek, whie the Kirins earned their first three points with that goalkeeper-assisted 3-0 victory at Rayong.
Muang Thong United have impressed in patches so far, but Alexandre Gama’s side is a work in progress and will take time to hit their stride. Players like Derley and Sardor Mirzaev have quality, while the experience of Sarach Yooyen and Wattana Playnum will help the young players develop.
Chonburi perhaps have too much experience and Muang Thong’s energy may make the difference in this one. A large crowd can be expected as the two clubs renew an old rivalry.