MD 7 PREVIEW: Thai strikers have chance to shine in Top Two clash

Thai strikers should take centre stage when Bangkok United host BG Pathum United in a clash of the top two on Thai League (T1) Matchday Seven.

Sunday’s match at the Thamassat Stadium will provide an early indication of how the two expected title contenders match up, with the clubs currently separated by just two points.

Buriram United finally return to action when they play at home to Suphanburi on Saturday, while Port FC’s interim head coach Sarawut Treephan attempts to lift his club when they visit bottom side Trat.

Here are the big matches on T1 Matchday 7.

Thai firepower key to top-of-the table battle

High-profile foreign strikers have tended to be vital in any T1 side that wants to challenge for the title. Buriram United and Muang Thong United may have struggled to lift all of their titles without the likes of Diogo Luis Santo, Javier Patino and Cleiton Silva, while the goals of Bill and William Henrique drove Chiangrai United’s winning campaign in 2019.

They may be just five matches into the 2020/21 season, but Bangkok United and BG are looking formidable despite the absence of such a proven striker.

During the T1 suspension, BG let Brazilian Barros Tardeli join Samut Prakan City and brought in Chenrop Samphaodi. Bangkok United have loaned out injury-hit El Salvador striker Nelson Bonilla, while Brazil’s Brenner will miss out this weekend as he recovers from injury.

It may be early days, but the top two sides are hoping to prove that the home-grown attacking talent can be good enough to win the T1 title. Bangkok United’s 22-year-old attacking midfielder Anon Amornlerdsak has already scored twice this year, while Nattawut Suksum – also 22 – grabbed his second of the campaign last week.

Much maligned Chenrop struck an excellent winner against former club Port FC last week to suggest that, at 25, he may yet be able to deliver on his potential.

BG have conceded just once in five games and that solidity will be tested by the Bangkok Angels’ attacking strength. It all points to an intriguing match-up, with Thai attacking talent at the centre of attention.

Buriram need to hit the ground running

Buriram United have had to wait longer than most to resume their season. The dramatic revelation that Uzbek midfielder Akbar Ismatullaev had tested positive for Covid-19 came one day before the T1 restart.

Buriram relaunch their campaign following an apparent 14-day isolation, which means that preparations for Saturday’s match against Suphanburi should have taken place in quarantine facilities and over Zoom meetings.

Whatever the limitations, they will need to come out firing to avoid losing any more ground in the title race. They now sit 11 points off the pace, having played a game fewer than the top three sides.

Buriram have completely replaced their foreign player quota, so much will be expected of Marko Scepovic, Renato Kelic, Gidi Kanyuk and Ismatullaev as they bid to climb their way back up the table.

Suphanburi’s recent form suggests they will be awkward opponents in a match that is crucial to Buriram.

Sarawut aims to lift ailing Port

On Matchday Five it was power failure that lost Port FC the game at home to Police Tero. On Matchday Six, it was tactical failure as BG Pathum United’s well-drilled unit got the better of Port’s expensive but randomly assembled talent.

On Matchday Seven, Sarawut takes the reins, with Jadet Meelarp’s third reign as head coach ending following last weekend’s 1-0 defeat. The trip to bottom-of-the-table Trat FC would look straightforward in different circumstances, but there is now huge pressure to take the three points as other clubs look to pull away. 

Trat may have lost all six matches of the campaign to date, but the last three defeats have been by just one goal, suggesting that resilience is building. The limited number of fans is surely in Port’s favour as Trat’s home support were important in their first season in T1 last year. 

With his team underperforming on the pitch and the management of the club leaving much to be desired, Saturday’s match will tell us if Sarawut can let the healing begin, or if there is more drama to come following an eventful and sometimes farcical couple of weeks in Klong Toey.

Gama seeks to find winning formula in attack

Two games, one point and zero goals since the restart. The statistics do not look good for Muang Thong United as Alexandre Gama struggles to give his team the cutting edge they need to win games.

Much has been made of the youthfulness of the Muang Thong squad, but the XI that started at home to Samut Prakan City last week featured just two 23 year-olds in Chatmongkol Thongkiri and Saringkan Promsupa, while everyone else was 24 and above. The young attacking talents of Korawt Tasa and Poramet Arjiviria were left on the bench as the experienced Derley and 26-year-old William Popp again drew a blank.

It might be of some encouragement to Gama that the Muang Thong defence has been breached just once in the last four games, and they will certainly have to be at their best when Ratchaburi come calling on Saturday. However, the Kirins problems seem to be more pronounced at the other end of the pitch as they seek to be more creative and more clinical.

Ratchaburi’s perfect record was ended when they needed an added-time equaliser to earn a point at Police Tero last weekend. This is a second tough away trip, and they will be desperate to take something home, with BG and Bangkok United’s match meaning that one or both of their nearest rivals will drop points.

Paul Murphy

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