MD 15 Preview: Swatcats aim to build on their great escape

Nakhon Ratchasima have an excellent opportunity to turn their season around when they host Police Tero on Thai League (T1) Matchday 15 on Saturday.

The Swatcats came back from 3-0 down to defeat Trat 4-3 last weekend and they must build on that momentum to lift themselves out of relegation trouble.

Ratchaburi will hope to keep alive their hopes of ending the first leg in third place, but they face a tough match against BG Pathum United. Muangthong United host Suphanburi, with both sides in desperate need of a win.

Swatcats need more Murillo magic

Nakhon Ratchasima’s dramatic comeback victory at Trat last Sunday featured a hat-trick from Dennis Murillo. The Brazilian striker’s eight T1 goals this season have been key to keeping the Swatcats in touch with the rest of the league.

Teerasak Po-on’s men begin Matchday 15 in the drop zone, but they are just one point behind Prachuap, who have a tough match at home to Buriram United. Further up the table, the Swatcats could move within a point of Suphanburi if the War Elephant lose at Muangthong. 

Last weekend’s victory was just the third of the season for Nakhon Ratchasima and they could really do with a fourth before the second leg begins. While there were ecstatic celebrations when the Swatcats completed last week’s comeback, it should not be forgotten that Trat’s collapse was largely self-inflicted. The home side were 3-0 up and cruising before receiving two completely avoidable red cards.

On Saturday, Nakhon Ratchasima host opponents who were also victorious for the first time in a while last week. Police Tero’s laboured 1-0 win over bottom club Rayong was in stark contrast to the Swatcats’ triumph, but both clubs struggled against the bottom two.

While Tero are now in ninth place. Nakhon Ratchasima can move to within three points of them with a home win. It is a huge opportunity for the Swatcats to begin the second half of the season outside the relegation zone or at least closer to the teams above them.

It could also be a final opportunity for some heroics from Leandro Assumpcao. The veteran Swatcats striker scored last week’s winning goal and this is expected to be his final game for the club.

Dragons attempt to halt BG’s winning run

It looks a tall order, but Ratchaburi need to take something from Friday’s match at home to BG Pathum United if they are to hold on to hopes of edging Chiangrai United to third place in mid-season. Both Ratchaburi and Chiangrai have sealed places in the AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifiers, but finishing third is likely to ensure a more favourable draw. 

But the Dragons’ recent form has been patchy, while BG continue to brush aside opponents with relative ease. The home side will be boosted by the return of their main creative force in Steeven Langil, and top scorer Yannick Boli may make a final appearance ahead of his move to Port FC. 

However, BG will be determined not to offer any encouragement to Port, who have put together an impressive eight-match winning streak to stay within four points of the league leaders. Ratchaburi will have to be at their best to breach a BG defence that has conceded just seven times in 14 matches – 13 fewer than Friday’s opponents.

The visitors’ relentless form makes them favourites to take the three points, but Ratchaburi have yet to lose at home this year. All four of the Dragons’ T1 defeats have come away from the Mitr Phol Stadium, and they have dropped just two points from their seven home matches to date.

BG will take nothing for granted as they seek to consolidate their position at the top of the league. Ratchaburi’s home record suggests this could be a close battle.

Mario and Adebayo looking for a lift

Muangthong United’s home match against Suphanburi sees a meeting between two head coaches in need of a change of fortunes.

Mario Gjurovski’s spell in charge of the Kirins began with a whirlwind of positivity – two straight victories and exciting attacking football. The players have continued to attack, but they have taken just two points from the last four games – and those points came at home to struggling Nakhon Ratchasima and Prachuap. 

Suphanburi started the season brightly, but they have slid down the table and three consecutive defeats leaves them looking nervously towards relegation trouble. Head coach Adebayo Gbadebo seems to have lost the knack of grinding out draws. The War Elephant shared the points in 11 matches last year, but they have drawn just two games so far in 2020. 

While the visitors would surely accept a point in Saturday’s match at the SCG Stadium, the pressure is on the Kirins to win in T1 for the first time since October 31st. Another failure to defeat a team that sits below them in the league (albeit by just one point) would potentially leave Muangthong just two points above the relegation zone.

Sukhothai and Chonburi out to get back on track

Sukhothai’s early season form was a revelation. John Baggio and Ibson Melo terrorised defences as the Fire Bats mounted a challenge for an ACL qualifying slot. Unfortunately, with the exception of a stirring home victory over Chiangrai United, Sukhothai have failed to hit the heights in recent matches, losing four of the last five.

The Sharks have an identical recent record, taking just three points from the last 15 available. Like Sukhothai, Chonburi’s strong start was something of a surprise but they have drifted back into the mid-table position that was perhaps more in line with expectations. 

Friday’s match in Sukhothai is an opportunity for at least one of them to put their recent woes behind them ahead of the second half of the campaign. They will both be desperate not to allow a season of great promise to become one of mediocrity or worse.

Chonburi are set to see Carli De Murga and Dragan Boskovic move on during the transfer window, while the Fire Bats will also see some changes in their attempts to return to the form they showed in September and October. 

Home advantage makes Sukhothai slight favourites in this battle of two teams who sit near the foot of the form table.

Paul Murphy

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