BG Pathum United face the first of what could be two pivotal encounters in their title bid when they travel to face Buriram United on Thai League (T1) Matchday 19 on Saturday.
League leaders BG opened up a 10-point lead over Port FC when Buriram came back to beat Port 2-1 on Tuesday, with the Rabbits having won their match at home to Trat.
Buriram are on a five-match winning streak, so the visitors will have their work cut out. BG then host Port FC on Wednesday in a match that could either spell the end of the title race or bring it back to life.
Port must beat Tero on Saturday to hang on to their faltering title hopes, while Bangkok United and Ratchaburi try to turn back the clock to February 2020.
- Diogo takes aim at former boss Gama
Buriram head coach Alexandre Gama was the man who brought Diogo Luis Santo to Thailand in 2015. Together, they helped Buriram to the domestic treble that year as well as putting on an impressive performance in the AFC Champions League.
The Thunder Castle then suffered a slump in form at the beginning of 2016, much of which may have been down to a serious injury to Diogo, and Gama would soon move on. Diogo stayed on in the northeast of Thailand, picking up two more league winners’ medals in 2017 and 2018.
There were plenty more meetings between Diogo and his former head coach after Gama took over at Chiangrai United. However, this will be the first time Diogo has played against his first Thai club with his former boss at the helm.
Gama has done an excellent job since returning to Buriram, with the club now in third place despite a miserable start to the 2020-21 campaign. But Diogo has joined BG with the aim of becoming a Thai champion again and he will certainly want to put an end to Buriram’s fine run of form and take his new club one step closer to the title.
On paper, this is arguably the toughest fixture BG are likely to face as they attempt to maintain a healthy lead over Port. Defeat here and a loss on Wednesday would potentially see their lead slashed from 10 points to four points.
Diogo and his team-mates will be determined not to let that happen. However, Gama has already damaged the hopes of one of the two clubs in contention for the title. He will surely look to do the same to the other and keep Buriram heading in the right direction.
One of Gama’s latest Brazilain signings, Maicon, was the man who turned the game Buriram’s way when he came on as a second-half substitute at Port on Tuesday. There seems a strong chance he will get a start this time and test the BG backline with his trickery.
- No margin for error for Port
Tuesday’s home defeat to Buriram has left Port’s title hopes hanging by a thread as the gap to BG increased from seven to 10 points.
Port will have the opportunity to reduce the gap when they travel to face BG next Wednesday. In the meantime, a match at Police Tero must be won to ensure they go into the midweek game no more than 10 points back.
But what may have previously appeared a straightforward task against a Tero side that was sliding down the table has dramatically changed in complexion following Tero’s 5-3 victory at Samut Prakan City on Wednesday.
The home side will have been lifted by just their second win in 13 matches. Tiago Chulapa was a thorn in Samut Prakan’s side and the Brazilian striker will be a handful for the Port defence.
Nevertheless, Port still have the edge in quality and they will be determined to beat a side that took three points from their previous meeting at the PAT Stadium. The teams had been tied at 1-1 with 88 minutes on the clock, but a floodlight failure meant that Tero won by default.
- Early pacesetters aiming for change of fortune
While BG and Port have accelerated away from the chasing pack since the T1 resumed in September, it was Bangkok United and Ratchaburi who made the early running in the 2020-21 title race.
The Bangkok Angels won their first five matches, while the Dragons took 13 points from the first 15 available. Bangkok United were first to blink and their form collapsed in spectacular style. Ratchaburi held out somewhat longer, but they have now lost four of their last five matches and sit just four points above Saturday’s opponents.
Ratchaburi had exceeded expectations with a start that saw them seal a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League qualifiers. However, Bangkok United’s fall from top spot to mid-table was a shock for a side that had been expected to challenge for the title.
Hosts Bangkok United have to be considered favourites, having taken a decent four points from two tricky fixtures against Samut Prakan City and Chiangrai United. But Ratchaburi’s squad depth will ensure they can push Totchtawan Sripan’s side all the way as both the early pacesetters look to prove their February 2020 form was no fluke.
- Chiangrai hope for coastal comfort
Chiangrai United seem to like to be beside the seaside. Despite coming from a landlocked mountainous province in northern Thailand, the champions’ form against rivals that play within a few miles of the coast suggest they like to get out of their comfort zone.
The Beetles have emerged victorious on trips to Rayong, Chonburi and Trat this season and this Sunday’s fixture at Prachuap is an opportunity to make it four wins from four by the sea.
Chiangrai United have not fared so well at home in recent months, winning just two of their last six matches at the Singha Stadium. They seem to be more than comfortable on the road, but Prachuap should prove a formidable opponent. The home side are pushing to move away from the relegation zone and while they have suffered four defeats in the past 11 matches, three have been against the Top Three.
Prachuap suffered a last-gasp reverse in a 4-3 thriller at Sukhothai on Thursday, and they will be determined to get back on track. The Killer Wasps will be counting on William Henrique to put his former club to the sword and give them bad memories of their latest trip to a seaside town.