Port FC have what is surely their last chance to revive their fading title hopes when they face runaway Thai League leaders BG Pathum United on Matchday 20 on Tuesday.
Consecutive defeats have left second-placed Port a massive 13 points adrift of BG as we move into the final third of the 2020-21 campaign.
Just a week ago, this match was considered potentially pivotal, but Port’s losses to Buriram United and Police Tero, coupled with two wins for BG, have completely changed the dynamic. While many have already written off Port’s chances, victory here could just apply a bit of pressure on BG and potentially cause the wobble that will be needed.
Here are three things to look out for as Port make a do-or-die attempt to stay in the title race.
Port need to go for the throat
There seems little point in adopting a cagey game plan that is likely to play into the hosts’ hands. BG have made an art form of grinding out 1-0 wins in the big matches this season, defeating Buriram United (twice), Chiangrai United and Port by this score line.
The BG defence has stood up to every challenge so far and a different approach is clearly required. An early goal for the visitors would certainly force the Rabbits to sweat a little as they move out of the comfort zone of defending leads.
Equally, Port can’t afford to lose their shape with the threat of Diogo Luis Santo and Teerasil Dangda in the BG attack. Finding the right balance between attack and defence and maintaining the right level of intensity is the challenge facing Port against a side that has shown few signs of weakness this season.
However they approach the match, it does seem that drawing first blood will be vital.
Time for Port’s star strikers to deliver
Much has been made of Port’s attacking riches but now is the time for the likes of Nelson Bonilla and Yannick Boli to deliver. The Klong Toey club has invested big over the past few years, but they have often come up short in crunch matches.
Wednesday evening’s clash might not be considered a ‘crunch’ given the gap between the sides but it is certainly an opportunity for Port to show they can be a match for the champions elect.
Bonilla and Boli were brought to the club to help them become champions. While that lofty ambition may be almost out of reach, the two strikers can unsettle the BG defence enough to keep it alive.
Four teams have taken the lead at the Leo Stadium this season, but only one side – Samut Prakan City – has left with a point. Muang Thong United, Rayong and Trat all went home empty-handed. Port should be aiming higher than those four clubs and their striking duo can help make the difference.
Diogo finding his form
When Diogo Luis Santo brought down a long ball with his right foot, swiveled and smashed his left-footed shot past a stunned Siwarak Tedsungnoen, it felt like confirmation that the real Diogo was back in Thailand.
The Brazilian made just a cameo appearance as a substitute before T1 was suspended for six weeks and then looked a little rusty when he squandered a couple of good openings at Police Tero. Diogo did get off the mark against Trat last week, but his low shot was helped in by a deflection.
However, Saturday’s winning goal at the Chang Arena was the kind of moment of magic fans in Thailand have come to expect from him. Port will be well aware of the threat but whether or not they can stop him is another matter.