Battle for T1 survival heats up while five teams fight for fourth place

Sukhothai have the perfect opportunity to take a vital three points when they host relegated Rayong on Thai League (T1) Matchday 27.

The Fire Bats have been on the slide for months and find themselves in 13th place – just one point above Suphanburi in the final relegation slot, having played a game more.

Suphanburi face a more challenging fixture as they travel to Ratchaburi, while Muangthong United are at home to Chiangrai United as the two teams battle for fourth place.

No more slip-ups for Sukhothai

Over the past 15 matches, the only team with worse form than Rayong has been Sukhothai. Surapong Kongthep’s side were AFC Champions League (ACL) hopefuls until the wheels came off in spectacular style.

Since an impressive 2-0 win at home to Chiangrai United on November 10th kicked off that 15-match spell, the Fire Bats have won just once and lost 12 times.

Rayong’s relegation was confirmed on Tuesday when they lost 3-1 at home to Prachuap, having taken just one point from 11 matches. Masami Taki’s side travel to Sukhothai, perhaps liberated by finally having had their fate sealed.

For Sukhothai, there is absolutely no margin for error. This is their best opportunity to pick up three points and any other result could see them plunged deeper into trouble.

It is fortunate for Sukhothai that their main relegation rivals, Suphanburi, are in equally poor form and appear to have the harder run-in. On Saturday, however, the Fire Bats just need to take care of business when Rayong come calling.

Suphanburi running out of time

On Wednesday evening, Suphanburi went toe-to-toe with Port FC for the first hour of the match and were only 1-0 behind after an inspired acrobatic volley from Yannick Boli.

The referee awarded a penalty to the War Elephant before it was rescinded for a foul way back in the build-up. It looked a harsh decision – probably a foul but in no way the type of clear and obvious error VAR was supposed to deal with.

When you’re fighting against relegation and low on confidence, decisions like that are deflating and Port took control of the match from that point, eventually winning 2-0.

Given that Suphanburi are only in T1 due to another side’s demise, it could be argued that they have used up all of their luck. They now go to Ratchaburi on Sunday in desperate need of a change of fortune.

The Dragons will be boosted by the news that they are likely to go straight into the group stage of ACL 2021, following the withdrawal of Jiangsu FC. Thursday’s 3-1 victory at Samut Prakan City will further lift the home side, so Suphanburi will have their work cut out in their battle for a vital three points.

Muangthong aim to bounce back

The battle for fourth place couldn’t be tighter with just one point separating Bangkok United in fourth spot from Samut Prakan City in eighth.

On Saturday, Muangthong United meet the 2019 champions Chiangrai United in a match both will be desperate to win as they bid to finish fourth and potentially seal a place in the qualifiers for ACL 2022.

Following a battling draw at home to Buriram United last weekend, the 10-man Kirins were thrashed 4-1 by Nakhon Ratchasima in midweek. Mario Gjurovski’s side will quickly have to recover from that capitulation if they want to stay in contention for fourth.

Chiangrai’s 2-0 victory over in-form Police Tero in midweek will have boosted their confidence following an inconsistent run and they will be keen to return to the ACL, having played in the group stage in 2020.

Muangthong’s form does tend to be better at weekends. Their last three defeats have all come in midweek fixtures, while they have taken 13 points from the last five weekend matches.

Saturday night will tell us if that pattern continues and the Kirins begin to look like weekend warriors.

BG face Dennis the Menace as invincible season gets closer

Dennis Murillo put on a four show on Tuesday as Nakhon Ratchasima beat Muangthong United 4-1. The Brazilian striker has scored three hat tricks this season and the four goals in midweek made it 18 for the campaign.

Champions BG Pathum United have edged closer to an unbeaten season as a goalless draw at home to Chiangrai United was followed by a 1-0 victory at Chonburi on Thursday.

It hasn’t been stylish and dominant football but they continue to keep clean sheets and stifle their opponents. Thursday’s shut out was their fifth in succession.

But an in-form Murillo in a Swatcats’ side full of confidence may just present a different type of challenge for BG. Safely in mid-table, the pressure is off Nakhon Ratchasima and they can approach the game without fear.

All other T1 teams have tried and failed to get the better of BG this season but the Swatcats will certainly give it their best shot.

Paul Murphy

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