We’re finally back! Thai League has released the 2021-2022 season fixtures. Serious doubts are hovering in the air regarding the September 3, 2021 date but let’s try to be as positive as possible and assume they’ll start with games played behind closed doors.
So let’s not waste any time and dive straight into the opening set of five games. Which team can ease their way into the season? Who’s got the most formidable opponent lined up? What about early upsets that fans should look out for? We got you covered.
Easiest Starting Five:
In the past four seasons, the team that has gone on to win the league only lost once in their opening five games (Chiang Rai in 2019), which emphasizes the importance of a quality start.
Six-time Thai League (T1) champions Buriram United will have a smile on their face when they glance at the opening run of fixtures. Three of the opening five games are against sides that finished in the bottom half of last season (Suphanburi-13, Police Tero-11, and Prachuap-10); meanwhile, the Thunder Castle gets to host newly-promoted Chiang Mai United. Those hoping for an upset should know that no team from Chiang Mai (both CMFC and CMUTD) has ever beat Buriram.
Their ‘toughest’ fixture is that fourth match where they will face Bangkok United away. But this won’t be much of a worry for Gama’s men as the last time Buriram lost to Bangkok United dates back to October 22, 2014. Since then, 16 games have been played between the two teams; Buriram won 11, while the remaining matches ended all square.
With the combination of new talented Thai players and consistency in keeping last year’s foreigners with the squad, Buriram United’s chance of starting a perfect five in five is brighter than a sunny day in Esan. The opening fixtures bring an excellent beginning to their quest for that missing T1 trophy.
Hardest Starting Five:
Moving on to a team that won’t be as excited about their opening five games has to be Ratchaburi. Their impressive start to last season’s leg 1 earned the Dragons a spot in the AFC Champions League 2021. However, it was a disappointing campaign for Ratchaburi as they managed zero goals and zero wins from six matches. Still, to wrap up the tournament with two goalless draws can be seen as somewhat of a silver lining.
Ratchaburi begins the 2021-2022 season with a winnable game versus T1 newcomers Khon Kaen United, but from then, the next four games are uphill battles against sides that all finished above them in the table last year.
It starts with the arduous trip to LEO Stadium against the reigning champs BGPU. Ratchaburi’s last league win in Pathum Thani goes all the way back to June of 2014.
Things get more complicated from there as the Dragons face off against the 2019 champs Chiang Rai, a side Ratchaburi have never beaten before (they’ve played each other 18 times). They’ll also look for a first win at the Thunder Dome in Muangthong Thani the following week, before capping off with a tricky fixture against Bangkok United at home. Tough.
With two of the four foreign players they used for ACL2021 already out of the team, a bunch of new Thai players were added late into the roster. Who could forget superstar singer ‘Tono’ Phakin still training with them, it’s looking like a bumpy ride to start the 21/22 season for Ratchaburi. There’s no doubt about the quality of players the Dragons have. But fans have yet to see the proper execution on the pitch.
Considering all the listed factors, two wins from the opening five games would already be a decent achievement.
Upset Alert :
It’s normal for every season to have early upsets. Muangthong’s ‘Dream Team’ in 2016 lost back-to-back games on MD4 and MD5 at home against then BEC Tero and Bangkok United. Last season Buriram had the worst ever start to a T1 season before finishing runners up. So it’s normal to expect the unexpected in Thai Football.
A game that will be on many people’s radar for an early upset is on MD1 at Chonburi Stadium. BGPU’s road to defending their title starts at the 13th place finishers, but don’t let the standings fool you.
The Sharks were a penalty kick away from securing the FA Cup title, and the off-season acquisitions show they aren’t messing around. Dennis Murillo’s 21-goal season combined with Gidi Kanyuk’s passing ability will be a threat going forward. Combine that with young talents such as the likes of Chatmongkol Rueangthanarot, Kritsada Kaman, and Worachit Kanitsribampen, this team has the ability to cause trouble against any side (just ask Buriram).
BGPU shouldn’t strut confidently into Chonburi because Sasom fears no one and this Chonburi side on paper is one of the better sides in T1. Fans can definitely get excited about this one.