With the 2021-22 Thai League 2 campaign now underway, it is time to rub the old crystal ball and make this season’s predictions.
The 2020-21 season took over a year to complete; starting on 16 February 2020 and finishing on 31 March 2021. Many games were played behind closed doors or with reduced capacity crowds. It was to the credit of the League, players and officials that the competition was completed.
This new campaign also begins under tight COVID-19 restrictions, which differ across the country’s various risk zones.
First of all, the changes from last season:
Rayong, Sukhothai and Trat were relegated from T1 where they were replaced by Nongbua Pitchaya, Chiangmai United and Khon Kaen United. Sisaket, Uthai Thani and Samut Sakhon were relegated into the third tier and have been replaced by Lamphun Warriors, Muangkan United and Rajpracha FC.
MOF Customs United are now known as Customs Ladkrabang United FC. Udon Thani FC have relocated to the SAT Stadium some distance east of the city.
Some of the clubs have changed or separated from their patrons. Udon Thani FC are no longer managed by Muangthong United, who have instead sent their young players to Ayutthaya United this season. Meanwhile, Lampang appears to have become the support club for Nongbua. Chiangmai FC remains part of the BG Empire which also includes Rajpracha FC, while Khon Kaen FC appears to have left and pursued ties with Buriram United instead. While this provides the clubs with some financial stability, the potential for conflicts of interest is undeniable.
A handful of last year’s predictions were pretty much on the mark – for both Chiangmai clubs and Nongbua. But my Sisaket prediction (promotion) was a shining example of why this should not be taken too seriously.
In what could become a battle of mediocrity there really is no standout side in the Championship this season. This should make for a very competitive league; low on quality but high on unpredictability.
So here we go – alphabetically!
First up is Ayutthaya United. They were one of last season’s surprises; rock bottom after the first four games, but they used the first COVID-19 shutdown to rebuild their team and finished 9th. Today, however, they are now under the management of Muangthong United, who have filled the squad with their young reserve and academy players. Given how Udon Thani struggled under this arrangement, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect something similar for the Ayutthaya Warriors. Prediction: 18th
Chainat Hornbill FC finished 6th last season – good enough for a play-off spot. They have a young Thai squad led by Warayut, their top scorer last season. They have made some interesting additions, such as Douglas from Navy, Wellington from Trat FC and Bardar Al -Alawi from Khon Kaen United. Trinidadian centre-back Daneil Cyrus has joined from Erbil in the Iraqi Premier League and may be one of the season’s better acquisitions. Prediction: 3rd
Chiangmai FC fielded a fairly decent squad last season, but most of their key players were let go at the end of the campaign. Their replacements, with maybe one notable exception, are either not of the same quality or are BG Pathum United youth players sent north for some competitive experience. Three new overseas strikers have joined: Kabaev from relegated Sisaket, Danilo from Customs and Seiya Sugishita who scored regularly for Khon Kaen FC. Velijko Filipovic looks the pick of the new players; at 1.97 he looks like a granite mountain and was impressive for Ayutthaya last season. That being said, I think that this squad will struggle. An injection of new talent may be needed mid-season. Prediction: 12th.
Onto Customs Ladkrabang United FC. Mixed Thai/German Nico Bergold joins from Nonthaburi United at centre-back. Brazilian forward Elias joins from the Ibri club in Oman, while Evangelos Skraparas has arrived from the 4th tier of German football. Young Swedish/Afghani forward Moshtaq Ahmadi has also joined the club. Ex-Ranong manager Damian Bellon is now in charge after a few successful seasons with the Andaman Sharks. Customs were 13th last season – they will struggle again but should be safe. Prediction: 14th
Kasetsart FC are another Bangkok based side with fairly limited ambition. New hires include former Muangthong United center-back in Celio Santos and the well-traveled Serbian striker Nikola Komazec. Beyond that, young midfielder Sarawut Nilphan looks like an exciting talent, while attackers Sundy Wongderee and Sakunchai Saengthopho have been brought in from on loan from Muangthong to add some energy up top. That being said, this side doesn’t particularly inspire confidence and could be drawn into the relegation battle this season. Prediction: 16th
Khon Kaen FC finished 10th last season. The side have seemingly aligned themselves with Buriram United this season, taking a number of young players on loan from the Thunder Castle such as Thirapak Pruengna, Thanadol Kaosart and Kritsana Daokrajai among others. They are coached by Masayuki Miura, who took charge of Uthai Thani for a short period last season. Koki Narita, a Japanese center forward has arrived from Phitsanulok FC while Milan Bubalo joins from Ayutthaya United. They will be resilient at home but may not travel as well. Prediction: 10th