After predictions of peril during the off-season, the start to the 2021-22 Thai League season has been fairly encouraging. So far, no side has managed to take full points from both of their opening games, and the competition is averaging a stunning 3.13 goals per match.
Totchtawan and Ishii Hope to Build on Encouraging Starts
Friday night’s game sees Samut Prakan City play their first home match of the season, opening their doors to welcome Bangkok United. Both sides have picked up four points from their opening two games, and can take heart from two encouraging performances.
Much has been made of how off-season transfers have affected these two sides’ expectations. Bangkok United’s recent acquisitions have put them back in the title race discussion, while very little is expected from Samut Prakan City after their notable outgoings. The pressure will be on the visitors to repeat the positive result they got in this fixture last season.
Both coaches Masatada Ishii and Totchtawan Sripan are committed to playing open, expansive football and prefer to take the game to their opponents. This will be the fourth meeting between the two managers, with the first two coming in the AFC Champions League when the former coached Japanese side Kashima Antlers and the latter was at the helm of Muangthong United. So far, Totchtawan has prevailed twice while Ishii once.
Early Six-pointer as Bottom Two Face Off
Nakhon Ratchasima finished week two as the only team yet to collect a single point this campaign, a sign of how competitive the league is set to be this year. The Swatcats have shown plenty of fight in their two matches, and came within seconds of sealing an impressive draw at the Singha Stadium last time out.
However, on balance, one would expect that the side will be battling relegation once again this season. Their weekend opponents Police Tero, currently one place above them on the Thai League table, are expected to be in a similar predicament, giving their match added significance.
It would be unfair to deem this a ‘relegation fight’ just three games into the season. However, given that neither side has invested significantly in their squad and have ageing players in key positions, keeping them in the division will likely be a tough task for coaches Teerasak Po-on and Rangsan Vivatchaichok respectively. Picking up wins early will be crucial to build confidence for the season.
Buriram Looking to Build Momentum
It took almost 135 minutes of cumulative football at the Chang Arena for Buriram United to finally find the net, but Supachok Sarachart’s excellent effort on the stroke of half time last week against Police Tero seems to have awakened the side we are all familiar with. The floodgates opened in the second half, and the game ended with three goals scored from 17 attempts.
They now have their third home game in a row, hosting Chiangmai United on Saturday. The Northerners picked up their first point of the season courtesy of a 97th minute goal from Todsapol Lated last week, as he was first to reach the rebound after Saharat Kanyaroj’s free kick was saved by Patrick Deyto.
While Chiangmai tried to be more enterprising in their last encounter, we can expect a full retreat to a deep-block defence from Surapong Kongthep’s men in this match. That should make three consecutive home games of a very similar complexion for Buriram, who seem to be slowly sharpening their claws and easing into the new season. If they can maintain the intensity they showed in the second half last week, an upset in this game is unlikely.
Elsewhere, Chonburi are looking for their first win of the season when they host Nongbua Pitchaya. Port are in a similar situation and will be heavy favourites when they host Khon Kaen United. Suphanburi and Prachuap are also yet to register victories and will be looking to take full points off each other.
Ratchaburi have remarkably never beaten Chiangrai United, after 18 meetings across all competitions, and are looking to correct that after last week’s defeat. Lastly, BG Pathum and their would-be opponents Muangthong are given a week off as the Rabbits will be in quarantine after returning from their AFC Champions League exploits in Korea.