Buriram Set for First Major Test
Three games into the season, Buriram United are right where they are hoping to be – perched at the summit of the Thai League. A lethargic draw against Suphanburi was followed up by convincing wins over Police Tero and Chiangmai United, all played at their iconic Chang Arena.
Now on the road for the first time, Buriram travel to the Thammasat Stadium to face what should be a far tougher test on paper against Bangkok United. However, Totchtawan Sripan’s men don’t have momentum on their side, as an opening day victory was followed up by a draw against Port FC and a 3-1 defeat against Samut Prakan City.
This is a fixture where Buriram United and their coach Alexandre Gama normally thrive in. The Thunder Castle haven’t lost an away match against Bangkok United since 2014, and in fact have won 16 of their 20 encounters in all competitions since 2013.
Bangkok United will be combating both the weight of expectation and the weight of history this weekend. However, given that record, the gravity of this fixture is such that a win could change the trajectory of their season.
Pressure on for Surapong’s White Elephants
After a draw and two defeats from their opening games, Chiangmai United have found themselves rooted to the bottom of the Thai League table. It may be early days, but coach Surapong Kongthep is already feeling the pressure and needs to turn results around quickly. He knows better than anyone how much small mistakes can matter and quickly things can turn in a 30-game season; his Sukhothai side looked safe in mid table at the end of last season’s first leg, only to suffer a dramatic final day relegation.
The 42-year-old boss achieved great success at Pattaya United (later Samut Prakan City) earlier in his career, given players he had worked with from a young age and the room to implement his vision. With his current squad, Surapong remains caught between a possession-based game or a defensive, counter-attacking one, and his indecision is seemingly costing the side.
By contrast, coach Teerasak Po-on is beginning his second season with visitors Nakhon Ratchasima, and picked up his first win of the season last weekend. Even though the Swatcats have a lesser squad on paper and suffered from many high-profile departures in the summer, the side’s togetherness and clear footballing identity could be their biggest asset in the fight for survival this season.
This is a clash between two talented and promising managers, and two sides who have their work cut out for them if they want to stay in the top flight. Even this early in the season, its a clash with big ramifications.
Muangthong Return to Action with Ratchaburi Visit
Muangthong return to action after an extra week of rest, as their Matchday 3 encounter against BG Pathum was postponed due to the Rabbits being in quarantine after the AFC Champions League. Fans will be hoping that boss Mario Gjurovski has used this additional time to iron out the mistakes that saw them slump to two draws in their opening two matches, conceding five goals in the process. The side’s commitment to attack and lack of defensive midfield cover is a likely culprit for their struggles so far.
Their opponents Ratchaburi will be familiar with such struggles, previously being known for a similarly relentless attacking approach last season. However, in the aftermath of an AFC Champions League battering and 8th place finish, they have come into the 2021-22 season as a far more pragmatic side.
The Dragons managed to hold on for a draw against Chiangrai United last week with 10 men, ceding 73% to their hosts. We might expect a similar game plan from them in this game, relying on the presence of long time fan favourite Steeven Langil and former Muangthong striker Derley do to the damage on the break. How the Kirin respond to this could determine the outcome of a very crucial fixture.
Elsewhere, both Port and Chonburi picked up their first wins of the season last weekend, and travel to face ‘winnable’ fixtures against Suphanburi FC and Khon Kaen United respectively. Samut Prakan City will be hoping to build on their excellent start to the season with a trip to Police Tero. Masami Taki returns to face his former employers Chiangrai, with his Prachuap side needing points after two draws and a defeat. Lastly, BG are out of action again as the squad remains in quarantine, giving their opponents Nongbua Pitchaya a week off as well.