With a third of the Thai League season now behind us, the battle lines at both ends of the table are being drawn. Last season’s champions face off against this season’s clear leaders, while two of their direct competitors clash in another six-pointer.
League Leaders Face Off Against Defending Champions
Buriram United have finished the first third of the season with an impressive eight wins from ten matches, which is the same as what last years’ champions BG Pathum United managed. The Rabbits then went on to win all ten of their games in the season’s middle third, culminating in a record-breaking 77 points when adjusted for games played.
They will have a chance to stop Buriram from replicating their next step when they welcome them to the Leo Stadium in this weekend’s standout clash. Aurelio Vidmar’s men currently sit in third place, six points behind their guests with a game in hand. Given the circumstances, avoiding defeat – and by extension, not allowing the other to take all three points – might be the priority for both coaches.
The hosts have finally got the band back together in defence, with Victor Cardozo, Andres Tunez and Irfan Fandi all available for this match, while Jakkaphan Praisuwan has been ruled with a broken forearm. Former Buriram star Diogo Luis Santo (who scored the deciding goal in the reverse fixture last season) is back in training with the Rabbits, but is unlikely to be fit for this match. Buriram defender Digao is also reportedly still unavailable, meaning Rebin Sulaka will likely anchor the defence once again, flanked by Pansa Hemviboon and Chitipat Tanklang.
This battle between two astute tacticians and two sides with ambitions of going all the way promises to be a tight and tense affair.
Angels Travel up North in Search of Points
Bangkok United were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw against Nongbua last weekend, which saw the gap between them and leaders Buriram widen to five points. It was a lethargic performance from Totchtawan Sripan’s men, who were unable to create much and squandered the big chances they were able to fashion, before conceding from a set piece.
However, Chiangrai didn’t fare much better, losing 3-2 from their trip to the capital to face Police Tero. The visitors looked very vulnerable on the counter, shipping two of their three goals in this fashion, in an unusually open and loose defensive performance.
Chiangrai will likely be reading from the blueprint laid out by Nongbua last weekend, given their own propensity for scoring from set pieces and sitting deep to soak up pressure. History suggests that the visitors have the advantage, having won three of their last four visits to the newly renamed ‘Leo Chiangrai Stadium,’ but they will need to be quicker and sharper than they were last week if they hope to continue that good record.
Port Aim to Halt Korat Ascent
Nakhon Ratchasima have had an impressive start to the season so far, and sit just two places below their visitors Port ahead of their clash this weekend. They have pulled off some impressive wins in recent weeks, beating Samut Prakan City 1-0 in their last home game before taking all three points from a long trip to Prachuap.
Port, meanwhile, will hope to return to winning ways after a disappointing defeat to Chonburi last weekend. Dusit Chalermsan has had to shuffle the pack in recent outings, as Nelson Bonilla missed their last match due to fitness concerns, and left-back Jaturapat Sattham was away on international duty with Thailand’s U23s. However, fan favourite Kevin Deeromram returned to the bench for the first time this season after a lengthy injury absence, while the side still possess plenty of attacking threat through the likes of Sergio Suarez and Bordin Phala.
Despite drawing on both of their last two visits to the 80th Birthday Stadium, Port have a strong record overall against the Swatcats, winning five of their last seven matches against them.
Elsewhere, promoted sides Nongbua Pitchaya and Chiangmai United clash, with the latter preparing for their second game under coach Ailton Silva. Chiangmai were left rooted to the bottom of the table after a 3-1 home defeat against BG Pathum last week, and will be eager to take at least a point from the Gamecocks on Saturday.
Fellow newcomers Khon Kaen United lifted themselves out of the relegation zone last weekend with a stunning 4-2 win against Suphanburi FC. They return home to host Police Tero FC on Saturday, who have managed some impressive results so far this campaign.
Lastly, Muangthong United host struggling Suphanburi while Chonburi FC take on Samut Prakan City.