As the first leg of the Thai League season draws to a close, it is looking like a three horse race at the top as Buriram United, Bangkok United and BG Pathum vie for the summit.
In this penultimate weekend, no less than four coaches return to face their former sides, with the matches having ramifications at both the top and bottom of the Thai League table.
BG Pathum United’s head coach Dusit Chalermsan may be the greatest example ever of the Thai League’s game of managerial musical chairs.
After guiding The Rabbits to the 2020-21 Thai League title in spectacular fashion, he was surprisingly dismissed by the club, officially due to his lack of sufficient licences to coach in the AFC Champions League.
His replacement Aurelio Vidmar guided the side to the last sixteen of that competition, and was well-placed to mount a title defence. Meanwhile, in his next job as head coach of Port FC, Dusit struggled to mould the squad in his own image, and resigned from his position after the club collected just 15 points from their opening 11 games, leaving them in 8th place.
It makes perfect sense, then, that the Rabbits took this opportunity to welcome back their former coach, dismissing Vidmar and paving the way for Dusit’s return. (Editors note: sarcasm)
After losing 3-1 against Nongbua Pitchaya in his first game back, Dusit now travels to face the Port side he just left, desperately needing a win to build on Vidmar’s work. Since his departure, the Klongtoei Lions have reappointed Sarawut Treephan and comfortably beat both Ratchaburi FC and Chiangrai United, looking a formidable side once again.
The biggest beneficiaries of this turmoil at BG might well be Totchtawan Sripan’s Bangkok United, who have emerged as solid title contenders over the past few weeks, with emphatic victories over Police Tero and Chiangrai United, 5-0 and 4-0 respectively.
This weekend, the side that Totchtawan previously guided to a Thai League title, Muangthong United, stand in their way. Mario Gjurovski’s men have struggled on the road this season, winning just one game from six on their travels, compared with four wins from six at home. On the other hand, the Angels are yet to lose at home this season, winning four and drawing two.
Meanwhile, the last few weeks haven’t gone as planned for Buriram United. Their 1-0 defeat in Pathum Thani saw them lose ground to their title rivals. It was followed by a frustrating goalless draw at home against Nongbua Pitchaya and a stunning 2-0 away defeat against Chonburi as they were replaced at the summit.
The side desperately need to return to winning ways this Saturday, but an in-form Khon Kaen United side currently stands in their way. Two wins in their last four games saw the King Cobras climb out of the relegation zone, and they were only denied a huge point against Bangkok United last weekend by a stoppage time frenzy.
This will be a significant game for the visitors’ coach, Carlos Eduardo Parreira, as he previously served as Alexandre Gama’s assistant at the Thunder Castle last season. The 40-year-old Brazilian has done an excellent job so far, but taking anything from his former employers this weekend could be his biggest achievement yet.
The final manager facing his former side this weekend is Ailton Silva, as his Chiangmai United welcome their northern neighbours Chiangrai. The former title-winning boss is yet to pick up any points after four outings with the White Elephants, leaving them eight points adrift of safety while they have only collected six all season. Time is running out for Ailton to make his mark, and the visit of a side he helped build may be a chance to pick up his first points.
Elsewhere, Prachuap’s new boss Issara Sritaro kicks things off with the visit of Police Tero. Meanwhile, Chonburi will hope to keep their place in the top four with a trip to Nakhon Ratchasima.
Nongbua Pitchaya will be high on confidence after their midweek win over their defending champions, as they travel to the Mitr Phol Stadium to take on Ratchaburi. Lastly, Suphanburi will hope to end their seven-game losing streak with their visit to Samut Prakan City, who are also in desperate need of points.