The domestic league resumes on the back of Thailand’s historic sixth AFF Suzuki Cup title, which put many of the division’s top prospects in the regional spotlight.
However, as we have become sadly accustomed to over the past two years now, the spectre of COVID-19 continues to hang over the league. Buriram United’s trip to Police Tero has already been postponed due to quarantine restrictions in the former’s home province, and there are rumours that others could be as well.
Keep up to date with the latest news on our Thai League Central twitter page, as well as the clubs’ respective social media accounts – with Facebook typically being the best option. That being said, here are the games to look out for, if they go ahead.
Bangkok Eye Return to Summit against Port
Bangkok United were pushed off the top of the Thai League as the final action of the first leg due to a surprising 2-0 loss against Suphanburi, which saw Buriram overtake them on goal difference. Coach Totchtawan Sripan has had ample time to diagnose the issues, though without the two crucial players in the heart of his midfield who were on international duty.
Their hosts on Sunday, Port FC, come into this game on the back of another busy transfer window, which saw them add Thai National Team goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan and striker Adisak Kraisorn to their squad, as well as in-form winger Janepob Phokhi. A number of exciting young talents from Thailand’s most recent U23 qualifiers have also been snapped up.
Both Port and Bangkok United have a tendency to struggle against their fellow big sides, which makes encounters between the pair very interesting. Bangkok United have only got the better of Port once in their last six meetings in all competitions. However, all of Port’s recent wins over the Angels have come on the road – they haven’t managed a victory on their own patch since 2013.
On the back of an extended break and an international tournament, this game is extremely difficult to predict and could genuinely go either way.
Will Chonburi’s First Leg Form Continue?
Another notable match sees Muangthong United travel to Chonburi.
The Kirin come into the second leg with a few new faces, having added Estronian striker Henri Anier and Swedish-Filipino central defender Jesper Nyholm to their squad; both of whom are likely to be crucial players for the side. However, the former is still in quarantine after arriving in Thailand, and it remains to be seen whether the latter will be involved from the outset.
Chonburi will be without star midfielder Worachit Kanitsribampen after his 30-million Baht move to defending champions BG Pathum United. However, Kritsada Kaman returns after being one of the standout performers at the AFF Cup, and the rest of the squad will likely be fit and sharp after a productive break – which interestingly saw them take on Thailand’s U19 side in a friendly match.
The two sides met early in the season and played out a hotly contested and controversial 3-3 draw in Nonthaburi. Since then, the Sharks have over-performed their expectations, and impressively sit third in a very competitive fight for Champions League places. They are currently on a seven game unbeaten run, with their last defeat being a 1-0 loss at the Thammasat Stadium against Bangkok United back in October. The hosts will be eager to show that they are unaffected by the major departure and their momentum can carry over to the second leg.
New signings to star in relegation clash?
Suphanburi FC arguably had the most impressive transfer market foray of any T1 side, and have added substantially to their squad despite the loss of captain Suphan Thongsong. William Henrique has to quality to replicate the work of Caion and Assumpcao last season in keeping the War Elephants afloat, though his lack of football in recent months could be a concern. Jakkit Wachpirom and Saringkan Promsupa are probably the pick of their nine local arrivals.
On the other hand, Chiangmai United added two big names to their squad, Bill Rosimar and Ekanit Panya, both on loan from neighbours Chiangrai. Both players were crucial for coach Ailton Silva in the Beetles’ 2019 Thai League title win, and were considered among the finest players in their respective roles in the league until their struggles this season. There is no doubt that both Bill and Ekanit possess game-changing quality, and they will likely be key to reviving Chiangmai United’s season.
The Northern outfit can’t afford to get anything less than a win in this match. Their eight-point gap from the next survival spot makes the task seem like mission impossible, but crazier things have happened. Can Chiangmai United take their first steps toward a great escape this weekend?
Elsewhere, new Samut Prakan City boss Yasushi Yoshida makes his debut on Saturday evening as his side host Nongbua Pitchaya. The Gamecocks now have former Sea Fang star and 2020-21 season top scorer Barros Tardeli on their books, alongside this season’s best marksman Hamilton Soares.
Defending champions BG Pathum hope to return to form in the second leg, after ending the first with a three-game winless run, when they travel to Ratchaburi. Meanwhile, Chiangrai United face a tough task with their trip to Nakhon Ratchasima, as three crucial players have only just joined the squad after representing Thailand at the AFF Cup.
Lastly, another crucial relegation six-pointer sees Prachuap host Khon Kaen United. The Killer Wasps saw a whole host of new arrivals announced shortly before deadline day, and will be eager to take all three points in their attempt to climb out of the relegation zone.