Both Port FC and Buriram United have travelled to South Korea this week in a bid to qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
Port FC face the daunting task of taking on the K League leaders and 2020 Asian Champions Ulsan Hyundai.
The Klongtoei lions have been struggling for form in recent weeks, having failed to win in their last five league outings. As a result, coach Jadet Meelarp has returned to the PAT Stadium dugout, leaving his position as Thailand national team assistant coach. His first game was a 1-0 loss away to Prachuap, before overseeing a scoreless draw against Chiangrai.
Ulsan, meanwhile, have won four of their opening five league games and sit at the summit of the domestic league. They pushed rivals Jeonbuk to the wire last season, falling just two points short in their hunt for a first league title since 2005.
Last season, Hong Myung-bo’s side faced defending Thai League champions BG Pathum in the Champions League group stages. They faced off twice at the LEO Stadium, with the Korean side emerging victorious by a 2-0 scoreline on both occasions. As expected, they will go into their match against Port as heavy favourites.
Meanwhile, runaway league leaders Buriram United have been drawn against Daegu FC. In a stunning twist of fate, they will face off against two-time former boss Alexandre Gama, who left the Thunder Castle just three months ago to take up the gig in Korea.
The game is sure to be an emotionally charged one for both sides. In a recent interview with the Asian Game, the Brazilian tactician admitted to thinking about the game “every day” in recent weeks, despite his side commencing the current domestic season.
Buriram have admittedly excelled since Gama’s departure, poaching former Kashima Antlers boss Masatada Ishii from Samut Prakan City to take charge of the team. The Japanese coach has won 12 of his first 14 games, which has seen them reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup and go a staggering 13 points clear in the league.
Whether the side’s form and ability is enough to close the gulf in quality between the leagues remains to be seen, and makes this clash a hugely compelling one for all Thai League fans.