The international break has drawn to a close, but only a handful of teams are returning to action this weekend.
BG Pathum United and Chiangrai United are set to participate in the AFC Champions League later this month, with the competition falling right on the dates of the domestic league run-in. As a result, their fixtures (along with those of Buriram United, who were eliminated in the playoffs) have been pushed forward.
League leaders Buriram travel to Khon Kaen in a game which could crown the side as champions. They are currently 9 points clear of second-placed BG Pathum with 12 left available, and with a far superior goal difference.
The side were foiled at their last attempt, as BG managed a 1-0 win at the Chang Arena to delay their celebrations until after the international break. Now the King Cobras, led by their former assistant coach Carlos Eduardo Pareira, stand in their way. The seven-time champions should almost have a full complement of players available, including seven returning national team stars, though the fitness of in-form striker Supachai Jaided is in question after he opted out of playing for his country during the most recent break.
BG Pathum’s efforts against Port FC on the same evening will likely be futile in terms of a title defence. However, the Rabbits are in desperate need of points to secure the second-placed spot, which they are currently contesting against local rivals Bangkok United.
They host a Port side with a number of international break returnees on flying form. Bordin Phala’s netted an excellent strike to seal Thailand’s 1-0 win over Suriname, while Tanaboon Kesarat shook off his recent club form to put in a solid shift as a holding midfielder in the War Elephants’ win over Nepal. Meanwhile, new signing William Weidersjo made his debut for the U23 national team, and found the net against both China and Iraq to cap off his energetic performances as the team’s box-to-box midfielder. Meanwhile, BG Pathum will look forward to the return of Chaowat Veerachart, who picked up the man-of-the-match award in his national team debut against Nepal last Wednesday.
Lastly, Chiangrai United host fellow Northerners Chiangmai in a bid to hold on to their fourth place spot. The visitors are 14 points adrift from safety, meaning anything less than a win will confirm their now-inevitable relegation back into the second tier. Given the Beetles upcoming fixture list and Champions League participation, this may be their best chance to pick up three points during the season’s home stretch. The 2019 champions didn’t release any of their players for the international break, meaning stars like Siwakorn and Phitiwat should be fit and fresh for this pivotal encounter. Chonburi, Muangthong, Port and now Nongbua Pitchaya will all be watching this game intently, hoping to capitalise on any slip-ups from the northern side.