Meet me at the crossroads: Port – Buriram, preview

With the game of the season  so far coming up in the Thai League, and me having just gone on a four week break from school, there’s finally time to get a bit more productive on this platform so let’s take a look at the prospect of the two main title contenders facing off in Bangkok, as league leaders Port FC will host reigning champions Buriram United on Sunday. The lions of Klongtoey are 2 points at the top going into the game and a win would mean they stay on top at least until we reach the halfway point of the season at the end of next week. For the Thunder Castle, it’s a chance to reclaim the position they’re accustomed to and set themselves up nicely to retain the title once more. The trio of chasing teams, namely Bangkok United, Chiangrai United and Samut Prakan City, all parked six points behind Port and four behind Buriram at the moment, would relish the draw. Considering the two rounds coming up after this sees Port square up with both Samut Prakan and Chiangrai, while Buriram face the far less intimidating Chiangmai FC and Chonburi FC, the visitors would probably be quite content to bring just the one point back with them to Isaan. This could well prove to be the night where the 2019 Thai League season is defined.

Port went into the international break with 8 consecutive undefeated matches and will hope the two idle weeks since beating Chiangmai haven’t knocked them out of their stride. The team has been looking solid so far, continuing to build on the squad of players that carried them to a third place last year and the much needed depth brought in has worked as planned with the side being quite comfortable in handling suspensions and injuries without compromising with their free flowing, attacking style of play. However, the one player brought in who has had real impact on the starting eleven, Go Seul-ki, is ineligible for this match as he is on loan from Buriram, with a non-compete clause in the deal made between the clubs. The likely replacement, Sumanya Purisai, has not been as successful at his new club but is a seasoned Thai international and undoubtedly has the quality to fill the shoes of the Korean playmaker if he brings his A-game. Go or no-Go, Port will still come into the match with tons of confidence and looking to expand their lead in the table.

Buriram did not have as long a break as Port as they had two games in hand coming into it, the first one was played on June 1st and saw them salvage one point from a late equaliser away to Sukhothai. The other took place on Wednesday and resulted in an easy home win, 5-0, against PTT Rayong so we know that the champions are back on form following a two game stumble that saw them earn only a single point in two supposedly easy games just before the King’s Cup. Thunder Castle has not reached the same heights as in recent years but that is rather easily explained as they, surprisingly to say the least, decided to let go of the most dominant force that Thai football ever saw as Diogo was sold to Malaysian giants JDT. The Brazilian won more than a few games singlehandedly last season and his intended replacement, Modibo Maïga, came and went without contributing anything of value to the team. The club has also made a conscious and admirable effort to put faith in the homegrown players of its youth program with very promising results. 21-year old attacking midfielder Supachok Sarachat has arguably been their best player thus far in 2019 and his younger brother, striker Suphanat Mueanta, just earned his first senior international cap at the tender age of 16. 23-year old winger Sasalak Haiprakhon is also having a very fine season and if Buriram goes on to win the league in the first year of relying on this generation of Thai players, its hard to see anything other than continued long-term domestic dominance for the club.

Unfortunately, some particularly poor scheduling has this game overlapping with the Thailand – Sweden match in the Women’s World Cup in France. One may have thought Madame Pang, footing the bill for both the Thai Women’s NT and Port FC alike, would have tried to have this one changed from a 7PM to a 6PM kick-off, but seeing as she’s in France and won’t make it to the PAT on Sunday anyway, no such luck.
It should be an entertaining evening of football, both sides have gotten to where they are by trying to score goals and last seasons two encounters resulted in a total of eight of them, 2-2 in Bangkok and 3-1 in Buriram. It looks very likely that another high scoring draw is on the cards for tomorrow.

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