The day has finally come for the start of the new league season and, with that, our preview comes to an end with the four teams expected to battle it out at the very top of the table. Here’s teams 1, 2, 3, and 4:1
1. Buriram United
Suffered immensely from the sale of Diogo to Malaysian JDT but still only failed to retain the title due to a complete mess up ending in a draw against already relegated Chiangmai FC. The experience of not having the supreme Brazilian bail them out of every possible hardship will undoubtedly be valuable as the young domestic set of players look to take the next step to begin an era of renewed dominance in Thailand. Two new South Americans, Argentinian Bernardo Cuesta and Brazilian Ricardo Bueno, will have until the summer window to try their luck as the club keeps searching for suitable foreign attacking options. If these don’t work out, like more than a few before them, wunderkind Suphanat Meuanta is more than ready to keep breaking records and become a regular starter before even celebrating his 18th birthday, supported by his older brother, Supachok Sarachat who is edging ever closer to moving to a bigger league and would love to pack a gold medal once he’s finally on his way. The back line is intact and the only question mark is Jung Jae-yong, who has arrived to replace Hajime Hosogai, but the resume of the South Korean newcomer suggests it’s a the kind of uncertainty any club in T1 would relish. The title is really Buriram’s to lose going into the season.
Player to watch: Suphanat Meuanta
2. Bangkok United
Regressed in 2019, despite some very good signings ahead of the season, and it looked like Mano Pölking was out the door. The club has showed unusual restraint and maintained faith in their manager, as well as kept the squad intact, yet bringing in Brenner as a replacement for top scorer Nelson Bonilla who is out for half the season with and injury, and some unquestionable quality in Hajime Hosogai as a loanee from Buriram. The consistency should pay off and Bangkok United looks like the most likely obstacle to the title returning to Buriram.
Player to watch: Anon Amonlerdsak
3. Chiangrai United
The most unexpected of champions, but not an undeserved one. A team built over time that is thoroughly solid in every part of the pitch and will continue to be just that. Held on to every key player except Willam Henrique who left for Prachaup, but the way this unit works it shouldn’t weaken Chiangrai the way it would most other teams in the league. An untested new Brazilian winger in the form of Mailson has been brought in as the replacement but Sivakorn Tiatrakul and Ekanit Panya provides enough support to Bill up front for the new arrival to be given time to settle in. Very unlikely to repeat the feat from last year but will make a proper go at it and put some pressure on at least.
Player to watch: Ekanit Panya
4. Port FC
Steadily improving after returning to T1 and finishing 9th in 2017. Consecutive 3rd place finishes since, topped off with an FC Cup win, the clubs first piece of silverware in a decade last year. Big spending during the transfer window, with the massive shock of bringing in bitter rivals Muangthong’s biggest star Heberty Fernandes as the piece de resistance, and everything ready for that final step to claim the title? Not really, big name players have been brought in in the form of Charyl Chappuis, Adisak Kraisorn and the aforementioned Heberty, its just that none of these players bring what Port have been lacking when trying to challenge for the crown. In fact, it’s hard to see any one of them significantly improving the team, especially as Port managers always seem to be under strict orders to play the biggest names, rather than the best players available. 2020 will probably not become the fight not to win the league we saw in 2019, and the more well-functioning competitors will probably end up leaving Port in the dust.
Player to watch: Tanasith Sripala