Next Wednesday (26 July, 18:30) Port make the short trip north to face Ayutthaya Utd in R1 of the Toyota League Cup. Now I’m firmly of the view that this competition should, as happens in England, take place during the first half of the season. It would avoid fixture congestion during the second leg, and the final would be a nice way to go into the mid-season break. Obviously as it’s a fairly sensible idea designed to make Thai football more attractive to fans it will never happen, and so after a 3-week break, Port find themselves playing 4 games in 11 days, before a 5-week break.
Given that Ayutthaya (aka Ayutthaya Warrior) ply their trade in T3, they may as well be the fucking Illuminati as far as finding out factual information online is concerned. What we do know is that, until 2016, they went under the somewhat less catchy name of Sena Municipality FC before becoming Ayutthaya Utd in 2016, and later merging with the already existent Ayutthaya Warrior FC to form a united Ayutthaya team, hence, one presumes, the name; although there is also an Ayutthaya FC who, to make matters even more confusing, sit one place behind Utd in T3 Upper.
They play in dark blue shirts with a sky blue chevron action flash a la Alan Partridge, play at the Ayutthaya Province Stadium, and were promoted from Central Division last season to take their place in Thai T3 Upper (AKA Euro Cake League Pro). Their star player is former Swatcat striker and Zambian international Noel Chivuta (read an interview with Noel here). They’re currently 4th, 2 pts off promotion, and recently beat Chonburi 3-2 in R1 of the FA Cup, so will fancy their chances of causing an upset against a Port team who aren’t exactly pulling up any trees at the moment.
Since taking over from Jadet towards the end of the last break, Zico has shown little desire to tinker with a generally successful formula and has stuck with the 4-5-1 that has, on the whole, served Port well this season. Cup games, however, offer coaches the opportunity to have a fiddle with the players, as it were, and give a runout to some of those who aren’t otherwise getting much action. So it’s somewhat hard to predict what the lineup will be.
What we do know is that young keeper Rattanai (17) is out after picking up a nasty looking shoulder injury against Ubon, and will likely miss the next 4 games, so we probably won’t see him until after the next break. Worawut (36) would seem the logical replacement, but I suspect Zico will give loyal backup keeper and part-time rapper Watchara (clickety-click 66) a game to get him up to speed should he be needed in the upcoming league games.
Defensively, I fancy Meechok (20) to get the nod at RB ahead of Nitipong, with any 2 of 3 from Dolah (4), Rochela (22) and Pravinwat (55) starting in central defence. I also hope promising new boy Yossawat (28) finally gets a start at LB – it’s probably between him and Jetjinn (51).
Midfield is harder to call – will Zico use the game to get his first choice midfielders back into action after the layoff, or will he give them a break? Your guess is as good as mine but given the opposition I expect him to play a 4-4-2 which could see Siwakorn (16), Pakorn (9), Genki (18) and possibly Ittipol (7) starting; new boys Pummared (41) and Jadue (32) may also feature.
Up front Josimar (30), was pictured back in training at the club’s recent camp in Nakhon Ratchasima after his motorbike injury and will no doubt be in contention for a place. Will Zico use the game to ease the Brazilian gently back into action, will he stick with Kaludjerovic (10) who is starting to find his shooting boots, will he give starts to Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) OH NO PLEASE GOD NO, or will we see a first official appearance for Palestinian forward Jadue? As I said, I think it will be a 4-4-2 and Zico may use the occasion to see if Josi & Kalu can play together, which I believe they can. Kalu isn’t a lone striker but will surely thrive on the service he’ll get from Josi and goals will inevitably flow like the Leo which I hope we will be allowed to drink on the terraces whilst watching.
The game takes place at Ayutthaya Province Stadium which, if Google Maps is to be believed, is only a 5-minute drive from Ayutthaya railway station. So we’ll be letting the train take the strain. There’s a 15:20 Rapid (it’s all relative) train from Hualamphong which arrives in Ayutthaya at 16:56 and costs a bargain 65BHT, then coming back the only option is the 21:42 DRC service which gets back to Bangkok at 22:55 and costs a somewhat pricier 345BHT.
If you want to join us, we’ll be meeting at Hualamphong at about 3pm.