Following last week’s rain-soaked squeaky bum League Cup win, Port have the chance to knock the Warriors out of another cup competition when the two sides meet in the Chang FA Cup R2 at PAT Stadium on Wednesday (2 August, 19:00). Whilst the T3 side put up a very impressive performance on Wednesday, Port will be overwhelming favourites to proceed into the last 16.
After successive home defeats to Udon and Port, Ayutthaya got back to winning ways at the weekend with a 1-0 away win at Lamphun Warrior to stay in the thick of the T3 promotion battle. Port may have lost 2-1 at home to Chiang Rai, but they put in arguably their best performance of the season and were only denied a win by some out-of-this-world goalkeeping by the Beetles’ new Thai-French goalkeeper Nont. The bastard. If Port play anything like as well as that, they should win fairly comfortably.
For a T3 side, Ayutthaya put up a damn good fight last week and looked a lot better than many of the teams Port faced in T2 last year. That said, they did tire noticeably towards the end and with this being their 3rd game in 8 days, stamina could well be an issue. They’re also right in the middle of a very tight promotion battle and may decide that the FA Cup is worth sacrificing. So will coach Narongthanaporn Choeithaisongchodok (try getting that on a shirt) put out a full-strength team, or will he save his star players for the promotion race?
One thing we’re pretty sure of is that star striker Noah Chivuta will probably miss out, having received a somewhat harsh red card last Wednesday, which means his strike partner Kendall Jagdeosingh, who scored against Port, is almost certain to start. The big Trinidadian caused Port’s defence considerable anxiety last week and, whilst not quite SFS level, is the kind of big, physical, bullying forward Port continually fail to sign.
Other players to look out for are classy defender Jirawat, who was their MOTM last week, and goalkeeper Kerdklung, who made some stunning saves to keep Ayutthaya in the game.
If last week’s side is anything to go by, Zico is taking the cups seriously this season. With Port almost certainly safe from relegation but too far off the top to challenge for the AFC, the cups are our last hope of something to get excited about and with the big clubs falling like skittles in the early rounds, there’s a good chance of reaching another semi-final at least.
With another 5-week break coming up after the weekend, there’s little need to rest players at this stage and so I expect Port to line up with their best XI tomorrow night. Possible changes from the Chiang Rai game? I’d like to see Panpanpong (19) make way for one of his understudies, ideally young Yossawat (28). Panpanpong is A) on loan only and B) far too focused on the “wing” part of his wing-back designation, once again being caught out of position on numerous occasions on Sunday. Yossawat is the future, and if he’s played 5 times for Buriram this season he’s more than good enough for Port. Get him in the team for god’s sake. Otherwise I expect the defence to line up as per usual.
In midfield, the only choice is likely to be between Ittipol (7) and Adisorn (13) for the DM role – I expect Adisorn to get the nod with the more physical (as Tanaboon will attest) Ittipol saved for the more difficult game at Bangkok Glass on Saturday. I’d also like to see Ekkapoom (8) given a runout on the left, but inexplicably he seems to have fallen down the pecking order even behind Tana (99), who is a much better singer than he is a winger. So expect Genki (18) to start.
Up front, Josimar (30) hasn’t looked so sharp since returning from his Evil Knievel escapades, but given that the alternatives are Kaludjerovic (hmmmm…), Tana (no) or Wuttichai (GOD no), he’ll almost certainly start in the hope he can get some morale-boosting goals to bring his goal drought to an end. I also expect Zico to go 4-4-2 again, which means Josi will likely be partnered by Kalu (10), with Suarez (5) given a break after his impressive exertions on Sunday.
THE SANDPIT PREDICTS…
Port have far more quality than their lowly opponents and, coupled with home advantage, should run out comfortable winners. But our inability to keep a clean sheet means Ayutthaya will almost certainly sneak a goal at some point. I’m going for a fairly big win – let’s say 4-1.