Saturday’s trip to Ratchaburi will bring the curtain down on an eventful 2017 season for Port. We’ve had the usual ups, downs, managerial mayhem and transfer tomfoolery. Along the way we’ve beaten our biggest rivals, been thrashed by a team who got relegated and done just about everything in-between. There were goals-a-plenty, brave come-backs, leads thrown away, more penalties than most shoot-outs and enough yellow cards to make Big Sam blush. So, what should we expect on Saturday? Well, more of the same would be a safe bet. Expect goals, penalties, cards, ridiculous substitutions and maddening tactical maneuvers. Expect good, bad and ugly football, beautiful skills, inexplicable errors and shameless cheating. Expect passionate support, emotional farewells, soppy speeches and most of all a very unhealthy amount of photos. Expect Port to be Port, because that’s just all we know how to do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anyway, before I start getting too sentimental, there’s an opposition to dissect. Scalpel, please…
Marcel Essombe (18) enjoyed a superb first half of 2017, banging in 13 goals in 14 starts and being among the highest scorers in the league. He has slowed down a little in the second half of the season, scoring 6 times in 14 starts, but is still undoubtedly among the best strikers in the league. His height and strength make him a handful for any defence, and he will provide a particularly tough test for Todapol (6) if he keeps his place ahead of the more physical Dolah (4). What Port wouldn’t have given for a tall striker as proficient in the air as Essombe this season! Interestingly, Essombe hasn’t started Ratchaburi’s last 2 league games, although he came off the bench to provide a crucial late assist during Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Honda.
In a truly comedic twist for Port fans, the man who has taken Essombe’s place up front in the last 2 league games is former Port ‘striker’ Sompong Soleb (14). Yeah, that’s right, I can’t even bring myself to highlight his name. That’s how bad he is. Combine the work-rate of Tana, the skill of Weera, the strength of Siwakorn, the positional discipline of Panpanpong and the sportsmanship of Suarez, and you have Sompong. He’s like the Frankenstein’s monster of shit footballers. With 6 goals (and no assists… #teamplayer) to his name in 2017 you could argue that he’s less awful than Tana, but I’d take issue with that. Yes, this guy is that bad!
Alharbi El Jadeyaoui (10) is a French-born Moroccan who plays on the left wing. He’s tall, rangy and looks pretty dangerous, although with just 5 goals and 7 assists in 2017 he probably doesn’t do as much damage going forward as he should. Expect the much taller Alharbi to give Nitipong (34) a tough test on Saturday, but be hit-and-miss with his end product.
Half-Thai full-backs Kevin Deeromram (23) and Philip Roller (33) have had breakthrough seasons in 2017. At just 19, Kevin is one of the youngest players to feature regularly in T1, and has provided a goal and 8 assists so far in 2017. He is superb on the ball, and one of the best crossers around. Philip has also looked excellent since joining Ratchaburi for the second leg, but has not been nearly as productive from the right. Playing about half his games at full-back and half in midfield, Philip has notched up just 2 assists. If the 23 year old can sort out his final ball, he will be a real handful.
In their opening-day encounter, Port were frustrated by a superb performance from centre-half Santos. Port fans will be happy to hear that the Brazilian has now moved on, although the main man at the back on Saturday will be the bigger and possibly scarier Joel Sami (3). I haven’t seen much of this 1.91m Congolese centre half, but he seems to tick all the boxes for a top foreign defender in the Thai league.
Ratchaburi will likely introduce dynamic youngster Montree Promsawat (14) in the second half. This 22 year old right winger is mighty pacy, and will be the last thing a tiring Panpanpong (19) wants to see. Former national team player Rungrath Poomchantuek (11), who was linked to Port mid-season will also likely start on the bench and look to make an impact late on.
Ratchaburi come in to Saturday’s game on a tidy run of form, having secured 4 wins and suffered 2 losses in their last 6. The wins came against Sisaket, Suphanburi, Navy and Honda, with the defeats against Bangkok Utd and Buriram. Port are in even better nick, though, having won 4, drawn 1 and suffered 1 defeat. The defeat came in Zico’s final game in charge against Chonburi, meaning Jadet has an unbeaten run to defend. Wins against Pattaya and Nakhon Ratchasima were followed by a draw with Muangthong, after which Port dispatched Super Power and Sisaket with ease in their last 2 games. Both teams have been scoring for fun, and neither has kept a clean sheet in their last 5 games.
Usually these Starting XIs are pretty straightforward, but on Saturday pretty much nothing would surprise me. Could the old guard be given one last hurrah? They certainly could. Ittipol (7), Pakasit (2), Wuttichai (14) and Tana (99) – none of whom should be at the club next season – could very well be called upon. Could those who have barely made it on to the pitch be given a sympathy run-out? Watchara (66) in goal perhaps, Pakasit and Anisong (15) at the back and Narakorn (29) and Siwapong (97) in midfield? I can see that happening. Equally, foreign stars Josimar (30) and Genki (18) could be given game-time in a Port shirt for the last time, and home-town boy Ekkapoom (8) could be made captain for the day. And what about the youngsters? Could Meechok (20) and Yossawat (28) get starts at fullback? Who knows? The one thing that’s almost certain is that if I make fantastical predictions then Jadet will almost certainly pick his best XI and I’ll look like a plum. Or the reverse. So, let’s just say this almost certainly isn’t going to be who Jadet will pick.
The match will be shown live on True Sport 2 at 18:00 on Saturday 18 November, 2017. For those who can’t make it to Ratchaburi, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount while you’re at it!