Where Angels Fear to Tread? Port FC vs Bangkok Utd Preview

 

After Sunday’s calamitous defeat at Police Tero, Port face arguably their biggest challenge of the season so far on Saturday (19:00) when Mano Polking and his Bangkok Utd side roll into Khlong Thoey. It’s the first of a trio of games – along with away to Buriram and home to surprise package Prachuap – that will almost certainly define Port’s season and tell us if the club’s AFC bid is for real.

 

The Opposition

The Angels are a much-changed lineup from the side that demolished Port on three separate occasions last season. Following last season’s traumatic FA Cup final defeat to Chiang Rai (the most exciting game I saw all year), BU’s owner wielded the axe and got rid of the club’s vaunted attacking trio of Boskovic (now at Port), Mario Djurovski (Glass) and Jaycee John (Air Force), replacing them with players largely new to Thai football.

Whilst the new-look side aren’t quite setting T1 alight the way they did last season (when they were, on their day, the scariest attacking force in the division by some distance), they’ve made a fairly solid start with 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats, and are sitting in the chasing pack that is forming behind Buriram, Sukhothai, Prachuap & Port. The good news for Port is that BU aren’t scoring anything like as freely as last season, and are yet to keep a clean sheet.

Danger Men

Port will need to keep a very close eye on no11 Sumanya Purisay, who has scored 5 goals in 7 games from midfield this season. In the absence of last season’s goal machines, and as BU’s new strikers adjust to the pace of Thai football, Sumanya has stepped up and, with an assist to his name as well, been involved in exactly half of the team’s goals. The message is simple to Port – stop Sumanya, and the chances are you’ll stop BU.

Of the club’s new boys, MF Vander Luiz would also have caused Port’s defenders a few sleepless nights. The Brazilian had a superb 2017 season at Chiang Rai, with 9 goals & 15 assists in all competitions, and he’s already notched 3 goals and 2 assists for his new club this season. I say “would have”, because Luiz managed to get himself off against his former club last weekend and will thus be suspended on Saturday – bad news for BU, great news for Port!

His fellow Brazilian Robson joined BU from Paranas in the close season, and in 6 appearances has already got 3 goals and an assist.

These potentially dangerous attackers will be supported by former Port RB Ekkachai, who, now playing as a winger, has had a superb start to 2018 with 2 goals and a couple of assists to his name already.

So whilst BU may not be the sphincter-loosening, balls-out attacking machine they were in 2017, it’s still likely to be a busy evening for Rochela & co.

The Manager’s Verdict

Who better to help us preview the match than Bangkok Utd’s manager himself, all-round top fella and friend of The Sandpit, Mano Polking

BUFC have made a pretty solid start – how happy are you with the way things are going? How are your new players settling in?
After 7 matches if we talk about a good start I would say we are probably missing two points. The ties against Suphan and Prachuap are still a bit painful for me cause we created chances enough to win both games. Big changes need a bit of time but I’m very happy with the new players. They are very professional and already got a good understanding with the rest of the team.

What are the club’s ambitions for 2018?
It will never change. We want a title and we want to go to the Champions League.

Which other teams have impressed you the most this season? Who do you think will win T1?
Sukhothai and Prachuap are very dangerous teams with fast and skillful players upfront. And of course your lovely Port 🙂
If in the next games we don’t find a team that can stop Buriram’s run they are clearly favourites for the title.

 

Have Port impressed you so far this season? Which Port players will you be keeping a special eye on next Saturday?
Port is impressing everyone but being honest that is not a big surprise for me. If you keep your good players, buy for that amount of money three Thai national team players, invest a lot on an Asian quota bringing a experience champions league winner plus the top scorer of last season you should play a good role in the season. And on top of that you have by far the best crowd and atmosphere in the league that keep pushing you for 90 minutes. Its too early to predict where you will finish but for sure it will be a great year for you guys. Simple like that.
We have to be very careful with all players. Port has a clear eleven at the moment and too much potential to score goals and are defending quite well.

Finally, give us your UNBIASED score prediction for the game…
Port 1-2 Bangkok United 😉

NB We did a full interview with Mano prior to this fixture last season – click here to read it. 

 

Port Lineup

The media used to refer to Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri as ‘The Tinkerman’, for his constant lineup tweaks and squad rotation. Whatever the opposite of Tinkerman is, that’s Jadet. Once he has his first XI in his head, then the rest of the squad may as well stay home with their feet up, because they ain’t getting near the starting lineup. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and until Sunday, that first XI had certainly delivered. The problem is, when they don’t deliver, Sir Det doesn’t seem to have a Plan B. His experiment against Air Force – dropping Suarez, bringing in Adisorn and pushing Kim further forward – seemed to be working brilliantly for the first half, but fell badly apart in the second half, so it was no surprise when normal service was resumed at Police Tero – and no surprise when, with the team 2-0 down and looking pretty clueless against a team who were pressing them all over the pitch, Jadet had no idea how to change things.

Several things became apparent on Sunday. Firstly, Athibordee is not comfortable at CB, and there is no need to play him out of position when a fit Dolah is on the bench. Secondly, Kim hasn’t looked fit all season and, against pressing, counter-attacking opponents, was exposed time & time again. Aung Thu must’ve been delighted to have so much space to work in. Thirdly, neither Nurul or Pakorn are comfortable on the left, so time to drop one of them and give Bodin or Terens a start. Alternatively, drop Suarez (he gave the ball away pretty much every time he touched it on Sunday) and bring Bodin in as an AM, in the hope that he can strike up a similar partnership with Boskovic as Mario had last season, as the big fella is looking totally isolated up front and needs more service to feet. There is little point in spending top dollar on T1’s top striker if you aren’t going to adapt your style of play to accommodate him.

Will Jadet freshen things up, or stick with the side that has given Port 4 wins out of 4 at home this season? I think we know the answer to that one. But whatever he does, Port will have to be a LOT sharper and more energetic than they were at Tero, otherwise another hammering could well ensue, and if that is followed by a pasting at Buriram, La Pang may well be sharpening the axe.

Here’s my preferred XI for Saturday:

 

 

Port FC vs Bangkok Utd, Saturday 7 April 19:00. If you can’t make it to the game, it’ll be on True 2, and will also be shown chez Sandpit sponsors The Sportsman if you ask them nicely. 

 

Tim Russell

Tim Russell

The founder and editor of The Sandpit, Tim has been in SE Asia since 2003 and in Bangkok since 2012, where he runs a travel tech business. Tim has followed Port FC since 2014, and is also a fan of his hometown club Coventry City, and French club AS St-Etienne. He has written for the likes of Football365, ITV.com, NME and The Quietus, and is a regular contributor to God Is In the TV. He's a keen photographer and his work can be seen on his website.

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