The precariousness of Port’s unlikely bid to snatch the final ACL spot from under the noses of rivals Muangthong was brought sharply in to focus on Wednesday night, with Buriram crashing out of the League Cup to underdogs Bangkok Glass. Port need Buriram to prevail in the other cup – the FA Cup – meaning that the final ACL qualifying spot will be passed to the team who finishes third in the league. It’s never ideal to have to rely on other teams, but at least there is still a chance. Port got back to winning ways with a 4-0 victory over an under-strength Korat side, and were relieved to see Muangthong slip to a comfortable 0-3 defeat at the hands of Buriram, which brought Port back to within 2 points of third place. Muangthong still have Bangkok United to play in a key final-day fixture, meaning Port can still hang on to some slim hopes of qualification if they can string four wins together against this week’s opponents Suphanburi, then seaside clubs Navy, Chonburi and Pattaya.
Players to Watch
I had nothing but harsh words for Cleiton Silva (22) after the first couple of months of his highly anticipated return to Thai football yielded just a handful of goals, and a whole lot of poor performances. Since being loaned out to Suphanburi, however, the Cleiton of years past has once again found his shooting boots, and the Brazilian has hit 7 goals in just 9 appearances. When he’s on form he’s deadly, and right now he’s on form.
The only man probably not overly chuffed with one of Thai football’s all-time great strikers pitching up in Suphanburi is compatriot Romulo (9). Very much the focal point of Suphanburi’s attack in the first half of the season, Romulo plundered 7 goals and looked in good nick. In the 9 games that both Brazilians have started since the mid-season break, Romulo has added just one more to his tally.
Making up for Romulo’s dip in form has been one of the few half-decent forwards in Thai football, and man with two many an’s in his name: Chananan Pombuppha (10). Chanananan was the main man up front for the Thai under 23 team before they were rubbish, but as almost all promising Thai strikers have been, Chananananan has been converted in to a winger/attacking midfielder. Playing just behind Romulo and Cleiton, Chanananananan has finally started finding his feet, scoring 4 and assisting 1 in his last 5 games. Port would do well to task a defensive midfielder with watching his forward runs and making sure he doesn’t have the opportunity to shoot from the edge of the box. Maybe Anononon (20) would be up to the task, if only he were returned to the starting XI.
They’re not all just strikers, either. Suphanburi can look to the Thai Ronaldinho – Tanasith Sripala (11) – to create chances for the forwards, although he doesn’t produce the quality that he is capable of nearly as much as he should.
A much more consistent presence in the midfield is another one who just doesn’t want me to pronounce his name properly. Japanese midfielder Takafumi Akahoshi (37) is in to his second season in Thailand, and does a solid if unspectacular job in the heart of midfield. He will be fresh and raring to go having missed the last game through suspension.
At the back, Thai league veteran defender Anderson dos Santos (3) has been in the game as long if not longer than any other foreign player around, and can be relied to put in a solid shift in Suphan’s back 3. Alongside him will be a useful young Thai centre back appropriately named Suphan (26) and some bloke who I’ve never heard of called Tinnakorn (33).
Suphanburi’s form is very much mid-table, although with 5 going down their league position still puts them in with an outside chance of relegation. Their last 6 games have seen 2 wins, draws and losses. The two one-goal defeats came against Buriram and Sukhothai, the two draws against Muangthong and Ubon UMT and the two wins against Air Force and Ratchaburi. Suphanburi are a decent side capable of upset wins, but equally capable of shocking defeats. It’s not a lack of ability in their squad that’s got them in to trouble, rather a lack of consistency. They’re not bad on the road though, having lost just 4 all season on their travels. The question is, will coach Pairoj have the guts to play the attacking system which has got the best out of Cleiton and Chananananananan in recent weeks, or will he revert to a more defensive system to try to stymie Port’s attack.
Speaking of that attack… He may not have gotten on the scoresheet last week, but Arthit (29) still providing a compelling argument for his inclusion in the first XI. He created one excellent chance for himself with a superb turn, shimmy and shot, and he again tested the Korat ‘keeper with a deft outside of the boot flick. More important than his chances to score, though, Arthit just played like a real striker, attempting to hold the ball up at the right times and getting himself in to the box at the right times. His positional discipline allowed Boskovic, Suarez and Pakorn to drift around as is their wont, and the team – poorly drilled under coach Jadet – gained structure by having a more natural centre-forward to lead the line. Give him another go Jadet, please! If only so we can enjoy watching him trying to overcome his limitations in talent with blood and thunder attacking for another week. Arthit did pick up a knock last week but, just by looking for the only bloke wearing his shorts as if they were a thong, we can confirm from the following picture that Arthit is in training, and so ought to be fit to start.
Another man who we can apply the same logic to also enjoys a tight pair of shorts. Anon (20) has mysteriously missed out on the last two match day squads, despite being one of Port’s best players in recent games. We really hope Jadet has not lost faith in the youngster after being involved in a few defeats during Port’s tough run of fixtures, as Anon was often the brightest spark during those most challenging games. We know he’s fit now (that’s him on the far left of the same picture) so there are no excuses for not picking him again.
Nurul (31), towards the front of the shot on the left, is the final outfield injury doubt, and although we know that he’s fit, he could miss out on selection if Arthit starts and Boskovic (23) is once again deployed on the left wing. He didn’t do too badly at all in that position last week, and would have provided Suarez (5) with a sublime assist had the Spaniard been able to hit a barn door from a foot out.
Dolah should return to the team (4) after serving his ban for picking up his 7th and 8th yellow cards in infuriating circumstances 2 games ago, but Rattanai (17) is still on the injury list. Quelle surprise.
Yes, yes. I should know better than to have the slightest faith that Anon will be picked. Expect to see Siwakorn (16) starting again. At least he had a decent game last week, for a change.
The match will be shown live on True4U and True Sport HD2 at 18:00 on Saturday 22 September, 2018. For those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match on a big screen with sound. Don’t forget to wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount on drinks.