A Moment’s Silence: Port FC vs. Nakhon Ratchasima FC Preview

 

Port kick off their 2020 campaign with what looks to be the ideal kind of fixture. A home match against Korat, who are expected to finish mid to bottom half this season, may well allow an under-performing Port to still eke out victory, which is what we need after a less than promising pre-season. Rather than labouring this point once again, I will point you towards Dom’s, Tim’s and my 2020 Previews, which examined our off-season shortcomings in excruciating detail.

What we should have learned from the Ceres Negros debacle is not to underestimate opponents, even with the abundance of talent at our disposal. Port are going to have to come in to the game determined to be first to every ball, as Korat certainly have the ability to spring a surprise on us if we don’t bring our A game.

 

Nakhon Ratchasima FC

A Moment of Silence

 

The game will be preceded by a memorial for the 27 people in Nakhon Ratchasima who were killed in a devastating shooting last week. Considering the close relationship between Port and Korat fans, expect to see some black shirts among fans of both teams, and expect a somberly observed moment of silence before kickoff. We join together in wishing the people of Korat all the best in such a difficult time for the city, which lest we forget is also the hometown of many of the Khlongtoei residents we know and love.

 

Players to Watch

 

We’re here for a football game though, so let’s meet the team from Isaan.

Not too much has changed for Korat in 2020. Key attacking duo Leandro Assumpcao (7) and Amadou Outtara (81) have remained. Leandro is a dead ball specialist and a deadly finisher in and around the box, although he will most likely be operating from wide areas. Port defenders will want to keep the ball away from his left boot when he’s within striking range. Amadou Outtara is a winger with devastating pace who has always impressed me when I’ve seen him, although he’s hasn’t quite managed to deliver as many goals as one might expect given how dangerous he looks. He’s good, but perhaps his end product could be better.

 

 

They will be joined in the attack by Dennis Murillo (23), who Port fans may remember from his extremely jammy winner against Port for PTT Rayong last season. The ponytailed Brazilian forward has a solid record in Thailand’s second tier, but hasn’t looked great making the step up to T1. Still, he’s a fairly big strong unit and his record says he scores wherever he goes, so Port will have to be tighter defensively than they’ve looked so far in pre-season.

Korat’s foreign attacking trio will probably be supplemented off the bench by Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone (10), a Thai-Laotian winger born in Switzerland. Chitchanok has been kicking around Thailand for a few years but never quite nailed down a starting spot and been able to make his mark at a T1 club. He’s one of those who has always had potential, but as yet hasn’t quite delivered as much as he could. He’s a strong, physical presence in the forward line though, with the pace to test tired legs later in the game.

Korat’s midfield could also be adorned by one of both of Tatchanon Nakarawong and/or Anon Samakorn (99). Both midfielders were released by Port this off-season, and both have ended up at Korat looking for the opportunity for first team football. I’m a fan of both, but Korat are only likely to go with one or the other in defensive midfield.

 

 

In defence, former Thai national team centre back Chalermpong Kerdkaew (4) will captain the team, and his partner will be new arrival from South Korea Yoon Jun-sung (55). They’re a solid-enough pairing, but if Port are on song going forward expect their lack of pace to be exposed. Then there’s Samuel Cunningham (88) between the sticks. A player Port fans love to wind up, he can expect his devoted followers to say hello from Zones B and D in a boisterous PAT Stadium this Saturday. We never tire of these things. Ever.

 

 

Form

We knocked them out of the Leo Cup, and although I haven’t been paying close attention, their other pre-season results also look poor, most recently drawing 1-1 with Khon Kaen United.

 

Port FC

The Sergio Show

 

So far in pre-season Port have relied on Sergio Suarez (5) to provide the touch of class which separates them from their opponents. While those around him have been misfiring, Sergio has chipped in with some sublime finishes, and he looks set to be one of Port’s most important players once again in 2020.

 

 

That means that there’s a lot to prove for the likes of Heberty (37), Adisak (9) and Pakorn (7), all of whom are expected to join Suarez in the attack in Port’s first T1 starting lineup of the season.

If this is the combination that Choke chooses, we will be seeing Heberty operate from the right, Pakorn from the left with Suarez in the hole and Adisak leading the line. This is a formation which inarguably suits Suarez and Adisak the best, although it probably isn’t ideal for Heberty, and certainly isn’t any good for Pakorn. These two wide players operating as ‘inverted wingers’ and cutting inside on to their stronger feet has not worked at all in pre-season, so expect Port to have the most joy through the middle, with Suarez as the fulcrum.

In fairness to Choke, it’s very hard to find the perfect system when you don’t have a top striker at your disposal. Adisak has shown that he can find the back of the net when chances are given to him on a plate, but he’s shown little else in some patchy early performances. Choke could opt to put Suarez in his place up top and play Heberty in the hole, meaning Pakorn can be restored to the right wing, with Bordin coming in (10) on the left. This probably gets the best out of Pakorn, Bordin and Heberty, but comes at the expense of Port’s most reliably productive forward Suarez, who whilst no stranger to being asked to play out of position, clearly is going to struggle to show us his best form as a no. 9.

The rather more radical alternative of course is to restore Josimar (30) back in to the squad at the expense of Rochela (22), but with no new centre backs having been signed, there is next to no chance of this happening now.

Another radical idea would be picking our best players. Tanasith (11) should be in line for a start after some lively early cameos, but don’t hold your breath. We’re not known for picking players based on things as trivial as form or merit.

In midfield, Choke has yet more big decisions. Siwakorn (16) is injured for a few weeks, and with Tanaboon likewise sidelined he has going to have to turn to an unfamiliar face in midfield. Kannarin (31) would be my pick to partner Go (8), and I think Choke will also probably opt for the youngster too, although with Chappuis’ (17) arrival just a few days ago you never know. Picking a player with precisely 0 pre-season minutes under his belt would be a bit mad, but don’t rule it out.

In defence things are much more straightforward. Rochela will partner Dolah (4) at the back, with Nitipong (34) on the right and (assuming he’s fit) Kevin (23) on the left.

In goal Worawut (36) seems to have held on to his place in the team, although Rattanai (18) has looked better in the few games he’s played.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 

 

The Grand Unveiling

 

There will also be a concert, a shirt unveiling and the usual party atmosphere we have come to expect from an opening day home game. The official activities are scheduled to start at about 16:30, so come early to get your hands on tickets and enjoy the pre-game build-up.

 


 

The match will be shown on True Sports 2 at 20:00 on Saturday 15 February, 2020. 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.

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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