Fire Bats With Dire Tats: Sukhothai FC vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port embark on their first away trip of the season this Wednesday looking to do what they couldn’t last year and leave Sukhothai’s Talayluang Stadium with all 3 points. After last season’s debacle if we leave without one of our players having assaulted an official it’ll be a significant improvement.

Port may have once again shot to the top of the table with a couple of dominant home wins, but we know we can generally stick it to the little guys at PAT Stadium without too much trouble. If we are going to take the next step forward and win the league, we have to improve in two key areas.

Firstly, we have to maintain discipline when things go against us. Last season’s loss in the same fixture was a case study in poor professionalism, so in order to show we’ve taken a step forward we need to show that we can keep out heads when we’re away from home facing injurious officiating. With any luck that won’t happen at Talayluang again this time out, but we have to maintain our composure and play our game no matter what is thrown at us.

Secondly, we have to match or beat the big boys. Later this week we travel to Buriram to face, on paper, our toughest away trip of the year. A win against Sukhothai and a point or better at The Thunder Castle and we can really start to believe we’ve got what it takes.

First though, we’ve got to overcome a Sukhothai side with some potent attacking talents.

 

Sukhothai FC

Players to Watch

 

What can I say about the Malagasy Magician that hasn’t already been said? Yes, once again the main danger mouse for the Fire Bats is John Baggio (10). Stump-sized but fleet-footed, Baggio scares the living daylights out of most T1 defenders, and this season he’s a bit more ably backed up than last. The presence of two fellow foreign forwards means that Baggio can go back to doing what he does best this season: laying on chances for his teammates. With the strikers he had to work with in 2019 it was no surprise that Baggio tried to do almost everything himself, but we may be seeing a return to the more selfless provider of 2018 and previous years, where Baggio was among the top assisters in T1.

 

 

In the first two games, Baggio set up new signings Evandro Paulista and Ibson Melo with almost identical chances after clever throughballs in behind the defence.

Evandro Paulista (14) slid home his opportunity with aplomb. This is the Brazilian striker’s first season in T1, and it looks as if he’ll do OK to me. His scoring record across other Asian leagues leaves a lot to be desired, but with his strength and direct play, he won’t be able to help but score a fair few goals. Having said that, he’s hit two comically bad finishes to go with his one goal, and I should know better than to underestimate just how bad some of these journeyman foreign strikers can be. He’s also got some uniquely bad tattoos, shown in the photo below in which he appears to be slow-dancing with fellow inker stinker Philip Roller. Please let me know in the comments if you can work out what the daubs on his legs say, as I’d be interested to discover exactly what kind of “Dog” he is.

 

 

The other recipient of a gilt-edged Baggio gift was former Samut Prakan City forward Ibson Melo (71). Whilst he missed his chance, I have absolutely no doubt about his ability in front of goal, after he notched 15 for his former club in 2019. Both Melo and Baggio will be operating across the forward line behind Paulista, so Port’s back line will have to keep their wits about them at all times, and be especially careful challenging either Baggio or Melo in and around the penalty area. Baggio takes a mean free-kick.

 

 

Besides their front three, however, Sukhothai have very little else to offer. Their South Korean import Jung Myung-oh (16) is an experienced T1 veteran, but there’s very little for him to work with in terms of quality Thai midfielders and defenders. The only other player I can bring myself to pick out from their squad is former PTT Rayong goalkeeper Peerapong Ruennin (30), who it must be said I was very impressed with in 2019. He also made some great stops on a way to a clean sheet in week 1, before being beaten twice, once by his own defender, in week 2. He’s probably in the same category of goalkeepers as Port’s stoppers: good, but not great.

 

 

Form

 

Sukhothai eked out a 1-0 win against likely relegation scrappers Suphanburi, scoring an early goal and holdng on for dear life. They then went down swinging against Ratchaburi, whose attacking talents proved too much for what looks to be a pretty vulnerable Sukhothai back line. A late consolation penalty for Baggio after Ibson Melo was upended in the box made the scoreline respectable at 2-1. It was almost saved, mind you.

 

Port FC

After Eight?

 

Having scored eight goals in our opening two home games, what will Port offer up away from home against The Fire Bats? It seems very unlikely that Choke will change anything, unless players are returning from injury. Even then it would be a bit mad to change the formula which has reaped such rich rewards in the opening two games.

If either Siwakorn (16), Tanaboon (71) or Worawut (36) have returned to fitness, there are changes that Choke will be considering, though.

Most of us have been very impressed by the impact new boy Kanarin (31) has had since his arrival. He’s an absolute bundle of energy for a start, constantly closing down and making life difficult for opposition midfielders. Add to that some pretty rough and tumble challenging and solid, simple passing and we have ourselves a rather useful midfielder. Kanarin’s reliable protection of the back 4 has also allowed Go (8) to get forward more, and that’s resulted in a goal and an assist for the South Korean.

However, we know how highly rated Siwakorn is at Port, and whenever he does return to fitness, you know Choke is going to put him back in to the XI. That will mean Go sitting deeper once again, with Siwakorn playing further forward and Kanarin dropping out. Get better slowly, Siv.

Tanaboon will also be considered for a return to the XI at the expense of either Dolah (4) or Rochela (22). Port’s defence was very shaky indeed at times against Samut Prakan, with Dolah in particular getting himself in trouble on more than one occasion. I have no idea who will make way, but I have little doubt that Tanaboon will be shoe-horned in somewhere.

Finally, the goalkeeper merry-go-round is as always one slight nudge to a brittle stopper away from another spin. Rattanai (18) has done well in the opening two games, although his kicking was even worse than usual against Samut Prakan. I wish I still had hope that he could improve his distribution, but to be honest I can’t see it happening at this point.

At right wing, Pakorn (7) has done enough to hold on to his place despite exciting cameos from Tanasith (11), and Adisak’s (9) two goals are still one less than T1 top scorer Heberty (37).

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

The match will be shown on True Music at 19:00 on Wednesday 26th February, 2020. For those who can’t make it to Talayluang 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.

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

0replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *