Assault on Thunder Castle: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

Port are sitting pretty as the league’s pace setters with a 100% record after 3 games, but their first real test of the season looms ominously on the horizon as the Lions of Khlong Toey travel to Thunder Castle (FFS am I supposed to be scared by that name?) to take on Buriram United this weekend.

 

Homesick

Buriram so far have lost both their games on the road, including most recently a 4-3 thriller with Ratchaburi, but tellingly spanked Chonburi at home 4-0. A club of their stature always has lofty ambitions but their trophy cabinet is currently bare after a fruitless season and they are still looking to find an adequate replacement for their Brazilian talisman Diogo, who dominated the Thai league during his 4 year stay. This year’s auditionees are Bernardo Cuesta (21), an Argentinian with patchy form at several previous clubs, and Ricardo “Kinder” Bueno Da Silva (99), an Brazilian with patchy form at several previous clubs. The general obsession in the Thai league to acquire average, undercooked Latin players continues unabated and in the longer term affects the development of their young Thai players such as Supachai Jaided (9) and Suphanat Muenta (54).

 

 

At the back been-there-done-that Venezuelan defender Andres Tunez (5) will be bringing his usual bag of tricks; astute, no-nonsense defending mixed with a large spoonful of shithousery. Alongside him will be Pansa Hemviboon (3) who for my money is the most dependable Thai centre back around. There is quality throughout the team and one of my favourite players outside of Port, marauding wing back Sasalak Haiprakhon (2), will be terrorising our full backs from start to finish. He has a ridiculous engine and seems to get under defender’s skin for the full 90 minutes with his aggressive style.

 

 

In fairness they should, like all opposition (apart from that rabble in Nonthaburi), be respected but there’s the massive elephant in the room: the referee. Buriram, like all big teams worldwide, get a lot of big decisions in their favour. A lot. Last year’s match led to the suspension of the referee for his inept/biased/corrupt (delete where applicable) officiating and I wouldn’t be surprised if key, game-changing decisions go against us in the match. Sadly, Buriram don’t need the extra assistance to win matches but I’m sure they will gratefully accept it.

 

Flat-Track Bullies

The Mighty Port have come out of the blocks like the clappers this season, banging in a total of 10 goals in their first 3 games but this has been against mid to low table opposition and needed a massive helping hand from VAR. The team has acquired a flat-track bully reputation, bar the usual mid-season dip in form, but notoriously flounder when up against bigger opposition. Port will not be able to play the same style of football as their opening matches simply because Buriram won’t let them, and this bunch have the personnel to implement their own gameplan. So will Choke tinker to stem the relentless flow of our opponents or will he put his faith on an already free scoring formation?

The acquisition of Herberty (37) and Adisak (9) seems to be paying off already, galvanising our performances with new attacking options and geeing up our squad to play for their places. From the bench, Tanasith (11) has been putting in some impressive cameos to build on his fine pre-season, and he is a suspension or injury away from a place in the starting XI. My concern is at the back; the goals we have conceded so far have been pretty damn sloppy and a full 90 minutes of concentration and determined effort is required for matches like this. Both Dolah (4) and Rochela (22) haven’t hit the ground running this season and too often in the past we have been undone by clearly rehearsed training ground tactics designed to stretch our defensive lines, something Buriram excel at, to pull our centre backs out of position.

 

 

The smart money would be on Worawut (36) or Watchara (1) replacing Rattanai (18), who was too error-prone against Sukhothai, and potentially Tanaboon (71) for either Rochela or Kanarin (31), ideally the latter which is harsh on Kanarin, but the ex-BG man is better playing in his natural DM position. The attacking quintet will most likely be picked again as they are 3 for 3 but from my armchair perspective a tried and tested centre forward like Adisak (no, not you Chenrop) will give their centre backs a more bruising and testing evening and maybe the key is to push against their defensive line as opposed to playing cute balls around it.

 

 

What’s clear is Port need to up their game significantly this weekend and prove the doubters wrong but will Choke be bold enough to drill the starting XI with a solid tactical plan like the FA Cup final? Does he even have time to truly implement a gameplan on the training ground with the match a few days away? I truly hope so but for most (reasonable) Port fans a draw will be as good as a victory. I’m just looking for a solid performance that will hopefully bring a point or three back to Khlong Toei.

 

Prediction

Let’s not go there, but su su tarua!

 


 

The match will be shown on True Sport 2 and True4U on Sunday 1 March, 2020. For those who can’t make it to Chang Arena, 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.

 

Toby Knight

Toby Knight

North Londoner, Arsenal fan and believer in lucky cigars, Toby decamped to Bangkok 2 years ago and happily stumbled upon Port FC last season. The rest, as they say, is history.

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