Back for the Biggie.

 

If you’re going to come out of hibernation, it might as well be for a good reason and they don’t come much bigger in Thai football than the slum v scum derby. Just shy of eight months after it was originally scheduled to take place (thanks in part to a further delay beyond COVID, due to the PAT floodlight issues back in October), it’s the big one.
Port go into the game having claimed a champions league place at the weekend and can tonight enhance their chances of going directly into the group stage and extinguish the last lingering hopes Muangthong have of involvement (they need to win all their remaining games and still get a little help with results in other matches).

The Good Guys

Port come into the game in fine form with six wins in a row, with clean sheets in their last three games. The defence seems to have tightened up in recent weeks, two of those clean sheets have come away at Bangkok United (finally breaking that jinx) and last time out against a decent Chonburi team. Whilst neither saw the sparkling football going forward of the home win v Suphanburi they sandwiched, maybe the new management has installed some defensive steel and tactical pragmatism so often lacking at Port. Add to the mix that Bonilla(99) looks like the striker with killer instinct we’ve waited for the entire Pang era and there much to be hopeful about. I doubt we’ll see a winning line up changed.

 

The Baddies

This season has been somewhat of a turning point for everyone’s least favorite team as the continued attempts to cut costs have really bitten and where once you had as close as the Thai league gets to glitz and glamour. The squad is now made up mainly of players rolling off their youth academy production line.
However, we were told that would be plenty as they started the season with Gama at the helm. Give the Brazilian tactician, the lads from your local moto taxi stand, enough Carlos kickaballs to fill the overseas quota and a mid table finish was assured, seemed to be the theory in Nonthaburi. However there was just one problem with this, Gama wasn’t happy babysitting the latest batch to come off the academy line, despite the protests of some that nobody could want to leave a club treading water and get back to competing for silverware. Gama was of to Isan at the first opportunity.
He was replaced by former playing legend and current sock dodger Mario Gjurosvki. Who previous management experience amounts to a bit of youth coaching for them, during the COVID break when there wasn’t much coaching done. If nothing else he gets hyped up for every game, so expect him to get involved in a bit of back and forth at some point tonight.

An insult to style and Messi in a pink Barca shirt

 

Form

This season the numbers back up what we already knew, watching Muangthong at home really is the last thing you should choose to do, as games at Legoland have seen the least goals of any stadium in the division. Away from home things are nearly twice as goal friendly (19 v 10) but given that 3 of those came away v Rayong, with some assistance from a home goalkeeping performance, right up there with a certain ex Coronation Street star’s efforts for/against Port a few years ago, even that is a little questionable. Their away record stands at 3-0-3, with the victories being against (kinda) Rayong, Police Tero, and in the battle of the has-beens, up at Buriram. While the defeats have come at BG, Sukhothai and Chiangrai, so basically anyone decent.
The form in the four games under Mario Gjurosvki is also mixed, they opened with a 3-1 win at Police Tero. A match that saw the visitors hyped up like this was a cup final, struggle to pull clear of Police, who the last couple of months looks destined for a relegation battle, until two late screamers. Next up was the aforementioned battle of the has-beens in Buriram, entertaining stuff as the two traded blows to remain relevant. Starting with some calamity defending as a miskick from little center back Promsupa (15) allowed Buriram’s Scepovic to open the scoring. Something the little fella has form for as it was his blunder that lead to Port’s late late winner in the Leo Cup final preseason. Before Muangthong pulled clear with three unanswered goals. There was still time for Van Lam (1) to get all flappy about a header than was a routine save and make it a tight finish. Before Mario started running around like a pound shop Jose in front of the away end.
After opening with two wins things haven’t gone so well. Firstly they headed up to Chiangrai, where the only running we saw post-game from Mario was to break out the crayons and write a strongly worded letter to the league about how unfair it is that the officials no longer give all the dodgy decisions to Muangthong. The match ended in a 2-1 defeat. Then last time out they managed a 1-1 draw with Korat. Now everyone in the Sandpit loves Korat, however, they’re down there battling relegation year on year for a simple reason, they never put together a decent team. You want to be a big team you should be beating them at home. So to see the once-mighty Muangthong needing all the misfortune they felt they suffered at Chiangrai reversed in the next match, as they got two penalties the game would be better without, didn’t exactly scream form team. That one was twice taken and twice missed by Derley(87) only made it all more comic. They did go one up thanks to Popp(19) showing some competence from the spot. However up stepped Van Lam to again allow a header a mere matter of inches from his starting position to beat him.
As it’s probably clear I’m far from a fan of Van Lam, he came into the league hyped as one of the best keepers in Asia. Whilst his highlights reel, even from just this season, will feature some great saves, he’s also terrible at far too many of the basic elements of his job and always prone to letting a howler in. He was dropped by Gama for a couple of games and replaced by Somporn (29) a keeper who won’t hit the same peaks but offers a far more consistent and reliable alternative. Let’s hope we see some classic flapping from the Vietnamese number one.
At right back they should have Jesse Curran, who impressed in preseason and could be in on a Phillipino passport except it seems they haven’t sorted that yet so he’s stuck at Udon Thani playing in the second tier (all very Porty).
Derley, at 6ft might not be as big and scary as some but he’s a decent T1 striker, he’s scored five times this season. It’s just that over the period I’ve watched football in Thailand the guy leading the line for Muangthong has tended to be right there in the conversation about the best striker in the league not called Diogo. Derley is a decent middle of the range Thai league striker but then Muangthong has become more of a middle of the range Thai league operation.
Willian Popp (19) arrived at the start of the year and spent preseason and the pre shut down period, looking like a long lost South American cousin of George Weah, or a social experiment to see if you really could take any physically fit Brazilian to a footballing backwater and they’d cut it in the local league. There was a lot of huff and puff but very little end product. He looked improved when the league returned but has really kicked on since the change of manager, scoring 4 goals, two absolute screamers, and two penalties.
I could go into the details of their Thai players but let’s face it they generally all fit the same mould, hyped products of their academy who all go on to get a few caps because that’s what you do when you play for them before drifting off to have reasonable careers elsewhere. They also have Chatmongkol (14) on loan from Port, any logical club would have it in the loan he can’t play against them. So we all know who’s scoring the injury time winner.

Prediction

This is in many ways a free shot at 3 points for Port. When the game in October was canceled, it appeared that we would again be fined and the game awarded to the visitors 2-0. Maybe it would be fairer if it had been.
Having watched their recent games l think they’d currently get wound up for a game against the local under 7’s, in a game they’ll come to slightly aggrieved that they have to play rather than having nicked 3 points after the floodlight failure, with the added factor that it’s a derby, maybe they’ll be overhyped.
I certainly suspect they could boil over if the stadium was packed and away fans allowed in, creating a heated atmosphere, sadly the two clubs continue to ban away fans from these matches. Throw in the post covid new normal of only 50% attendance and the ban on drums etc and l fear it could be generally a bit flatter than a normal derby in the ground.
However, you don’t conclude Port v Scum previews predicting anything other than a win, 3-0 Bonilla hattrick.
The game kicks off at 1800 this evening.If you can’t get along the match will shown on AISplay.

James Clarke

James Clarke

Originally from England, James first came to Thailand in 2010 to escape big cities and spend time on beaches away from crowds. He now divides his time between living in Bangkok and wishing he was living in Bangkok.

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