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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.

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Crystal Balls 2019: Buriram Utd

 

Our series of pre-season previews continues with a look at defending champions Buriram Utd. Will they romp to another title, or will they be hampered by the departure of star player Diogo and rapidly improving rivals like Bangkok Utd and Port? Here’s Buriram fan Jamie Pinder with his thoughts…

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Last Chance Saloon: Port FC vs. Buriram Utd, FA Cup QF Preview, 1 August 2018

 

Port’s season will likely be defined by what happens in the next two games. Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter final sees the two highest place teams left in the competition face off, meaning whoever wins will be the favourites to lift the cup. Then on Sunday, Port face the runaway league leaders knowing that if they lose, rivals Muangthong could draw level on points. The Scum won’t leapfrog Port as they have the inferior head-to-head record, but with tough away trips to Prachuap and Chiang Rai on the horizon, the third place spot that Port have occupied throughout much of the season will be well and truly up for grabs.

 

Buriram United

Players to Watch

 

In my preview of the away clash (click here) to Buriram I covered the whole Buriram lineup, so this time I’ll pick a few new signings and players who have risen to prominence since our last clash.

Osvaldo (17), a Brazilian forward with four caps for the most successful nation in world football history, was the mid-season signing who was supposed to put the league well and truly to bed. Buriram have pulled 9 points clear at the top, but that has very little to do with their new signing, who has yet to get on the scoresheet and has notched just 2 assists in 7 appearances. He’s clearly a player with some pedigree, but he’s far from the show-stopper we feared, and has yet to adapt effectively to Thai football.

 

 

Another mid-season arrival was returning forward Javier Patino (20). Buriram’s ASEAN player scored 35 goals in 54 games for The Thunder Castle between 2013 and 2015, but has struggled with injuries, playing just 4 times since his return. He has just one goal in the League Cup. He did play 20 minutes on the weekend though, so expect him to make an appearance off the bench.

 

 

This fella has been at Buriram all season, but has found himself playing a more important role of late. That role? Could be bloody anywhere. The only positions he hasn’t played have been wing back and goalie. I’m talking about Korean ‘midfielder’ Yoo Jun-soo (16), who throughout the season has played in central defence, central midfield, on the wing and up front. He’s a big unit who is very useful in the air, and has 4 goals and 7 assists to his name in all competitions. The only league game he didn’t start was the shock 0-1 defeat to Chainat.

 

 

Back in April, Buriram decided to start trolling the rest of the league. We’ve all seen teams bringing on youngsters when they’ve got a comfortable lead, but those youngsters aren’t usually sodding Mathayom 4 students. Suphanat Mueanta (54) is just 15 years old and already has 2 T1 goals to his name, although to be fair they came in a 5-0 victory against Air Force when Diogo and his big brother (the relatively prehistoric 19 year old Suphachok) were both just trying to put chances on a plate for him rather than score themselves. Still, score he did, and his international record at youth level suggests that he doesn’t always need a babysitter to find the back of the net. He’s scored 15 goals in 13 games at under 16 level and has recently been fast-tracked to the under 19s, for whom he has scored 2 in 4. Mind you, it would be cheeky even for Buriram to throw him on against Port in the PAT cauldron.

 

 

And I can’t do a players to watch segment without mentioning the divine mop, can I? He hasn’t exactly risen to prominence in the second half of the season, rather he has maintained his altitude 30 thousand fucking feet above everyone else. Diogo (40) is still the most effective striker in the league with 24 goals and 8 assists in 24 league games. Dragan Boskovic and Jaja Coelho may have usurped him as T1 top scorers last year, but you just knew he’d be back with a vengeance, and right now he has a 4 goal lead atop the scoring charts, 10 more than Port’s top-scorer Suarez. He also has 9 yellows and a red in all competitions though, which is what should interest Port defenders. The back line, and particularly hard-man Elias Dolah would do well to remember Port’s 0-0 home draw against the Thunder Castle in 2017, when Diogo received his marching orders on 70 minutes and Port almost snatched a memorable win. Annoy him, get in his face and in a rocking PAT Stadium there’s no knowing how the divine mop will react. He might score a hattrick, or he might throw his toys out of the pram. Either way, it will be entertaining.

 

 

Form

 

Erm, wins wins and more wins. Since their 1-0 loss to Chainat in mid-June Buriram have won 6 on the bounce in the league, and have been unbeaten in both cup competitions. They have had some struggles though, needing extra time to get past both Trang FC in the League Cup and Nakhonpathom United in the FA Cup. Port can only hope that these struggles have led to some fatigue, although with a bigger, stronger squad than Port they are more than capable of shuffling their pack and still putting out a team that will be favourites to win.

 

Port FC

The PAT Factor

 

Arguably, whichever team Jadet picks on Sunday, the most important influence will come from the Khlong Toei Army. T1’s best fans must make PAT Stadium hell on earth for Buriram, inspiring the boys on the pitch and bringing the worst out in their opponents. Last season’s 0-0 draw was a textbook case, when Zone B was so vocal that I barely heard the thousand plus Buriram fans on the other side of the stadium and Diogo ended up seeing red after being tilted by the boisterous Khlong Toei faithful. I’m feeling more confident than I probably should about this game, and that’s why.

Having said that, Jadet still has to not drop a clanger with his team selection. Will he stick with Sunday’s experimental 3-5-2? Maybe, but maybe not. It’s a system which seemed tailor-made to deal with Bangkok United’s exceptional midfield, but might be less effective against the champions in waiting, who have a less dangerous midfield three and rely mostly on the creative brilliance of Diogo.

If Jadet does stick with the same system, he’ll be thankful to be able to welcome Nitipong (34) back in both the league and cup, meaning that we won’t be exposed to Adisorn’s (13) god-awful attempts at attacking again anytime soon. Will Jadet stick with Kim (8), Siwakorn (16) and Anon (20) in midfield or will one of them make way for Port’s little destroyer? Over to you, Sir Det. The rest of the team really pick themselves, meaning that all Jadet has to do if we somehow take the lead again is not sub off key defensive players and bring on luxury attackers like Pakorn (7) and Bodin (10), who are fundamentally unsuited to this formation.

 

Predicted Lineup

 

 


 

This is normally where I’d tell you how to watch the game on TV and direct you towards The Sportsman if you can’t make it to PAT Stadium at 19:00, but this week there are no excuses. Be there. It’s an FA Cup Quarter Final, the biggest club in Thailand are in town and the boys are going to need our vocal support. Tarua Woi!

 

‘Ram You Hard: Buriram Utd vs. Port FC, 5 July 2017

One of our most spirited performances of the season took place against Buriram earlier in the season where we matched them man for man in every department. Even before Diogo’s red card I felt we had our chances and in midfield our energy and tenacity was really evident, Adisorn (13) having a particularly endearing display. It also meant that I could go home to my beloved, a lady who frequents PAT quite often, with my head held high but I am a little less convinced of a repeat when I get off the plane Thursday afternoon. That said, we have the night at Smelly Thongs to give me hope!

The Thunder castle are flying this year. After a disappointing 2016 they have improved immensely this term, and apart from back to back defeats at the hands of Glass away and a surprising home defeat by Ratchaburi at the start of May their record has been phenomenal. They have won seven and drawn one of their last eight with Diogo (40) and his compatriot Jakson Coelho (50) being the driving force in this excellent run.

 

Diogo (40) and Coelho (50)

 

I have seen them play Bangkok United at home on 27th May, the day Glasgow Celtic secured an undefeated domestic treble, in what was a very entertaining game against decent opposition, I was impressed. Their pace and presence was frightening and we will need to bring our A game on Wednesday. No place for passengers for sure.

 

 

Yesterday’s fantastic result should add wind to our sails as the Zico effect gathers momentum, the fight for places and someone to impress on an equal playing field seems to be giving some of the squad a lift. This will need to be the case as our transfer window activity – or should I say lack of – has been embarrassing but far from surprising. There is nothing this wonderful club can conjure up any more that will astonish me. Kalu (10) and Suarez (5) getting on the score sheet was a welcome boost, I don’t care what they say goals breed confidence for attackers, end of. We need to play a high line tomorrow and support the one up front as this has worked this season when we have adopted this tactic, Chang Rai and Smellies away proved this and paid dividends. If we try to soak it up against this mob on Wednesday we good get an old fashioned drubbing, Thai Honda, Bangkok United-esque!

On a more personal note I am going to sample The Buriram Amari tomorrow nothing beats falling in the door two hundred yards from the away end after the footie. I will take it a few at Paddy’s bar beforehand and get a bit of the old man’s craic. Let’s not forget whilst I will never hope Port to get beat if it happens there will be a little Silver lining. Four points isn’t that hard to claw back.