In an early top of the table clash, T1 leaders Port will take on second place Muangthong United at the Theater of Corrugated Iron on Saturday. With Port fan groups calling for a boycott after numerous violent clashes between the fans at the SCG, both sides opted for an ‘away fan ban’ this year, meaning that Port fans won’t be able to watch the game live this Saturday, and Muangthong fans will also be banned from PAT Stadium when the two sides meet in June.
It’s a big let-down for fans that the game can’t just be policed responsibly, as it’s one of the biggest fixtures in Thai football. Surely if fan representatives and police came up with a plan to bus Port fans in and out of the stadium through a secure entrance then the game would be able to go ahead as normal, but instead both sides seem content to let the issue fester and deal with it again at a later date.
For fans still up for watching the game alongside the Port faithful, there will be a big screen at PAT Stadium which is expected to draw a pretty decent sized crowd. We’ll see you there!
Leaving off-the-pitch issues aside, Port have more reason for optimism in this season’s first Slum vs. Scum derby than they have for many years. With Madame Pang spending big bucks to fix all of Port’s major weaknesses, we now have more of a complete team than I’ve ever seen don the famous blue and orange.
The way Pattaya were dispatched also gave fans reason to hope that that Port’s game-management issues might be behind us. Adding a late third goal to secure a comfortable victory, rather than throwing away two late goals to slump to a disappointing draw, was certainly a welcome change!
Port can also call on the memory of their stunning 3-2 victory at the SCG last season, when a four minute masterclass in finishing put such a crushing dent in Muangthong’s title challenge that they never recovered.
Whereas that game was played in a completely empty SCG though, this game will be attended by all of the Yamaha Ultras and their ‘Curva Sud’ balaclavas. With the noise they’re sure to generate – when they’re not dribbling on their ridiculous ‘Money Can’t Buy History’ banners that is – Port will certainly have an uphill battle in a hostile atmosphere.
Players to Watch
Muangthong may have lost some key players in the transfer window, but they still have some pretty useful replacements coming in. And some terrible ones, but we’ll get on to them later.
The strike force of Heberty Fernandes (7) and Jaja Coelho (50) needs no introduction. Two of the finest forwards in Thai football brought together in a classic little-and-large partnership will certainly give Port’s defence plenty to think about. In replacing Leandro Assumpcao with Jaja, Muangthong have strengthened on the foreign-player front.
Then at the back there’s Celio Santos, one of the best defenders in the league. An extremely imposing figure, he will present a tough challenge to Boskovic if he starts, although after missing out on the opening weekend we’re hoping the burly Brazilian is still indisposed.
This is where things are looking significantly weaker for Muangthong this season.
Replacing Port fan-favourite Theeraton Bunmathan (you know him as Hia Um) is Peerapat Notechaiya (2), and whilst he’s second choice in the national team he’s not fit to lace the boots of the assist freak who will be spending 2018 with Vissel Kobe. I’d certainly take Port new boy Kevin Deeromram over Peerapat, and Muangthong must agree as they tried desperately to sign the Thai-Swede on deadline day, before Port swooped in and hijacked the deal. Chin up, fellas, you can have Panpanpong if you want!
Replacing Thailand’s finest striker of the last decade Teerasil Dangda is either the Thai Heskey Siroch Chatthong (35, Pipo to his friends) or the smaller, weaker and even more profligate Thai Heskey Chenrop Sampaodi (22). Whilst Pipo has stuck manfully to his principles, failing to find the net for Muangthong in T1 for half a season and counting, Chenrop went absolutely mental last weekend. The Thai under 23 striker bucked a trend which has seen him net just 3 times in 60 T1 games, firing in a hattrick after coming on at half time to help his side overturn a 2-0 deficit against Bangkok United. Well, I say firing in, but for the third goal he really just tripped over the ball on the line. I don’t know what on earth possessed Chenrop (a professional footballer, perhaps?) but I suspect he’ll be back to his inept best when Port come to town. The evidence of the previous 60 games holds rather more weight than 45 minutes of weirdness!
Replacing Thailand’s best ever goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan is Kampol Patthom-attakul (1), who has played 4 games in 7 seasons for Muangthong. Now, to be fair to Kampol he’s been on loan almost the entire time, and has played something like 100 T1 games, but he’s no Kawin.
Replacing Thailand’s most talented player Chanathip Songkrasin is Thai-Swiss Charyl Chappuis (23) who picked up a silly second yellow card on the opening weekend but won’t miss out on Saturday * as suspensions are only given to players who get a straight red card. With defensive midfielder Wattana Playnum who started that game missing out with injury, reliable captain Sarach Yooyen (6) and back-up Thossawat Limwannasathian (8) should start, which should make for a competent but hardly inspiring midfield.
Also looking competent but not exactly fearsome is the defence, with aforementioned left back Peerapat being joined at the back by Japanese veteran Naoaki Aoyama (4) and Thai national team duo Adisorn Promrak (25) and Tristan Do (19).
I’m actually going to enjoy previewing our line-ups this season. At full strength Port are solid all over the park, with a few outstanding players to boot. There are even selection headaches for Jadet due to an overabundance of attacking talent in the ranks. What a time to be a Port fan!
We have no idea if Rattanai (17) is back to full fitness or not, but regardless, Worawut (36) dealt with everything Pattaya sent his way, including a second half penalty, with aplomb.
At the back the usual suspects Nitipong (34), Rochela (22) and Todsapol (6) should be joined by Kevin Deeromram (97), who did enough to hold on to his left back slot in his debut on Sunday. Sound defensive work, largely mistake-free play in possession and some tasty dead-ball deliveries put Kevin well ahead of his competition. It’s sure to be a tough day at the office for the Port back 4 though, with Heberty and Jaja posing some very difficult and very different problems. Heberty will be trying to find pockets of space in and around the area to unleash his pinpoint finishes, whereas Jaja will be using brute force to crash through.
Port’s fit-again defensive midfielder Kim Sung-Hwan (8) should be the only change to Port’s first XI. Kim will provide more reliable protection for the back four and better distribution than Adisorn (13). Siwakorn (16) was one of many names in the Man of the Match hat last week with a typically smooth display. He even whacked someone in the first couple of minutes and didn’t get booked. Remarkable! Against a weakened Muangthong midfield, Kim and Siwakorn must try to give Port a solid platform from which to attack.
Bodin (10) certainly gave Jadet something to think about with his electrifying cameo, but I doubt he will lose faith in Pakorn (7) just yet. Nurul (31) was practically unplayable in the second half, and will enjoy himself on the right wing against Peerapat if he gets a chance to play there, but with Do at right back, it seems unlikely that either Pakorn or Nurul will make too many inroads on their less-favoured side of the pitch.
In what seem to be more loosely defined roles this season, Suarez (5) and Boskovic (23) were popping up all over the place on Sunday. It worked a treat, as Port overran their opponents in midfield and never seemed short of attackers. Breaking down the Muangthong defence will be more of a challenge, but you have to fancy Port to get on the scoresheet at some point.
* When the article was first published, I wrote that Chappuis was suspended, but Dom informed me that only a straight red card or an accumulation of four yellow cards gets you a suspension.
The match will be shown live on True 4U and True Sport HD2 at 18:00 on Saturday 17 February, 2018. Again, away fans are banned so for those who can’t make it to PAT Stadium to watch on the big screen, The Sportsman on Sukhumvit 13 will show the match with sound if you ask them nicely. Mention the Sandpit or wear your Port shirt for a 10% discount.