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An Underdog Story: Muangthong Utd vs. Port FC Preview

 

A rather quaint old feeling surrounds today’s trip to the SCG. With MTU currently on top form and Port in a slump, we almost feel like the underdogs we used to be in this tie. For once, the fact that Port fans will be forced to watch on the tele is not that annoying, as we probably wouldn’t be allowed in to Legoland regardless of the current situation.

Taking on the mentality of underdogs may be a bit tricky considering the supposed calibre of players at our disposal, but I’m going to take on the task of motivating the boys myself by giving them my absolutely honest assessment on tonight’s opposition. With this brutally frank dissection of the favourites, the lads are going to be scared straight, and put in the kind of performance that saw us deliver shock Slum vs. Scum defeats in… well, just about every match-up in recent memory.

 

 

Muangthong Utd

The Redvolution

 

Starting out with between the sticks, Port will be devastated that Dang Van Lam is no longer between the sticks, as future first choice Thai national team goalkeeper Somporn Yos (29) replaces him. This young man towers above opposition forwards, with his 1.78m (5ft 10) frame making him as imposing at claiming crosses as he is in one-on-one situations. The 5 times he has been sent out on loan by his parent clubs are yet further evidence of the high regard he has been held in by both BEC Tero and now Muangthong, who even went as far as turning down the chance to sign Kawin Thamsatchanan from Leuven, such was their faith in Somporn’s ability.

 

 

At the back there are an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Should I start with Wattanakorn Sawatlakhorn (30), whose ratio of assists per game is bettered only by his ratio of tattoos to… non tattoos? Future first choice Thai national team left back Wattanakorn seems to have modelled himself on Port star Charyl Chappuis, with the prominent tattoos and IG model girlfriend jut two of the many weapons at his disposal.

 

 

Speaking of weapons, we move straight on to another towering defensive unit. Future first choice Thai national team centre back Saringkan Promsupa (15) makes Nurul look small. At 1.75m (5ft 10) Saringkan assures that Port centre back Dolah (4) will have no chance of getting his head on any set-piece deliveries in to Muangthong’s impenetrable box.

In midfield, Muangthong also have more options than they know what to do with. Future first choice Thai national team ludisto Weerathep Pomphan (18) is arguably the main threat. Specializing in the key pass to the key pass, Weerathep plays the pass that leads to the pass which leads to an assist as well if not better than anyone in the league. Coach Oud would be well advised to stick two players, if not three, on Weerathep, just to be safe. It’s the respect the signing from Chamchuri United deserves.

 

 

Up top is where it really gets ugly. For Port. With 19 strikes to date (according to Wikipedia), Derley (87) has scored more goals for Muangthong than any other club in his illustrious career, and at 33 years old he probably still has time to get in to the twenties for the very first time. A classic centre forward, future first choice Brazil national team striker Derley excels at holding the ball up, bringing others in to play and let’s not forget: scoring goals. Derley has notched 11 to date this season, just 8 behind top scorer Barros Tardelli, while he has even scored almost as many as centre back Victor Cardozo.

 

 

In charge is a manager whose achievements really speak for themselves. Mario’s demure pitch-side demeanour, combined with an incredibly sharp eye for set-piece preparation, has led to a remarkable uptick in free kick goals. The future Thai national team boss has earned the respect of both his own players and the opposition too, with the calm exchange of views with Bonilla after the final whistle in the sides’ last encounter exemplifying just how far Mario is above the fray. Any manager who is so focused on his job that he forgets to get fully dressed is a man fully committed to learning his craft, that’s for sure.

 

 

Form

Theirs is better than ours. Obviously. Further details are not required.

 

Port FC

The Underdogs

 

Port boss Oud has had a good run in the hot-seat, but the wheels have fallen off in recent times. After an enforced break in T1 action, Port returned with a side that was barely recognizable from the one Oud had been so successful with. Players who had performed so well to put Port in a strong position in the league were left out, while bigger names who have proven less in a Port shirt were preferred. I could name names, but you’re probably all bored of me laying in to Tanaboon (71) and Chappuis (17) anyway.

With the decline in form clear to see, Port are reportedly already looking for a replacement, so it’s anyone’s guess who will be picking the team for today’s big game.

Here’s what I’d do.

Rattanai (18) keeps his place, after an outstanding performance last time out. Nitipong (34) gets a right telling off for repeatedly poor performances, but still gets to play because there’s no one better. Worawut (24) and Dolah (4) continue in central defence, and Jaturapat (21) gets a chance to impress on the left until Kevin is fit. He’s hungry, and whilst Steuble is a decent option, I like a natural leftie with Bordin usually cutting inside on to his right.

Kannarin (31) anchors the midfield, giving Go (8) a bit more freedom to get forward and score excellent volleys. Siwakorn misses out, as he needs to be reminded that he doesn’t start by default.

Nattawut (45) gets a well-deserved go on the right wing. His end product is far better than Nurul’s, and he’s more than deserving of a start in a position where we really don’t seem to have a better idea. The less said about Adisak on the right wing the better. Bordin (10) continues on the left, as does Suarez (5) through the middle. I trust both will return to form in due course.

Up top is a tough one, but I’m going to give Boli (94) an hour to bully the Muangthong defence, and bring Boni (99) on when they’re a bit tired.

 


 

We’re the underdogs, remember? It’s not about picking the best players, but keeping things fresh and having players on the pitch who are going to do whatever it takes to deliver us a massive derby win. Come on, boys!

 


 

The match will be shown live on NBT 2HD and the AIS Play app. Kick off is at 18:30.

 

Port to Maintain the New Normal? Port FC vs. Muangthong Utd Preview

 

No, this is not a Covid-19 reference, nor some pessimistic speculation on Port’s relatively indifferent form since the re-start continuing, but, rather, a welcome nod to the Lions’ satisfying habit of regularly beating their much-loathed rivals in recent seasons. Resounding home and away victories have brought unbridled joy to the Klongtoey faithful, and some eagerly taken dressing-room photographic opportunities for the players. This happy sequence has only been marred by a 3-2, 2018 home loss in a game notable for four goals in seven minutes of Toby time after the interval and a cruelly ruled out, ‘offside’ equalizer.

As with all games between Port and the Kirins, this one will be eagerly anticipated, but the absence of a rabid, baying Port crowd thirsting for blood (metaphorically of course, as away fans have not been admitted in recent years) definitely dampens the enthusiasm. Games between these teams have led to heated debates amongst the fans, to say the least, and this rivalry has given the games a certain edge, with success often measured in the emergency room as much as the goalmouth.

With football in the UK played against an uninspiring soundtrack of canned cheering and audible player cursing, we should really be grateful that at least we can get to see live football again and have a few beers with our mates. All that is missing are the Korean sex-dolls. I will bring some along next time.

 

 

To be truthful, the atmosphere has been rather sterile in the first two home matches with somewhat muted cheers greeting the goals and occasional moments of artistry. In fact, the loudest outburst of meaningful noise was when the floodlights failed, plus the raucous howls of derision when Tunez tried to pick a fight with Heberty. It just showed what sort of delicious malice might be generated by a real crowd. To be fair, it is hard to get excited sitting down and with the luxurious space afforded by Port’s social distance seating (we knew they would come in handy some time) plus the uninterrupted views, it does seem rather a waste of energy getting to your feet, except at Zone B corners and then it’s often just to stretch the legs.

Then there is the lengthy wait while, it seems, every goal, yes, every goal, is subject to VAR regardless of its obvious validity. I am waiting for someone to score direct from a rolled-back kick-off only for the referee to check if the player had put his shin-pads in correctly.

Port’s re-start has been riddled with a predictable mixture of farce and folly: the floodlight fiasco, yet another Jadet sacking and the Bonilla injury saga, not to mention Madame Pang’s ostentatious footwear. It has been commented by some Sand-Pitters that this is not a club you can fully love at the moment and the back room in The Sportsman on Saturday night was a Viper’s pit of vitriol, most of the venom directed at Heberty, who is clearly this season’s pantomime villain. I am certainly irritated by his selfishness and wayward shooting but he’s no Pol Pot.

So, I’m going to look on the bright side. While it has not been the re-start we might have craved, a quick look at the table today shows us just three points behind leaders Bangkok Glass, to whom we lost narrowly, with only one ‘actual’ defeat, the same as Bangkok Utd. Last week’s win was decidedly un-pretty and somewhat desperate, like a closing time carry-out from Thermae, but the pitch looked like a rice paddy and it was our 4th different starting eleven in four games.

We have been hit by injuries and suspensions as well as haunted by missed chances. We now have a run of 3 ‘winnable’ game, which should maintain our strong position. This, I believe, will be a season where the top six teams take points off each other and it is likely to be a much more competitive title race than in previous campaigns. It used to be that you had to beat Buriram twice to even stand a chance of winning the League, as they would invariably mop up everyone else. Buriram will no doubt re-enter the fray at some point, which will make for a fascinating season. We have a squad able to compete at this level; it just needs a bit of inspired direction. Rumour has it that Madame Pang is lining up more foreign coaches than the harbour-master at Calais so maybe, just maybe. I prefer my glass half-full.

Our opponents this week had a decent win against 5th place Ratchaburi in their last run-out, which, unfortunately, might give them some renewed confidence. They have a number of foreign players in their ranks with an interesting pedigree. Brazilian, Vanderley Dias Marinho (87), or Derley for short, once had a spell with Benfica, signed after a 16-goal breakthrough season with Maritimo in 2014. One of his earliest moments after joining was to score a goal against Valencia in the Emirates Cup that season. He was only to score once more in 15 appearances with The Eagles. He has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Muang Thong, so is likely be a threat.

 

 

Russian born, Vietnamese national goalkeeper, Dang Van Lam (1) was signed from Haiphong, Leandro’s former club. A giant of a keeper with an arm span of two metres, we will need to keep it low. His Russian name, Lev, is contributed to his mother’s (a former ballet dancer) passionate admiration for the legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

Daisuke Caumanday Sato (66) has an exotic name to match the other two and is one of more than a dozen Filipino players to be playing in the Thai League at the moment, although many, like Sato, are of dual nationality. His one claim to fame is being the first Filipino footballer to play in Romania, for Politehnica against Dinamo Bucharest in 2016. Something to boast about in the watering holes on P. Burgos.

 

 

It has been three years since MTU last won a trophy and four since they won the League; long may that continue. It seems that their only recent, notable statistic is the number of players they have out on loan: 37 at the last count, most of them at Udon Thani and Bang Pa-In Ayuthaya.

With a victory under their belt, Port need a settled spell so, if everyone is fit, I wouldn’t activate many changes unless it would be to bring back Siwakorn to accompany Go and Heberty/Suarez in midfield.

 

Possible Team

 

 

Prediction

Port to win 3-1.

 


 

The match will be shown on True4U and True Sports HD1 at 18:00 on Sunday 4th September, 2020. For the many of you who won’t be able to get your hands on tickets, 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.