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Rayong can expect another beating from Buriram

The Thai League 1’s bottom club Rayong FC need to start collecting points, beginning with tomorrow’s home match against high-flying Buriram United, to stand a chance in avoiding relegation. The match, the 20th game for both clubs in the current 2020/21 campaign, will be played at the Rayong Province Stadium at 8pm Malaysian time.

With just 11 games remaining, Rayong are rooted to the bottom of the 16-team standings with just 10 points from 19 matches. The Dragon Horses are 10 points away from safety, and badly need to start winning again soon if they are to avoid dropping to League 2 next season.

It is a matter of easier said than done for Rayong, who are coming into the game on the back of three consecutive defeats. The three games were lost with a cumulative scoreline of 0-7, and Rayong haven’t scored a goal since beating Bangkok United 1-0 on December 19.

Morale in the squad is at an all-time low following the club’s recent financial troubles.

During the one-month league suspension because of Covid-19 in January, players and coaches had refused to attend training after not being paid their wages. The problem was solved after a sponsor stepped forward with an advance payment. But the after-effects of that episode is being felt on the pitch, with the Rayong team failing so far to salvage their season.

Buriram are also heading to Rayong on the back of a defeat, after going down 0-1 to runaway league leaders BG Pathum United on Saturday. The Thunder Castle were unlucky not to salvage at least a point from the game after wasting several good chances to score late in the game.

Prior to the loss, Buriram were the league’s in-form team, having registered five straight wins, including an impressive 2-1 victory over second-placed Port FC.

Despite the latest setback, Buriram are very much in the running for a top four spot. Their cause was helped by reigning champions Chiangrai United falling to a shock 0-1 defeat to Prachuap yesterday. Buriram are still in third position with 32 points, but need to put some space between them and the chasing pack consisting Muangthong United (31), Chiangrai (30) and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol (29). by picking up three points against Rayong.


Injuries and suspension

Rayong’s first choice leftback Yordrak Namuangrak is suspended after getting sent off in the 95th minute of their 0-1 defeat to Suphanburi last Wednesday.

Buriram will miss their injured forward Suphanat Mueanta.


Head-to-head record

Buriram have only played the newly promoted Rayong FC three times in the past three years, and won all their three encounters by a combined scoreline of 14-2.

In this season’s corresponding fixture played on November 11 last year, Buriram thumped the league’s basement club 5-1, with five different players getting on the scoresheet.

In their two other recent meetings, Buriram thrashed Rayong 5-0 in an FA Cup match and 4-1 in a League Cup match, both in 2019.  


Key players

Rayong

Adalgisio Pitbull (Brazil): When the Brazilian forward is off-form, the goals dry up for Rayong. Pitbull is currently Rayong’s top scorer with four goals. He has to shoulder the responsibility to break the team’s goal drought after firing blanks in the last three games. Pitbull needs to get into the scoring positions, and receive better support from his teammates, for Rayong to have a chance of survival.

Buriram

Maicon (Brazil): Despite Buriram’s current good form, their new Brazilian hitman Maicon is struggling to stamp his mark on the pitch. He has so far only scored once in his first four appearance since arriving from Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro in December, and needs to contribute more in front of the opposition goal.

For a team with lofty ambitions, it is weird that Buriram’s current joint top scorers are Serbian Marco Scepovic, who left the club in November, and midfielder Supachok Sarachat, whose five goals all came in the first half of the season.  


Prediction

It is near impossible for the out-of-sorts Rayong to spring a surprise against a Buriram side who gave a good account of themselves against Pathum. The Thunder Castle could not have asked for an easier opponent in their quest to hold on to the third spot in the standings.

Score prediction: Buriram to win 4-0

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Ronaldo breaks another record despite loss to Napoli

Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score during Juventus’ 0-1 Serie A defeat to Napoli, which was decided by Lorenzo Insigne’s penalty.

However, the Portuguese accomplished a special achievement outside the pitch as he becomes the first person to amass 500 million followers across three main social media platforms- Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The Juventus superstar now has the most fans in the world and he also hold the number one spot for most followers in Instagram after surpassing singer Ariana Grande in recent weeks.

According to the website Aphrodite, Ronaldo earns more than seven million euros a week, or 370 million euros a year, through Instagram due to his massive following of 262 million fans on the site. As comparison, he earns 159 million euros more than Neymar and 220 million euros more than Lionel Messi.

The Portuguese truly deserves to be such a money-making machine as he is proving to everyone that age is just a number with his performances. Ronaldo, who turned 36 last week, is now leading the Serie A’s goalscoring chart with 16 goals.

Also, with his current form, it is hard to predict how many more goals he can score and when he will finally hang up his boots. One thing for sure is that the Portuguese will be greatly missed when the day arrives. 


(Photo: Cristiano Ronaldo Instagram)

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Club terminate Honda's contract just five days after signing

Japanese star player Keisuke Honda has not given up on his dream of representing Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, despite leaving his latest club just five days after joining them.

The 34-year-old midfielder was unveiled by Portuguese club Portimonense as their latest signing on February 6. However, the Primeira Liga club disclosed that they had terminated Honda’s contract on February 11 after failing to register him due to a technicality.

Portuguese competition rules require a player to be a free agent for at least three months before he can be signed outside the transfer window. Honda, who only left Brazilian club Botafogo in December, failed to fulfil the requirement.

The Japanese superstar, who had played for high-profile teams like AC Milan, CSKA Moscow and Botafogo during his 17-year career, had hoped to use the Primeira Liga to stake a claim as one of Japan’s three over aged players for the Under-23 Olympic team.

He signed a six-month deal with Portimonense, with an option to extend the contract for another year.

But the player capped 98 times by the Samurai Blue will now seek another club to get his much-needed playing time before the final squad for July’s Olympic Games is announced.

Portimonense were Honda’s ninth club. Before heading to Portugal, he left Botafogo after failing to prevent them from being relegated to the second division in 2020. The midfielder made 27 appearances and scored three times for the Brazilian outfit.

As a free agent, Honda has a wide array of options available for his next move. The veteran, who has also played for clubs in Australia and Mexico, could join a Japanese club for the first time since leaving Nagoya Grampus Eight in 2007. Or he can just head to another European country which can accommodate him instantly.

Whatever his next move is, Honda needs to do it fast as time is running out for him in his quest to play in the Olympics in front of his home fans.  


(Photo: Portimonense Futebol Facebook page)

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Best chance for Sharks to stop sliding down

Trat FC and Chonburi FC, both going through rough patches, will seek to gain a valuable boost when they meet in a Thai League 1 match tomorrow (February 14). The match, which will be the 19th for both clubs in the 2020/21 campaign, will be played at the Trat Province Stadium at 8pm Malaysian time.   

Both the teams will come in the game on the back of gaining just one victory and three points from their last five league matches.

The former giants Chonburi have slowly slipped to 11th in the 16-team league standings, taking 22 points in their first 18 games. In the Sharks’ latest outing on Thursday, they fell 1-2 at home to Muangthong United. Although they produced the same number of shots and had almost equal possession as their opponents, the Sharks’ failure to score more than once proved costly.

This is the first time since 2006 that Chonburi face the real prospect of being involved in a relegation battle.

Their opponents Trat are in an even worse position. The White Elephants are second from the bottom of the standings with just 10 points, and are currently 10 points away from safety. Trat have won just three games all season, with their last victory coming against a 10-men Police Tero on December 27.

Despite their lowly position, Trat can take heart from the fact that they have been improving lately. The relegation contenders are through to the FA Cup quarter-finals, and they have put up strong fights in their two recent games.They suffered a 1-2 defeat to runaway leaders BG Pathum United on Tuesday and a 1-3 loss to champions Chiangrai United three days before that after being level until the hour’s mark.

Trat have also practically faced most of the top sides and have an easier fixture list in the run-in. Although they still have plenty of work to be done before avoiding relegation, their current form suggests they will not go down without putting up a fight, beginning with the Chonburi game.  


Injuries and suspension

Both Trat and Chonburi will be at full strength for tomorrow’s game.


Head-to-head record

This season’s corresponding fixture featuring both teams on September 13, 2020 was a five-goal thriller which Chonburi edged 3-2.

Striker Caion was the hero for Chonburi that day, scoring twice, including the winning goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute. However, the Brazilian will not be appearing in the game tomorrow as he has been loaned out to Suphanburi FC in December after suffering a slump in form for the Sharks.

The two clubs’ previous two meetings in the 2019 League 1 season ended in 3-3 and 2-2 draws.


Key players

Trat

Jonatan Reis (Brazil): The 31-year-old Reis was brought in from Cypriot club Ermis Aradippou last month to be the team’s focal point. However, the Brazilian newcomer, who had previously played half a season in Pathum’s League 2 title winning 2019 season, has yet to impress. A return of just one goal in his first four appearances is not enough to rescue troubled Trat, and more is expected from Reis to save the club from making a return to League 2.


Chonburi

Kroekrit Thaweekarn (Thailand): Chonburi captain Kroekrit is having a hard time keeping his teammates motivated, especially as recent results have not been encouraging. The Thai national player, who is a key figure in the Chonburi midfield, has to be at his best to keep his team focused if they are to beat Trat and halt the slide towards the relegation zone.


Prediction

The clubs’ first meeting of the season produced five goals. With both teams expected to go all out for a much-needed win, goals can be expected in this game. A draw will not do either side any favours, but on recent form, they can be expected to cancel each other out.

Score prediction: Chonburi expected to win 2-1.


(Photo: Chonburi FC Facebook page)


 


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Will Chiangrai get stung by the Killer Wasp?

Lowly Prachuap host the defending champions Chiangrai United in a Thai League 1 match tomorrow. It will be the 19th game of the season for Prachuap and the 18th for Chiangrai. The match will be played at Prachuap’s Sam Ao Stadium tomorrow (February 14) at 6pm Malaysian time. 


Prachuap are occupying the 14th and final relegation spot in the league. The Killer Wasp are not enjoying good form, only collecting four points from a win and a draw in their last five games. Unlike the other strugglers, Prachuap’s main problem is not their attack, where they have scored a healthy eight goals in the last five games. Their headache is their fragile back line, where they conceded 11 goals in the same period.


Their most recent loss was the 3-4 defeat to Sukhothai on Thursday, when the Killer Wasp allowed the opposition striker Baggio Rakotomenjahary to score four goals against them. The defeat to the off-form Sukhothai, who had lost all their five previous matches, prevented Prachuap, who are stuck on 17 points from 18 games, from moving out of the relegation zone.


Chiangrai are in the thick of battle to secure a top four spot and feature in the Asian Champions League in 2022. However, the Beetles have been inconsistent lately, winning twice and losing as many matches in their last five league appearances. Chiangrai, who have a game in hand on all their top four opponents, can rely on their strong defence, which has conceded 17 goals from as many matches. They boast the second best defensive record in the top flight this season, behind runaway leaders BG Pathum United.


However, the Beetles are still far from finishing the job of securing a top four finish. They are just one and two points ahead of 5th-placed Ratchaburi Mitr Phol and 6th-placed Muangthong United respectively. This means Chiangrai cannot afford to lose any more ground as they risk being overtaken  by the two teams behind them.


Injuries and suspensions

There are no injuries and suspensions for both teams.


Head-to-head record

Chiangrai won 1-0 in the corresponding fixture on September 12, 2020. The game was one-sided as Chiangrai registered 15 shots while Prachuap only managed to get one shot on target. Thai winger Chotipat Poomkaew’s 31st minute goal was enough to secure all three points for the Beetles.

They played to each other only five times previously, with Chiangrai obviously being the better side with three victories, one defeat and one draw.


Key players to watch:

Prachuap

William Henrique (Brazil): The 29-year-old forward is not a prolific scorer as he has scored only six goals in 17 league appearances. But Henrique is in his best form now, providing three goals and one assist in his last four league appearances.


Chiangrai United

Sivakorn Tiatrakul (Thailand): The Thailand national team midfielder is one of the key members when Chiangrai won the Thai League 1 title in 2019. Sivakorn has featured only nine times in league this season due to injuries, but he is now fully fit and ready to help his team in the top four battle.


Prediction

Although both sides have a strong motive to bag the three points, Chiangrai trump Prachuap in all aspects (quality of players, recent form, head-to-head record). A comfortable win for the Beetles is on the cards.

Score prediction: Chiangrai to win 2-0.


(Photo: Chiangrai United Facebook page)

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Depleted Ratchaburi seek a double against Bangkok

Bangkok United seek to get their fading hopes back on track again as they take on the Thai League 1’s surprise team Ratchaburi Mitr Phol. The match, which is the 19th for both teams in the 2020/21 campaign, will be played tomorrow (February 13) at the Thammasat University Stadium in Bangkok at 6pm Malaysian time. 


The seventh-placed Bangkok are desperate to overcome a poor form that has seen them win just once in the previous five matches. They have only gained four points out of a possible 15 during the poor run. At present, the once-powerful Bangkok club, who finished runners-up just two seasons ago, are destined for mid-table obscurity. Having 25 points from 18 games, they are unlikely to be involved in a top four tussle or being sucked into a relegation battle.


Bangkok had started off the season with a bang, winning all their opening five matches. However, they could not sustain the momentum, and have gone off the rails by winning just twice and collecting 10 points in the subsequent 13 matches.


The fifth-placed Ratchaburi are proving to be the dark horse of the league this season. They are just one point behind the fourth-placed reigning champions Chiangrai United, who have a match in hand. However, Ratchaburi are also heading into tomorrow’s match on the back of a losing streak, having collected just three points from a single victory in their last five matches.


Despite their poor form, the Dragons are still within touching distance of the Asian Champions league places. They have 29 points, just three behind third-placed Buriram United, and only one point ahead of sixth-placed Muangthong United. The race is pretty tight, which means Ratchaburi cannot afford to lose any more ground if they still relish a top-four finish.


Injuries and suspensions

Bangkok United will have full squad to choose from for this match.

Ratchaburi goalkeeper Ukrit Wongmeema will serve the second game of his suspension after being shown a straight red card against Buriram last Saturday. Centreback Lee Jae-sung, the Dragons’ new signing from K-League’s Incheon United, is suspended after being sent off during Wednesday’s game against Nakhon Ratchashima.

Also, defensive midfielder Kritsanon Sritsuwan is nursing a knee injury and is doubtful to feature in this game.


Head-to-head record

Ratchaburi won 2-1 in the corresponding fixture on October 10, 2020. Philip Roller’s brace ensured the Dragons secured all three points in that nail-biting match.

Bangkok are clearly the better side in recent meetings, having won six times, drawing twice and losing only once in their previous nine meetings.


Key players to watch:

Bangkok United

Nattawut Suksum (Thailand): Despite being the top scorer for Bangkok, the 23-year-old forward has found the net only six times in 18 league appearance. However, he is the player who made Bangkok look competent by scoring in the corresponding fixture. Nattawut will be expected to score against Ratchaburi again, but this time he will be seeking to end up with the winning side.


Ratchaburi

Phillip Roller (Thailand): The 26-year-old German-Thai is the captain and top scorer of Ratchaburi despite playing at rightback. Roller will play an important role to motivate his team to put a fight despite having a depleted side. He will also be depended upon to score again in this game to help the Dragons complete a league double over Bangkok.


Prediction

Although both sides are off-form, Ratchaburi will hope to get all three points to keep themselves in the top-four race. But with three key players missing and a poor head-to-head record, Bangkok should nick this one.

Score prediction: Bangkok to win 1-0.


(Photo: Bangkok United Facebook page)


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Pathum’s 'invincible' run faces a tough Buriram wall

Even after several stops and starts to the Thai League 1 2020/21 season, BG Pathum United remain unshakeable. But the league leaders face one of their toughest challenges when they travel to face third-placed Buriram United. The 19th match of the season for both teams will be played tomorrow at the Chang Arena in Buriram at 7pm Malaysian time.

Since the league resumed on January 31 following the latest stop because of Covid-19, Pathum have shown no signs of slowing down. They picked up maximum points against Police Tero (2-0) and Trat (2-1). The Rabbits, who are now unbeaten in 18 games and enjoy a ten-point advantage over second-placed Port FC, are out to wrap up the League 1 title as soon as possible.

While continuing their march towards the title, Pathum also had time to unveil their new-look striking combination. The Thai legend Teerasil Dangda has returned from Japan to form a lethal partnership with Brazilian Diogo, who was bought in December. The duo settled in quickly, and scored a goal each in Pathum’s latest two matches.  

Although Pathum’s 16 wins in 18 matches look impressive, their critics have been quick to point out that the two victories since the league resumed were achieved against weak oppositions. Buriram present Pathum with the first big challenge of 2021.

Buriram are the current in-form team in the league. They head into the match high on confidence after producing a ‘double’ win over Port. The Thunder Castle knocked out Port from the FA Cup in a penalty shootout on February 3 and followed it up with an impressive 2-1 away league win over the second-placed team on Tuesday. In between, Buriram also hammered Ratchaburi FC 3-0 on February 6.

If there is any Thai team which can stop Pathum’s unbeaten league run right now, it has to be Buriram. After a slow start, the 2011, 2013 and 2015 treble champions have climbed up to third in the standings, but are still a massive 18 points behind the leaders.


Injuries and suspension:

Both teams have no suspensions or injuries, and will be at full strength tomorrow.


Head to head record:

Pathum won 1-0 at home during the corresponding fixture on October 10, 2020. Former Venezuela international defender Andres Tunez scored the only goal of the match.

But there have been many changes since then, with both teams signing on new players and more significantly, Buriram have found the form which made them a feared team in the past decade.

Prior to the current season, Buriram have enjoyed total domination over Pathum, winning all their previous four meetings by a single-goal margin. Each of their last five meetings have ended either 1-0 or 2-1.

However, much has changed with the reigning League 2 champions Pathum, who have been totally transformed this year.   


Key players to watch:

Buriram

Jakkapan Kaewprom (Thailand): Brazilian Maicon is Buriram’s most dangerous threat but it is Jakkapan who is the livewire of the team. The 32-year-old Thailand national midfielder, who is featuring in his 10th season for the Thunder Castle, is the top assist provider in League 1. He has created eight goals for his teammates so far and his return from injury is one of the key reasons for the upturn in Buriram’s recent fortunes.

Pathum

Diogo (Brazil): Pathum made Diogo the highest paid player in Thai football when they signed him from Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in December. The 33-year-old former Olympiakos striker has lived up to his reputation so far, providing an assist and scoring a goal in Pathum’s first two matches since the restart.

Diogo is only expected to get better as he builds a stronger understanding with his teammates, and this is bad news for opposing players. The Buriram defence will need to work hard to keep him quiet in tomorrow’s game.


Prediction:

This is a must-see contest for all Thailand football enthusiasts, featuring the two in-form teams in League 1. There will be plenty of attacking and top-quality performance involved, but the worry is that both teams will cancel out each other.

Score prediction: The match to end 1-1.


(Photo: BG Pathum United Facebook page)

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European players back in demand for M’sian clubs?

European players seem to be making a comeback to Malaysian football.

The latest player from the continent to head to the Malaysian Super League is Frenchman Mamadou Wague, who has signed on for Sri Pahang FC.

The centreback, who also holds a Lebanon passport, formerly played for Ligue 2 clubs Le Mans and Metz earlier in his career.

He comes to Pahang on the back of winning the best defender of the season awards in the Saudi Arabian and Ukraine leagues with Najran and Chornomorets Odesa respectively.

Wague is the second French centreback in the Pahang squad, after club captain Herold Goulon, who joined last season. Incidentally, both Goulon and Wague lined up alongside each other in the Le Mans defence during the 2009/10 Ligue 2 season.

The Elephants also have the Englishman Lee Tuck, who was signed from Terengganu, playing in their midfield.

Pahang are not the only Super League team to form a European backbone at the heart of their defence. Selangor FC have also sought for reinforcements in the continent, signing German Tim Heubach and Swiss Oliver Buff to marshal their back line. The Red Giants are also expected to name another German player, Manuel Konrad, as their final foreign signing before the transfer window closes next week.

The dependence on players from the top European nations marks a change from the recent norm in Malaysian football, with clubs preferring to opt for South American and African players.

There have been a number of players from the Balkan countries like Croatia, Serbia and Slovakia pitching their tents in Malaysia, but not many players from the top-ranked Europe nations.

The 90’s were the golden period for European players in Malaysian football, with many teams looking to the most successful football continent when signing their import players.

John Hunter (Scotland), Frank Pastor (Germany), Vyacheslav Melnikov (Russia), Laszlo Repasi (Hungary) and David Rocastle (England) were just some of the names that gained popularity among Malaysian fans back then.

The most recent European player to make a name for himself in Malaysian football is Liridon Krasniqi of Kosovo. After playing in the country for five years, the former Kedah player was granted Malaysian citizenship in 2020. Krasniqi is currently loaned out to A-League's Newcastle Jets by his parent club Johor Darul Ta'zim.


(Photo: Mamadou Wague Facebook page)


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Porto and Braga stars had to push the ambulance that broke down

Just when you thought you have seen all kinds of crazy and weird things that happened on the football pitch, something new will still surprise you. Yesterday, players from Porto and Braga worked together to push an ambulance that was stuck on the pitch.

During the first leg of the Taca de Portugal semi-final game, Braga defender David Carmo suffered a serious injury following a rough tackle from Porto’s Luis Diaz.

It first looked like just a normal collision, but the referee and players from both sides immediately gestured for help after realising Carmo was in deep pain.

The ambulance was called onto the pitch to take Carmo away after a lengthy treatment on the pitch. However, the ambulance broke down and got stuck middle of the pitch when it was about to drive off. Several players from Porto and Braga gave an old-fashioned push-start manoeuvre so that the vehicle could start again.

In addition, Diaz was shown a red card after the referee consulted the VAR, as replays showed that he was stretching both his feet when he caught Carmo high on the ankle.

Fortunately, Braga managed to get something in return from the game despite being the victim in this incident. Twelve minutes of added time were given due to Carmo’s injury, and Braga’s Fransergio scored in 90+10’ to earn a point in the 1-1 draw.

It is also worth mentioning that a similar incident happened in a Brazilian top flight match back in September 2018.  Players from Vasco da Gama and Flamengo gave the ambulance a push, to make sure that Bruno Silva, who had been knocked unconscious successfully transferred to the hospital.


(Photo: Copa90 Twitter)

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Will Prachuap plant another punch on off-form Sukhothai?

A badly off-form Sukhothai FC host relegation threatened Prachuap FC in the Thai League 1 tomorrow. It is a battle which neither team would want to lose. The 18th match of the 2020/21 campaign for both teams will be played at the Thalay Luang Stadium tomorrow (February 11) at 8pm.


With home ground advantage and being three positions above their opponents should make Sukhothai the early favourites for the game. However, the Fire Bats are having a crisis of confidence, losing all their last six games. This includes five defeats in the league and being knocked out of the FA Cup 0-1 by Chiangrai United.


It has been more than three months since Sukhothai last tasted victory, a 2-0 shock win over the reigning champions Chiangrai on November 10 last year. Last year, the team from the ancient royal city narrowly escaped relegation by a mere two points. They are facing the danger of being sucked into another relegation battle unless they overturn the sudden dip in form. They are currently just three points above Prachuap, who occupy the final relegation position.


The 14th placed Prachuap are in the danger zone, but can at least point to their positive recent form for encouragement. The Killer Wasps have won twice and drawn one of their last five matches. As their two recent defeats came against the unbeaten league leaders BG Pathum United and top four contenders Buriram United, Prachuap fans can look forward to their team continuing their escape from the relegation zone.


Prachuap were not among the  relegation favorites before the season started as they had finished sixth and ninth in their two previous top flight seasons. However, they made a poor start to the current campaign, failing to win in their opening five matches and only collected a single point. Since then, they have improved to collect 16 points from the next 12 games. Yet, there is still plenty to be done as Prachuap are not out of trouble yet.


Injuries and suspensions

There are no injuries and suspensions for both teams.


Head-to-head record

Sukhothai won 3-2 in the corresponding fixtures on February 29, 2020. Despite William Henrique scoring a brace for Prachuap, it were not enough for his team to get any return from the game.

The two teams are evenly matched in recent meetings, with each of them winning twice each and the other two matches ending in a draw in their previous six meetings.


Key players to watch:

Sukhothai

John Baggio (Madagascar): The 29-year-old winger is not only the team’s captain but also their main man in attack. Baggio has scored 10 goals and provided three assists in 15 league game appearances. As one of his goals was against Prachuap in the corresponding fixture, the Fire Bats fans are hoping to see him on the scoresheet tomorrow.


Prachuap

William Henrique (Brazil): Henrique has been outshined by his compatriot and forward partner Willen, who has scored nine goals in 13 league appearances. Henrique has only managed to score five goals in 16 games. However, Henrique is the player who kept Prachuap alive in the game until the final whistle during the corresponding fixture. This will be the match for him to prove that he is more than just Willen’s sidekick.


Prediction

 It’s a relegation six-pointer for both Sukhothai and Prachuap. Although both sides are pretty even in terms of quality of players and head-to-head record, the visitor possess a much better recent form and should bag the three points.


Score prediction: Prachuap to win 2-1.


(Photo: Sukhothai FC Facebook page)

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Will Muangthong push Chonburi closer towards relegation zone?

The two fallen giants Chonburi FC and Muangthong United meet in the Thai League 1 2020/21 campaign tomorrow. Muangthong, who last won the League 1 title in 2016, are coming into the game in a healthier condition than their rivals Chonburi, whose last trophy was the FA Cup won in the same year. The 18th match of the season for both teams will be played at the Chonburi Stadium tomorrow (February 11) at 7.30pm.


The 10th-placed Chonburi are going through a tough time, languishing just five points above the relegation zone. The Sharks are currently in a torrid run of form, having won only once and losing the other five times in their last six appearances. During this period, they have scored a mere three times but have conceded a whopping 14 goals.


Chonburi are currently a pale shadow of the team that were challenging for honours just five seasons ago. Since finishing second in the league behind Buriram United in 2014, the Sharks have secured fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth and seventh positions in the following five seasons. Things have got worse for them in the current season, as they face serious risk of relegation for the first time since entering the top flight in 2006.


Sixth-placed Muangthong will head to Chonburi in high spirits, having thrashed bottom club Rayong 4-0 on Sunday. Being just four points adrift of fourth-placed Chiangrai United, the Kirins will be looking to collect another three points to get back into contention for an Asian Champions League slot.


Muangthong are desperate to regain their status as one of the feared teams in Thailand. Since their second-placed finish in 2017, the team from Nonthaburi, on the outskirts of Bangkok, finished fourth and fifth in the last two seasons. If they can keep up their current form, Muangthong will surely be in the mix for the fight for a top four finish.  


Injuries and suspensions

There are no injuries and suspensions for both teams.


Head-to-head record

Muangthong won 1-0 in the corresponding fixture on March 1, 2020. Brazilian striker Derley’s 19th minute goal was enough to secure all three points for the Kirins.

The two teams are evenly matched in recent meetings, with each of them winning twice each and the other match ending in a draw in their previous five meetings.


Key players to watch:

Chonburi

Eliandro (Brazil): The 30-year-old forward was signed from fellow Thai League 1 club Suphanburi in January to solve Chonburi’s problem of not having a prolific finisher. The Brazilian failed to score on his debut during the 2-0 defeat to Nakhon Ratchasima three days ago but there will be high expectations on him to finally break the duck in his second appearance.

Muangthong

Sardor Mirzaev (Uzbekistan): The 29-year-old attacking midfielder is on fire, netting five goals and an assist in his last four league appearances. It is no coincidence that Muangthong rediscovered their winning formula when Mirzaev is playing well.

 

Prediction

Both sides need the win badly as Muangthong want to keep their top-four dream alive while Chonburi are out to stop their slide into the relegation zone. Although their recent head-to-head record is evenly matched, Muangthong possess a much better recent form and should complete a league double over Chonburi.


Score prediction: Muangthong to win 2-1.

 

(Photo: Muangthong United Facebook page)

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Can Suphanburi end their five-game losing streak in league?

Strugglers Suphanburi and Rayong meet tomorrow (February 10) in a Thai League 1 match at the Suphanburi Provincial Stadium at 8pm. This is the 17th game of the season for Suphanburi and the 18th for the bottom-placed Rayong.


The 13th-placed Suphanburi come into the game as the favourite on paper, but in reality, they are the team with the current worst record in the entire league. The War Elephants are on a five-game losing streak in the league. They are finding it difficult to score, having netted just three times over the last five matches, but conceding an alarming 15 goals. Suphanburi are currently above the relegation zone only on goal difference, and need to conjure something against Rayong to stop the slide.


Rayong are faring no better, rooted to the bottom of the table with a poor 10 points collected from m17 matches. They also come into tomorrow’s game on low confidence, having been battered 0-4 by Muangthong United in their latest outing on Sunday. The Dragon Horses possess the worst goal difference of -27 in the entire league.


Suphanburi only avoided relegation in 2019 despite finishing 14th because PTT Rayong (11th place) were disbanded due to bankruptcy. If they beat Rayong FC tomorrow, they could take advantage of another team from the same Rayong province to stay in Thai League 1.

 

Injuries and suspensions

Suphanburi

Central midfielder Parndecha Ngernprasert will miss this game as he is serving the second game suspension after being shown a straight red during the 3-1 defeat to Muangthong on December 19.


Rayong

Key centreback Wasusiwakit Phusirit will miss this game as he was sent off in the injury time during the 0-4 loss to Muangthong.


Head-to-head record

Both teams have played each other only once, which was this season’s corresponding fixture on February 29, 2020. Suphanburi edged the close encounter 1-0.  Their centreback Tinnakorn Asurin (already transferred to Buriram) scored the late winner in the final minute of regulation time despite Rayong playing with 10 men after Suwat Chanbunpha’s 78th minute sending off.


Key players to watch

Suphanburi

Patrick Deyto (Philippines): The goalkeeper is experiencing poor form, having leaked 15 goals in the last five games. He needs to prove himself by keeping a cleansheet against the lowest scoring team in the league, with Rayong having found the target just 11 times in 17 games. Otherwise, he could lose his starting spot to back-up keeper Sahawit Khumpiam.


Rayong

Adalgisio Pitbull (Brazil): Despite failing to score in his last four appearances, Pitbull remains the top scorer for Rayong with four league goals. Since the Suphanburi defence is fragile at the moment, Rayong fans will hope to see his name on the scoresheet again to rescue the team.


Prediction

It’s a relegation six-pointer for both Suphanburi and Rayong. A draw will not be a surprise, especially with the game decider during the last encounter, Tinnakorn, already moving to Buriram.


Score prediction: 1-1

(Photo: Suphanburi FC Facebook page)

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Dragons need to breathe fire again

Ratchaburi Mitr Phol’s Thai League 1 top four hopes suffered a blow when they slumped 0-3 to close rivals Buriram United last weekend. The Dragons have the chance to get back on track when they travel east to take on mid-table Nakhon Ratchasima. The 18th league game for both teams will be played tomorrow at 8pm at Nakhon’s 80th Birthday Stadium in Korat.


A taste of Champions League

Ratchaburi gained a historic spot in the Asian Champions League 2021 qualifying playoff by being fourth at the halfway mark of the season in December. With the 2020 Thai season dragging into 2021 due to the suspensions and delays caused by Covid-19, the top four teams at the halfway mark were chosen to represent Thailand for this year’s Champions League competition.

Having secured a first appearance in Asia’s premier club competition, Ratchaburi are now hungry to earn a spot for 2022 as well. The Dragons are in fifth place on 29 points, and trail both reigning champions Chiangrai United, who have a game in hand, and Buriram on goal difference. The three teams also have to contend with the “sleeping giants” Muangthong United, who are sixth on 25 points, but have enough quality in their squad to stage a late-season comeback.

With the contest for the third and fourth positions being so tight, Ratchaburi cannot afford any more slip-ups, especially against lower ranked teams like Nakhon Ratchasima.


The Buriram setback

The 0-3 defeat to Buriram was painful for Ratchaburi, as they could have risen to third with a victory last Saturday. However, they were undone by a 39th minute red card shown to their goalkeeper Ukrit Wongmeema for handling outside the box.

It was also their third defeat in the last four league matches, following losses to the league’s top two teams BG Pathum United and Port FC in December just before the league was halted. Ratchaburi’s away form has also been awful, with the team losing four of their last five games on the road. The clash against Nakhon Ratchasima offers Ratchaburi a good chance to regain their battered confidence. The Dragons need to take advantage of a kind run of fixtures, in which they do not meet any of the top four teams in their next four matches.


Mid-table comfort

Ninth-placed Nakhon Ratchasima are currently comfortable in the middle of the standings on 22 points, and look unlikely to be involved in the tussle for top four places or being sucked into a relegation battle. This season, the Swat Cats have consistently beaten the bottom half teams while losing to those above them. Having said that, Nakhon Ratchasima will be playing without any pressure and are capable of staging an upset against a rattled Ratchaburi, especially if their front pair Dennis Murillo of Brazil and Ivory Coast’s Amadou Ouattara are on form.


Injuries and suspension:

Ratchaburi goalkeeper Ukrit Wongmeema is suspended after being sent off last Saturday. Their defensive midfielder Kritsanon Sritsuwan is nursing a knee injury and is doubtful to face Nakhon Ratchasima.

The home team have no suspension or injuries, and will be at full strength tomorrow.

Head-to-head record:

The corresponding fixture played at the Mitr Phol Stadium on 29 February 2020 ended in a dramatic fashion. With the match seemed headed for a 0-0 draw, Ouattara earned himself a second booking and was sent off in the second minute of injury time. The 10 men-Nakhon Ratchasima were then sucker punched by Javier Patino’s 95th minute goal which gave Ratchaburi a 1-0 win.

The two teams have a balanced head-to-head record, with each of them winning three matches each and drawing once in their previous seven meetings.


Key players to watch:

Nakhon Ratchasima

Amadou Ouattara (Ivory Coast): The 30-year-old forward has a score to settle with Ratchaburi, after his late sending off leading to his team losing the match. In his second season with Nakhon Ratchasima, Ouattara has gained importance in providing assists to his fellow attacking players Murillo and the Swiss-born Thai Chitchanok Xaysensourinthone.

Ratchaburi

Simon Dia (France): The 28-year-old Frenchman was signed from fellow Thai League 1 club Police Tero in January to solve Ratchaburi’s problem of not having a proficient targetman. The ex-French Ligue 2 club Amiens’ striker could not shine on his debut last Saturday after being left stranded without support upfront after the team were reduced to 10 men. Dia will be hoping to get off the mark in his second appearance tomorrow.


Prediction:

Ratchaburi badly need a win to straighten the ship but will not find it easy against a Nakhon Ratchasima side which will be playing at home and without any pressure. Just like their first meeting of the season a year ago, this encounter is also expected to be close.

Score prediction: The match to end 1-1.


(Photo: Ratchaburi Mitr Phol Facebook)

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Bagus made the best decision by joining Utrecht?

Indonesian rising talent Bagus Kahfi has signed for Dutch Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for 18 months with an option to extend his contract by two years.

The 19-year-old forward showcased his talent early in 2018 as he scored 16 goals in 15 matches with the Indonesian Under-17 selection. In addition, Bagus also scored 11 goals in 27 Liga 1 appearances in 2019 for Barito Putera, helping his former club avoid relegation.

Despite such eye-catching performances in Indonesia, Bagus will not get to play in the Eredivisie straightaway but is assigned to the club’s Under-18 squad as he is yet to prove his worth in Dutch football.

Nonetheless, the FC Utrecht technical director Jordy Zuidam rates the new signing highly.

“Bagus is a creative and technically skilled player. He has proven himself at the club level and with the Indonesian national youth teams.

“For Bagus, the step up from Indonesia to Europe is big. In the coming period, we will let him acclimatise with our Under-18 team. We will do everything we can to further develop Bagus.”

Bagus made a wise decision to move as playing in Europe is not something that many players could achieve.

Also, since there is so much uncertainties regarding the start date for the Indonesia Liga 1 2021 season, having the chance to play or train is always better than inaction for a footballer.

Furthermore, even if Bagus doesn’t get to feature in the Eredivisie, the chance of training with FC Utrecht first team players and the ability to learn a whole new football concept will definitely turn him into a better footballer. 


(Photo: FC Utrecht Twitter)

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Portimonense sign yet another Asian player

Portuguese Primeira Liga club Portimonense SC have formed a habit of collecting Asian players.

South Korean Lee Seung-woo is the latest Asian player to join the club on loan.

Although news of the 23-year-old South Korean international’s arrival from Belgian First Division side Sint-Truidense has not been publicly announced, images of the player wearing a Portimonense jersey and shaking hands with the club chairman has been circulating on social media.

Seung-woo, who was nicknamed the Korean Messi in his youth, had represented his country at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He moves to Portugal after failing to get much playing time with Siint-Truidense in Belgium.

Seung-woo’s arrival makes him the fifth Asian player in the club’s squad. The South Korean is not the only new Asian arrival at Portimonense.

During the recent January transfer window, the club also signed goalkeeper Kosuke Nakamura from J-League side Kashiwa Reysol and midfielder Keisuke Honda from fellow Portuguese club Botafogo.

The two Japanese players joined their compatriot Koki Anzai, who is featuring in his second season with the club.

The fifth Asian player in the squad – Iran national Under-23 player Jafar Salmani, joined Portimonense last year.

There could have been a sixth member from the continent still in the list, but Malaysian player Safawi Rasid left Portimonense in December after failing to break into the first-team. He has since returned to his parent club Johor Darul Ta’zim in Malaysia.

If they carry on purchasing Asian players at this rate, it is not far-fetched to think that Portimonense could line up with a first eleven made up entirely of Asian players in the future.  

 

(Photo: Twitter)


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