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‘Recycling’ foreign players in Malaysian football

The Malaysian Football League is turning out to be a recycling centre for foreign players that are already in the country.

Those who left their respective clubs after the 2020 season have found it easy to switch teams within Malaysia.

A total of 13 import players will be lining up with a different employer when the 2021 Super League and Premier League campaigns begin in early March.  

Out of the 13, seven will feature in the top flight while another six will be playing in the second-tier Premier League.

Newly promoted Kuala Lumpur United have gone for players with Super League experience by taking on Mauritanian Dominique da Sylva from Terengganu FC and Colombian Romel Morales from Melaka United.

Kedah FC moved quickly to sign Lebanese winger Rabih Ataya, who proved to be a revelation with the surprise package UiTM FC last season. Moving out of Kedah is Singaporean defender Shakir Hamzah, who makes the short journey south to link up with Perak FC for the 2021 season.

The hard-tackling Englishman Lee Tuck, who proved to be a hit with Terengganu in the past two seasons, continues his adventure in the east coast, this time with Sri Pahang FC. Tuck will take over from the slot vacated by the England-born Philippines national player Adam Reed, who will be replacing Ataya at UiTM for the coming season.

Tuck’s former club Terengganu have also gone for a proven player by taking on Namibian Petrus Shitembi, who had featured for Sabah in the top flight in 2020.

In the Premier League, three of the six ‘recycled’ players have ended up at Sarawak United. The Golden Hornbills signed former Selangor pair Taylor Regan of Australia and Brazilian Sandro da Silva. South Korean midfielder Lee Chang-hoon also joins them from the 2020 Premier League champions Penang.   

There is an ‘exchange’ of foreign defenders between Kelantan United and Kuching City, with Japanese Yuki Tanigawa heading to the peninsular while Brazilian Aylton Alemao crosses the South China Sea to Borneo.

Former Yokohama FC defender Masaki Watanabe of Japan joins Terengganu FC II after a season playing for Kelantan FC.


(Photo: Terengganu FC Facebook page)

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Gerrard can’t forget how much Torres hurt him

Steven Gerrard still suffers from the pain when his best partner Fernando Torres left to join Chelsea, even though the transfer happened 10 years ago.

The Glasgow Rangers manager expressed his thoughts about Torres’ move on the Robbie Fowler podcast. “I didn't play with Torres long enough because he went to Chelsea and broke my heart.”

“If you asked me who was the best player on a daily basis consistently, Suarez was an animal but my best years were alongside Torres in terms of how I felt. I was really, really gutted (when Torres left). We were working so hard at this point to try and get as close as we can to close the gap and challenge.”

"At Liverpool at the time, it always felt like we were taking huge strides and getting close and progressing really well. And then at a really key time and a key moment for the team and the group, a big player gets taken away and it takes time to recover from that.

"My relationship with Torres, I was getting a lot of goals at that time. I was at my peak and felt fantastic. I've told Fernando that. I tried to get him to stay. I told his agent the same.”

"They were both at Melwood but they made a decision and that decision was out of my hands. It hurt a lot."

It is understandable that Gerrard still couldn’t heal from the pain as he could have won the Premier League if “El Nino” had decided to stay at Liverpool to form a deadly trio - Gerrard, Torres and Suarez.

However, Gerrard should look forward as he could still win the Premier League as Liverpool’s manager in the future. When Juergen Klopp leaves Liverpool, Gerrard’s superb performance with Rangers could push him to become the best candidate to take charge of the Reds.

Rangers are looking strong in the Scottish Premiership this season, and are well placed to stop Celtic from winning a 10th successive league title after building a massive 18-point lead with nine games remaining.


(Photo: This is Anfield Twitter) 

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Killer Wasps can sting the Sharks to move up

Two struggling teams Chonburi FC and PT Prachuap meet in the Thai League 1 hoping to escape from their current positions. The 20th match in the 2020/21 season for both clubs will be played tomorrow (February 18) at the Chonburi Stadium at 8pm Malaysian time.  

Fallen giants Chonburi are struggling to put on consistent displays. Their latest setback was being held to a 0-0 draw by the next-to-bottom Trat. Although the Sharks are currently placed 11th in the standings, they are only three points ahead of Prachuap, who occupy the last relegation slot.

It would be unthinkable for Chonburi, who have been regular Asian Champions League qualifiers over the past decade, to be battling for relegation. But such is the sad state of the Sharks, who have only won twice in their last eight league outings.

In contrast, Prachuap are finally earning the results for their battling performances. The Killer Wasps shocked defending champions Chiangrai United 1-0 on Sunday. It followed their battling displays in losing to leaders BG Pathum United (0-2) and third-placed Buriram United (1-2), and holding fourth-placed Muangthong United to a 3-3 draw.

With their superior goal difference over the teams around them, a win over Chonburi tomorrow could lift the 14th-placed Prachuap as high as 11th in the standings. It will be a fitting reward for a team that have been hovering in either 13th or 14th positions for much of the season.


Injuries and suspension

Chonburi will not have the services of their young midfielder Saharat Sontisawat, who is suspended after getting sent off against Trat.

Prachuap will be at full strength for the match.


Head-to-head records

Chonburi hold the advantage in the two teams’ recent meetings, having won three times in the past five encounters.

However, it were Prachuap that won this season’s corresponding fixture 1-0 on September 20, 2020. The Killer Wasps’ Brazilian midfielder Willen Mota was the hero in the game, scoring the winner 11 minutes from the end.  


Key players

Chonburi

Renato Kelic (Croatia): The lanky centreback was signed from Buriram in January to plug the leaky defence. He could not do much in his debut, a 1-2 loss to Muangthong, but proved his worth in marshalling the backline to keep a cleansheet during the goalless draw against Trat. Chonburi need to stop conceding cheap goals, and Kelic will play an important role in ensuring the Sharks keep it tight at the back.

Prachuap

Willen Mota (Brazil): The Brazilian striker has been going on a one-man crusade to pull Prachuap to safety. Having already scored 10 goals and providing six assists this season, Mota is proving to be one of the best purchases in Thai League 1. He is likely to be snapped up by a bigger club next season, but Prachuap can still enjoy the Brazilian’s brilliance now as he plots their escape from the relegation zone.


Prediction

This will be a relegation six-pointer which neither team wants to lose. However, Prachuap have been producing the better performances lately and are capable of inflicting a second defeat of the season on the Sharks and move out of the relegation zone.

Score prediction: Prachuap to win 2-1.


(Photo: PT Prachuap Facebook page)

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Madridistas happy yet worried after Mbappe’s star show

It’s never a secret that Kylian Mbappe is on top of Real Madrid’s shopping list as the performance of Eden Hazard is far below expectations since joining from Chelsea in 2019.

The Paris Saint Germain player’s hat-trick against Barcelona made Real Madrid fans happy as they are always pleased to see their bitter rivals suffer.

When Mbappe claimed that he hasn’t decided on his future after the game, this further caused Madridistas to fantasise him banging goals against Barcelona in a Real Madrid shirt.

Although there are rumours speculating that PSG would sign Lionel Messi and let Mbappe leave, the Parisians would be crazy to let this happen as Mbappe is just 22 while Messi is already 34.

It is clear that PSG will not give up on Mbappe easily, especially after such an exceptional performance in the Champions League.

Even if the French champions put him up for sale, the price tag would be too huge even for big clubs like Real Madrid. Football clubs are generally strapped of money to spend in the middle of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Real Madrid fans could still hope for Mbappe to arrive in 2022 for free after his contract expires, but it would be hard for him to reject a contract renewal when PSG, as expected, present him with a blank cheque.


(Photo: Paris Saint-Germain Twitter)

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Urawa player leaves club after eating out

Urawa Red Diamonds midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi has voluntarily left the J-League 1 club after being caught eating out during the team’s pre-season training camp.

The 33-year-old former Japan national player admitted to violating the strict Covid-19 rules when he sneaked out of camp with teammate Kenyu Sugimoto.

Kashiwagi and Sugimoto were reported to have a meal at a restaurant in town, in clear breach of the lockdown rules imposed on the team during their training camp.

Both players were fined but the 26-year-old Sugimoto, who is a Japan national player, was allowed to return to training with a strict caution. The Urawa team management came down hard on Kashiwagi as this was not the first time that he had faced disciplinary action.

The player, who was part of the Reds team which won the 2017 Asian Champions League, was instructed to leave the training camp immediately. And Urawa later confirmed that Kashiwagi had voluntarily chosen to leave the club he has supported since his school days.

“As an experienced player, we expected Kashiwagi to set a good example to the younger players. Maintaining discipline and following the rules is a top priority within the squad, and after discussions with the player, he has willingly chosen to leave the club,” said the club’s general manager Jun Togari.

Kashiwagi, who has played 288 times and scored 41 goals for the Reds in his 10 seasons with them, expressed remorse over his action.

“I deeply regret my action of leaving camp without permission, which affected the team’s preparations for the new season. I am sorry for causing this problem,” said Kashiwagi.


(Photo: Urawa Red Diamonds Facebook page)

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Angry Ipswich fans set club’s training ground on fire

Enraged Ipswich Town fans set the club’s training ground on fire as a protest for manager Paul Lambert to be sacked.

Ipswich were tipped as one of the pre-season promotion favourites in League One. But they are currently in 11th place, four points off Sunderland in the last play-off spot. The Tractor Boys have won just once in their last six league games and Lambert is under heavy pressure.

The protesting fans showed up at the club’s training ground chanting for the Scottish boss to be sacked and set off flares. Their action led to the team’s training session being halted and police are now investigating the incident.

Former Ipswich and England striker Darren Bent, wrote a tweet hinting that he agrees with the fans that Lambert need to be sacked.

"What exactly is going on at @IpswichTown, flares, protests the lot clearly something isn’t right. This club holds a special place in my heart and at the heart of that club are some of the nicest people you could ever meet.”

"When they’re not happy clearly there needs to be change."

Protesting in an illegal way that might place other lives at risk should be prohibited, but the action may produce the desired results.

In January 2020, the home of Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward was vandalised as fans blamed him for not bringing in quality players. Coincidentally, the Red Devils announced the signing of Bruno Fernandes just two days after the incident happened.


(Photo: Blue Action Twitter)

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Steam train runs through a football stadium in Slovakia

As opposed to watching football matches through television, viewing it live in the stadium is definitely more exciting. Perks such as the crowd atmosphere and the noise provide a better watching experience.

Slovakian team TJ Tatran Cierny Balog offer the next level of football experience, as their fans could witness a steam train running through the stadium during a football match.

The Slovakian amateur football club’s home ground is the only stadium in the world with a railway track cutting across it. As the railway track is located between the pitch and the main stand, the train will obstruct the fans’ view temporarily when running through the stadium.

Although the fans might miss a goal due to the obstructed views, they don’t feel annoyed and are rather amused whenever a train chugs along. They clap and cheer when the steam train passes by the pitch.

The Cierny Hron railway was built in the early 1900s to transport timber, and during that time there was no football stadium along the route.

Since 1992, the railway began to run as a heritage route for tourists, and the uniqueness of this locomotive also makes the stadium of TJ Tatran Cierny famous and a tourist attraction.


(Photo: Old Football Photos Twitter)

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Last chance for Port to trip Pathum’s title bid

Runaway Thai League 1 leaders BG Pathum United host second placed Port FC tomorrow in a match which will be crucial for both teams. The 20th match of the 2020/21 season for both clubs will be played at the Leo Stadium at 7.30pm Malaysian time.

With 11 games to go, the unbeaten Pathum hold a massive 13-point lead over their closest challengers. A victory over Port will extend that lead to 16 with just 30 more points on offer for the remainder of the season. Beat Port tomorrow, and the Rabbits are surely set to being coronated as the new Thai League 1 champions.

But Pathum will come into the game a little weary following their all-out battle in the 1-0 win over third-placed Buriram United on Saturday. Brazilian striker Diogo, who scored the winning goal in the 13th minute, was taken off in the second half to keep him fresh for the Port challenge. The Pathum players will need to raise their game for a second time in the space of four days to move closer to the league title.

Port are not looking like the same team that had impressed prior to the league's Covid-19 shutdown in December. Since resumption, they have been knocked out of the FA Cup and lost their two most recent league matches. While the 1-2 loss to the in-form Buriram was forgivable, their 0-2 capitulation to lowly Police Tero on Saturday was unacceptable.

At one time, Port had narrowed the deficit to Pathum to six points and looked capable of chasing the leaders. But now, being 13 points behind, Port will be more occupied on looking over their shoulder at teams behind them. A defeat to the leaders tomorrow will effectively end Port’s title hopes.


Injuries and suspensions

Pathum will be without their rightback Santiphap Channgom, who is suspended after getting sent off in the 96th minute against Buriram last weekend.

Port will be at full strength for the match.


Head-to-head record

Pathum won the corresponding fixture 1-0 away from home on September 9 last year, with Chenrop Samphaodi scoring the winning goal.

In their previous league meetings in the 2018 season, the two clubs shared the honours. Port won 3-2 at home while Pathum, who were known as Bangkok Glass then, triumphed 2-0 on their home ground.

The two clubs did not play each other in 2019 as Pathum were then in League 2.


Key players

Pathum

Diogo (Brazil): The Brazilian silenced his critics with the only goal of the game against Buriram on Saturday. It was his second goal in his third match since arriving from Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim in December. Diogo has now either scored or provided an assist in every game he has played for Pathum, and will be out to continue the impressive record when he lines up against Port.

Port

Sergio Suarez (Spain): The Spaniard will need to regain his scoring touch fast if Port are to end Pathum’s unbeaten run in the league. Since his strike partner Heberty left for Bangkok United in December, Suarez, who has scored 10 goals this campaign, has not been his lethal self. He has yet to form a deadly link with newcomer Yannick Boli. Tomorrow’s match will be the fifth time that both Suarez and Boli will line up together.


Prediction

On current form, Pathum seem unbeatable. Although this is a top-of-the-table clash, the Rabbits’ relentless march towards the title is unlikely to be blocked by a Port team that are no longer looking dangerous.

Score prediction: Pathum to win 2-0.


(Photo: Port FC Facebook page)

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Bangkok confident of hunting the sluggish War Elephant

Bangkok United will be looking for three points against an out-of-sorts Suphanburi when the two teams meet in a Thai League 1 match tomorrow.

This will be the 19th game for Suphanburi and the 20th for Bangkok in the 2020/21 season. The match will be played at the Suphanburi Stadium at 7pm Malaysian time.

The 13th-placed Suphanburi are hovering close to the relegation zone. The War Elephant have just a one-goal advantage over the 14th-placed Prachuap, who have scored more goals. Even a 0-1 defeat to Bangkok will be enough for Suphanburi to drop into the relegation places.

In contrast, the seventh-placed Bangkok have shown improvement lately. The Angels head to Suphanburi with high confidence after winning two and drawn two of their last four matches. They trail fourth placed Muangthong United by just three points. A win over the listless Suphanburi would carry Bangkok into the thick of the battle for a top four spot.


Injuries and suspensions

There are no injuries and suspensions for both teams.


Head-to-head records

Bangkok won 2-1 in the reverse fixture on September 19, 2020. Despite conceding in the first minute of the game, Bangkok dominated the rest of the match by having 66% of ball possession and registering 18 shots. Two goals in the second half from Nattawut Suksum and Anon Amornlerdsak helped them claim a comeback victory.

Bangkok are clearly the better side in the two clubs’ recent meetings, being undefeated in the last 10 encounters (7 wins and 3 draws). The last time Suphanburi beat Bangkok was a league game on October 18, 2014.


Key players to watch:

Suphanburi

Leandro Assumpcao (Brazil): The 35-year-old forward proved that age is just a number by scoring twice for his new club in two league appearance since joining from Nakhon Ratchashima in January. Assumpcao fell sick and didn’t feature against his former club on Sunday, but is now fully fit and ready to play again.


Bangkok United

Chananan Pombuppha (Thailand): The substitute striker was handed a start on Sunday as the recent performances of Nattawut Suksum was deemed poor. And Chananan repaid his manager’s faith by scoring the goal which helped Bangkok win 2-1 against Ratchaburi. He should retain his spot in the starting line-up and set up a healthy competition with Nattawut for the first-choice striker position.


Prediction

Although Suphanburi need at least a point to avoid falling into relegation zone, their recent form and head-to-head record doesn’t back them to get anything from this game.

Score prediction: Bangkok to win 2-0.

 

(Photo: Bangkok United Facebook page)

 

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Lingard rages at Ole for dropping him when he was the strongest

Jesse Lingard has explained his West Ham loan move and criticised Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer for not playing him after the lockdown despite the player being the strongest and fittest Red Devils player last season.

The 28-year-old midfielder told BT Sports: “Football is a lot of ups and downs, people go through different stages and it’s not just a straight road to the top. There are a lot of setbacks which most people don’t see and a lot of things that go on behind closed doors.”

“I came back as one of the strongest and fittest (in the Man United squad) after the lockdown and I didn’t get the chance that I was waiting for. But the whole time I was there and not playing, I was doing extra training and keeping on top of my fitness for when the time was right.”

“So for me, it’s about working hard and staying dedicated and I went back to basics.”

Lingard made an instant impact since joining West Ham as he produced a brace on his debut against Aston Villa and a penalty against Sheffield United, which helped his team to lead and ultimately win the game. On his current form, the player looks set to play an important role as the Hammers chase a European spot.

However, his criticism for not being given the chance to play for Manchester United last season is pure nonsense. Lingard was a regular starter for the Red Devils before the arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January 2020, but he provided zero goal or assist in 19 league appearances. Meanwhile, Fernandes contributed 15 goals (8 goals and 7 assists) in the remaining 14 league games of 2019/20 season since joining the Red Devils.

The stunning performance of the Portuguese ultimately helped United secure a Champions League spot after finishing third. It is good to see the former England international shine again, but not a single manager in the world would have chosen the zero-contribution Lingard instead of the impactful Fernandes in any circumstances.


(Photo: West Ham Facebook page)

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Perak fans force change of ‘ugly’ bull design

Fan power is a powerful tool in football, as learnt by the management of Perak FC.

The Malaysian Super League club’s supporters had strongly opposed the team’s new logo unveiled by the team management recently.

Perak FC unveiled the image on their Instagram page with the tagline “a new chapter begins, but the history remains”.

Strong opposition to the “ugly” logo, which features a bull on a black background with yellow border, had initially failed to move the Perak team management to reconsider the logo. They had insisted that the logo had received the thumbs up from the highest levels of the management and there was no reason not to retain it.

Fans had criticised the logo as being amateurish, and said it could have been created by anyone by downloading and pasting images available on the internet.

Continued backlash from the public caused the Perak state ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, to intervene in the matter.

The Perak FC management relented, and have now left it to the supporters to submit their entries to the team’s logo-creating competition.

More than 1,500 logo entries have been received by Perak FC ahead of the closure of the competition today.

It is not the first incident of fans being unhappy with a team’s new logo in Malaysian football.

Last year, Kedah FC supporters had strongly opposed their new logo, which they claimed was too simple and could have been created by a schoolboy. The fans also won that time, with the unpopular logo subsequently changed to a new design.


(Photo: peraktbg Instagram page)

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Mahrez’s wife claims she was fined for being too hot

Manchester City ace Riyad Mahrez’s estranged wife claimed that she was fined for being too hot, and even asked the cops: “Don’t you guys like partying anymore?”

Rita Johal shared footage of the moment cops raided the party on Instagram, and captioned the video: “Fine for being too hot. Looool we all got fined don’t worry about it sweetheart”

Footage showed Rita being surrounded by police officers and they handed her a fine for partying at a flat in London. She was with at least ten people at the property, and it is currently against the lockdown rules in UK to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household.

However, Johal never felt guilty for her wrongdoing and even asked the police officers: “Guys is this what life is? Don’t you guys like to party anymore, guys?”

A female officer replied her: “Not during lockdown.” But she responded with: “Guys, you can’t be all depressed in this world, we have got to be happy.”

Even when Johal was being interviewed by British newspaper The Sun on this incident, she refused to apologise and claimed the officers were too strict.

Breaking lockdown rules is unacceptable, especially when Johal is a public figure who has half a million Instagram followers. She sets a bad example and her followers might be tricked into believing that partying during lockdown is fine and they can do likewise.


(Photo: Rita Johal Instagram)

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Tardeli alone cannot stop Muangthong’s charge

On-form Muangthong United will be looking to continue their steady progress when they travel to take on mid-table Samut Prakan City in the Thai League 1 tomorrow. The 20th match of the 2020/21 campaign for both clubs will be played at the SAT Stadium in Samut Prakan at 7pm Malaysian time.

Muangthong reached the top four of the standings for the first time this season on Sunday. It has been a remarkable rise for the Kirins, who were briefly in the relegation zone at the start of the season, and were a lowly 11th in early December. The 3-0 win over Sukhothai on Sunday extended Muangthong’s unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches.

Now that they have finally reached the top four, the four-times League 1 champions are likely to set their sights on catching the second-placed Port FC. Muangthong currently have 31 points, one behind third-placed Buriram United and nine behind Port. Runaway leaders BG Phatum United, who have a massive 53 points, seem too far to be caught by the teams behind them.

Samut Prakan may only be ninth in the League 1 table with 28 points, but they are only three points behind Muangthong. Barring the top two, the other clubs in the top half of the table are all bunched close to each other. Win at home tomorrow night, and Samut Prakan could find themselves being drawn into the tussle for a top four spot.

The Sea Fang will come into the game on inconsistent form. While they have beaten bottom club Rayong 1-0 in their most recent match, Samut Prakan lost the previous two games to Police Tero 3-5 and Bangkok United 0-3. They have scored 37 goals in 19 matches, the same as league leaders Pathum. But their problem is in their defence, which has leaked 32 goals, the most by any of the top 10 teams in the standings.


Injuries and suspension

Samut Prakan midfielder Nopphon Ponkam is suspended for this game while Spanish player Toti could make a return after missing the previous game through injury.

Muangthong will be at full strength for the match.


Head-to-head record

This is the third meeting between the two teams this season.

The corresponding league fixture played on September 20, 2020 at Muangthong’s SCG Stadium ended in a goalless draw. The clubs also met in the FA Cup third round just two weeks ago on February 3, with Muangthong emerging 1-0 victors after their captain Wattana Playnum scored the winning goal in the sixth minute.

In the 2019 league campaign, Samut Prakan completed the double over their more illustrious opponents by winning 2-1 at home and 3-0 away.   


Key players

Samut Prakan

Barros Tardeli (Brazil): The striker is the Thai League 1’s second highest scorer with 13 goals. Tardeli has repeatedly rescued Samut Prakan with his well-taken goals. However, the Brazilian, who is on-loan this season from the current leaders Pathum, is often seen as leading a one-man crusade for the Sea Fang. He needs more support from his teammates if the club are to make a serious push for a top four spot.

Muangthong

Darley (Brazil): The 33-year-old striker who is playing in his second season for Muangthong, is currently enjoying himself. Having scored twice in the last three league matches, Darley has also started contributing more in assists and building up play. With the opposing defenders focused on marking him during matches, he has been able to create spaces for other teammates to get into scoring positions. Besides Darley, six other Muangthong players have got on the scoresheet in their last four games.  


Prediction

Muangthong’s strong second half of the season is expected to continue with another fine performance against Samut Prakan. Despite Tardeli’s impressive strikes, the home team do not look capable of ending Muanthong’s eight-game defeatless streak.

Score prediction: Muangthong to win 2-0  


(Photo: Samut Prakan City Facebook page)


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CIES predicts final standings for Europe’s top leagues

The 2020/21 season is still far from ending and there are still pretty much to fight for in the Europe Big Five leagues. However, the CIES Football Observatory has already predicted the final standings for the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

A statistical model which takes the shots on target, ball possession and number of passes in the opposite third of the pitch into account, was used to projecting the outcome for the remainder of the season.

For Premier League, Manchester City are expected to hold on to their lead and win the title with a 14-point margin from the second-placed Manchester United. The defending champions Liverpool are expected to finish third, while Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will get the final Champions league qualification spot by overtaking Leicester with a two-point margin.

At the other end of the table, West Brom, Sheffield United and Burnley are expected to be relegated while Fulham are projected to make a great escape by having a better goal difference than the Clarets.


In the La Liga, Atletico Madrid are expected to win their first league title since the 2013/14 season. Meanwhile, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla would grab the remaining Champions league spots. Huesca, Real Valladolid and Elche will face relegation while Cadiz will be the only newly promoted side to remain in La Liga.


For the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich are expected to win their ninth consecutive league title. However, their main rivals Borussia Dortmund are predicted to finish a lowly fifth, which means they would miss out the Champions League spot for the first time since the 2015/16 season. In addition, Schalke 04 are expected to finish last with only 13 points.


For Serie A, Juventus’ nine consecutive league title streak will come to an end as the Old Lady are predicted to finish third. Meanwhile, Inter Milan are tipped to win the league by beating their archrivals AC Milan with only a two-point gap. The current bottom three Parma, Cagliari and Crotone are all expected to be relegated.


For Ligue 1, neither the giants Paris Saint Germain nor the current leaders Lille are expected to win the league. Lyon are predicted to emerge top for the first time since 2007/08. Meanwhile, AS Monaco will grab the Europa League spot, Nantes will face the relegation play-off while Nimes and Dijon will be relegated.


According to the prediction, Bayern Munich will be the only team from the Europe Big Five to successfully defend their league crown. However, only time will tell on how many of the predictions will turn out to be true. 


(Photo: CIES Football Observatory)

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Dragons confident of firing Cops to end recent slump

Ratchaburi Mitr Phol seek to keep alive their faltering Thai League 1 top four hopes when they take on bottom-half club Police Tero tomorrow. The match, which is the 20th for both teams in the 2020/21 campaign, will be played at the Mitr Phol Stadium at 7.30pm Malaysian time.


Ratchaburi, who secured a historic spot in this year’s Asian Champions League after being among the top four at the halfway mark of the current season, have dropped down to sixth position. They have suffered recent poor form, winning just once and losing the other four of their latest five matches.


The Dragons fell further behind in the top four race following their 1-2 loss to Bangkok United last Saturday. They badly need a win tomorrow to get back among the top four, albeit temporarily, as fourth placed Muangthong United, just two points ahead, will only be in action against Samut Prakan on Wednesday.


Despite their lowly 10th position, Police Tero are currently enjoying good momentum. The Cips ended their three-match losing streak by winning back-to-back games last week.


Prior to their latest two wins, Police Tero had the second worst scoring record in League 1, scoring just  15 goals in 17 matches. However, they have suddenly discovered their scoring touch, plundering seven goals in their last two games. The Cops need not worry about being sucked into the relegation battle if they can maintain their recent scoring form.


Injuries and suspensions

There are no injuries and suspensions for both teams.


Head-to-head record

The reverse fixture on September 19, 2020 ended in a 1-1 draw. Adisak Srikampang’s 78th minute goal seemed enough to seal victory for the Cops but Dominic Tan’s own goal in the last minute of added time helped Ratchaburi steal one point.

Ratchaburi are clearly the better side in recent meetings, winning five and drawing twice in their last seven encounters. The last time Police Tero beat the Dragons was in a league game on October 10, 2015.


Key players to watch:

Ratchaburi

Kampol Pathomakkakul (Thailand): The intention of signing the 28-year-old goalkeeper in January from Muangthong United was as replacement for the departing substitute goalkeeper Kittipong Phuthawchueak. However, Kampol has since replaced Ukrit Wongmeema as the first choice as the latter has been in poor form recently. The new keeper can sustain his spot if he can help the team keep a clean sheet, which they haven’t tasted for nearly four months.


Police Tero

Arthit Boodjinda (Thailand): The 26-year-old forward scored only four goals in 14 league appearances this season, but the Cops won all the three games when his name was on the scoresheet. Also, Arthit is in his best form right now, scoring three goals and providing one assist in the last two matches.


Prediction

Despite Ratchaburi’s poor run of form, the Dragons are confident ahead of this game due to their superior head-to-head record. Especially since the last time the Cops beat Ratchaburi at the Mitr Phol Stadium was way back in May 28, 2014.

Score prediction: Ratchaburi to win 2-1.

 

(Photo: Ratchaburi FC Facebook page)

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