Thursday, February 6, 2014

AFC Champions League Play-offs

Muangthong v Hanoi T&T (Saturday)
Chonburi v South China (Sunday)

Chonburi and Muangthong play the first of two play-offs as they bid to join Buriram United in the AFC Champions League Group stages. The Thai duo will be favorites to overcome their initial one leg ties but they'll be underdogs in the final round of playoffs should they negotiate this weekend's matches. If they progressed, Muangthong would face a trip down under to Melbourne Victory while Chonburi would be heading to the cooler climates of China where they would encounter Beijing Guoan.

The match on Sunday will be the first test for Chonburi's new Japanese coach, Masahiro Wada. The Chonburi supporters will be hoping that the new coach can freshen things up after a stale couple of seasons under Withaya Laohakul. The club have had a bit of a clearout with several fringe players being moved on. The Sharks squad appears solid defensively but a big onus rests with star player Thiago Cunha to provide the goals. If the Brazilian were to lose form or suffer from injury, it leaves the question of where the goals will come from. Sunday's opponents, South China, were reluctant to travel to Thailand due to the current political protests. However, the AFC deemed the Eastern Seaboard save enough and the game will go ahead as scheduled at the Chonburi Stadium. The Hong Kong champions caused a slight surprise last Sunday when a 2-1 extra time victory over Tampines Rovers in Singapore set up their match with Chonburi.

Muangthong had their first taste of competitive action last weekend when they lost 1-0 to Buriram United in the Kor Royal Cup. It wasn't a great start to Scott Cooper's reign and the Englishman will be hoping for a better performance and result this time out. He'll be without the injured Kawin while Dagno Siaka's omission in the Kor Royal Cup has raised some eyebrows. Jay Bothroyd will see the match against the Vietnamese side as an ideal opportunity to open his goal account in Thailand.

The last time Hanoi T&T and South China were in Thailand they were comfortably beaten. In March 2011, Muangthong brushed aside Hanoi T&T with a 4-0 victory at the Thundedome. Teerasil grabbed a double that evening along with a goal each for Christian Kouahou and Anon.
Also in the same month Chonburi beat a South China squad containing Nicky Butt and Mateja Kezman 3-0. Fans of Thai football will be hoping for a similar outcome this weekend.

Latest News: Teerasil Dangda will join Almeria on a season long long for the 2014-15 La Liga season. The deal includes a clause for the Spanish side to buy Teerasil should the initial loan deal prove successful. The Muangthong striker will stay in Thailand until the beginning of the next Spanish season.


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