Bangkok United vs Buriram - Table Toppers Clash Could Make History
Despite hailing from a province of only a million and a half inhabitants, Buriram United are known throughout Asia as a powerhouse club capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the best the continent has to offer. Having won 6 of the last 10 Thai League titles and boasting one of the strongest squads the country has ever seen, they once again sit atop the domestic table having accumulated an impressive 47 points from just 20 games.
However, that is where the conventional narrative comes to an emphatic halt. The side is being chased to the wire by challengers from the capital, who are looking for their first domestic honour in over a decade and are a solitary point behind the league leaders.
Bangkok United have emerged in the past few seasons as a major player in the Thai League, climbing from relegation contenders to title challengers in just a little over three seasons. Under the leadership of the enigmatic Alexandre Polking, the side have finished 2nd and 3rd in the last two seasons, as well as finishing as runners-up in last year's FA Cup, and are fighting with a passion to end their run of near misses.
The German-Brazilian manager has been widely praised for instilling an energetic, attacking style reaching levels of intensity that are rarely seen in this league. Last season, despite coming third, his Bangkok United side managed to score no less than 97 goals from 34 games, making them the most productive team in the division by far and finishing just one short of breaking a record set by Buriram themselves in 2015.
A Season-Changing Encounter
Despite there being more than three months of football left to play in the domestic season, there remains a belief that this game could be decisive. The two are set to clash at Buriram United's Chang Arena this Saturday, shortly after their recent FA Cup meeting in midweek which saw the reigning champions prevail on penalties.
Bangkok United briefly claimed top spot when Buriram slumped to defeat against Chainat, but they drew their first game as leaders with Ratchaburi last week, allowing their opponents to re-establish the narrowest of leads.
However, despite their opponents' prestige, there is a genuine belief among fans of the capital club that they can truly make a dent in the armour of their more decorated opposition. While most Thai teams adopt deep, defensive postures against Buriram, their fellow title challengers play a far more aggressive, high-pressure system that could weigh down on their ageing midfield. That being said, the experience can often be decisive in encounters such as these, which is something the defending champions have in abundance.
It has been a decade since the Thai League's infamous duopoly of Buriram and arch-rivals Muangthong United has been broken at the top of the league. However, Polking's side have the style, the ambition, and the desire to go all the way.
Thailand's newest unstoppable force is set to clash with its traditional immovable object, and one is about to give way.