Thai FA Cup: Round of 16 Preview
The stakes continue to rise as Thailand's big guns all aim for the same, ultimate prize - the FA Cup, and with it, a lucrative qualification to the AFC Champions League.
Of the remaining participants, only Buriram and Port have a realistic chance of qualifying for the continent's premier competition through the league, with Muangthong United's chances dwindling with each passing week.
Both sides have supposedly winnable fixtures away against lower-league opposition. Many would expect the gulf in class to be plain for all to see when Buriram travel to take on T4 side Nakhon Pathom United, but the hosts should not be underestimated, having already dispatched top-tier opposition to reach this stage in the competition.
Port, meanwhile, face a considerably tougher away trip to Trat FC, who are fighting for promotion to T1 for the first time in their history. They currently sit second in Thailand's second division, behind only PTT Rayong FC, who Port dispatched in the previous round.
Interestingly, two matches in this round will be played exclusively between teams in lower divisions, as T4 sides BGC FC and Bankhai United take on T3's Nara United and T2's Khon Kaen FC respectively.
T1 side Siam Navy take on second-division Sisaket in a match that could provide relief from relatively abysmal league campaigns.
The FA Cup represents a major opportunity for mid-table Thai League clubs, such as Ratchaburi and Chonburi. For the former, this represents the only remaining piece of silverware they can attain this season and could be their ticket for their first ever continental adventure. The Dragons take on T2 strugglers Krabi, who may be preoccupied with staving off relegation than going on a cup run.
Chonburi, however, are likely to face a much larger challenge in this round as they take on traditional rivals Police Tero. Both sides have fallen considerably since their title-winning days, and neither will easily pass up the opportunity to add to their already impressive trophy cabinets - making this match a candidate for the best tie of the round.
The other candidate for that honor is the match between the sides placed fourth and fifth in Thailand's top division. Defending champions Chiang Rai United host 2017 League Cup winners Muangthong. The home side are still reeling from a 3-0 league defeat to the Kirin a few weeks ago while the visitors failed to register a single win since the two side's last encounter.
Both clubs had high expectations coming into the new season, and failure to win this match could permanently bury both clubs' Champions League aspirations.