“Coach Tuu” Paniphol Kerdyaem says his game plan against Big Bang-CU (BBCU) will be a strong defence and swift counter-attack – and that new signings by the Islanders could be the key to Phuket’s first win in this year’s campaign.
In the last few days, Phuket FC have bagged even more new additions to the team, including big names like Muang Thong United midfielder Juninho and Suphanburi’s winger Ake-atit Somjit, who are likely to be two of the squad fielded by Paniphol on Saturday, March 2.
Big Bang-CU were relegated from the Thai Premier League after only one season in the top flight, and will host the Islanders at Army Stadium in Bangkok, their temporary home for the 2013 season.
Despite having the home advantage, and their impressive pre-season performances against TPL’s Ratchaburi FC and Osotspa M150 FC, BBCU still face a tough game against the southern side.
Phuket FC pack a powerful back-four with players like fan favourite Nene Bi and Sato in the last line of defence, while Chana’s speed and Dudu’s techniques will be a lethal forward combination.
Coach Paniphol said he would not underestimate BBCU’s teamwork, and admitted that BBCU’s star player Moussa Sylla – a former Muang Thong United midfielder – will cause some problems. But he says he has prepared his team to deal with the Guinean.
“The first match is very important. Both teams will want three points to boost their competitive spirits, BBCU has the home ground advantage, they will come on strong and pressure us in every way possible and we have to be careful with that,” he said.
“So I think our best game plan is defend strong and wait to counter attack and hope our game will earn us our first three points.”
This week Phuket FC signed six more players in total: defenders Durongrit Srila from PTT Rayong, Wasan Sangkhaphan from Phattalung FC, Thongchai Kuenkunthod from Singh Tha Rua, and Yusuke Sato from Rayong United, and midfielders Juninho from Muang Thong United, and Ake-atit Somjit from Suphanburi FC.
Coach Tuu is looking for two more attacking midfielders and hopes to finalise deals for players from Samut Songkram FC and Esan United by mid March.
Thailand sports media are already focusing on the “Big 4” – the four teams widely thought to have a chance for the Yamaha League 1 top spots and promotion to the Thai Premier league. This year’s Big 4 are: PTT Rayong FC, Bangkok FC, Nakhon Ratchasima FC and Phuket FC.
The other game to watch this weekend is the clash between the two teams from the quartet that many pundits think have the strongest chance of winning promotion: “Swat Cat” Nakhon Ratchasima FC under Ajarn Arj-harn Song-ngamsab – who led Phuket to their Division 2 Southern Division Championship win in 2010 – will take on “The Iron Bull” Bangkok FC at home.
Nakhon Ratchasima has a close relationship with Muang Thong United, and under the helm of one of the best coaches in the country “Swat Cat” may be more like a fierce lion than a soft little kitty.
Their opponents Bangkok FC, meanwhile, are one of the more intimidating teams in the league, boasting strong teamwork and a talented trio of players: Lee Tuck (voted MVP in the 2012 season’s Golden Ball Awards), former Phuket striker Thawin Butsombat (who was on the sideline for most of the 2012 season), and former Singh Tha Rua midfielder Olof Watson.
Among the other the Big 4 teams, PTT Rayong FC seem to have the easiest initial match, facing up against opponents TTM Lopburi FC, in a home match in Rayong on Sunday, March 3.
TTM Lopburi recently shuffled their staff and released many footballers, meaning PTT Rayong – armed with the likes of Pipat Tonkanya and Noguchi Pinto – are likely to thrash the visiting team without a problem. The only question may be how many goals they will get.