Football Tribe SEA Editor
Thai League champions Buriram United face a daunting trip to the Chinese capital to face Beijing Guoan at an incredibly inopportune time. The side are yet to hit their stride in the league, and despite sitting in second place, the Thunder Castle have endured their worst start to a league season since 2014, with 13 points from their opening 7 games. They had to battle back from a goal down at home against newly promoted Trat FC to earn a disappointing point over the weekend, leaving them four adrift of leaders Port.
Their 3-1 loss to Beijing Guoan at home two weeks ago could come back to haunt them, as the success of Thai clubs in continental competition consistently hinges on their ability to make the most of their home games. Roger Schmidt’s side played with both style and substance in that match, and were lethal in front of goal. The capital club have also maintained a perfect record in the Chinese Super League so far, winning each of their opening six games while only conceding a single goal. As such, it is clear that Buriram have quite the task on their hands in the Workers Stadium tonight.
That being said, however, Buriram continue to punch above their weight in the Champions League. Buriram managed an impressive 1-0 win over Jeonbuk in the second round, and can take heart in their ability to hold their own against the continent’s best teams even during a poor season.
Even in their game against Beijing, Buriram were quickly forced to come out of their defensive posture and play a possession-based game – a transition which they managed well considering the caliber of the opposition. Additionally, coach Bozidar Bandovic should be praised for trusting the likes of Supachok Sarachart, Supachai Jaided, Rattanakorn Maikami, and Suphanat Mueanta, all young players whose experiences now will prove invaluable going forward.
Buriram will need to put their recent failures behind them if they want to face up to these long odds, in what could be a defining fixture in their season.
Elsewhere, fellow South-East Asian side, Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia, will host Chinese side Shandong Luneng. The Southern Tigers have only collected one point from their opening three games so far, managing to hold Korean side Gyeongnam FC to a draw in their last home fixture. With qualification looking unlikely, the side are fighting for pride as the first Malaysian team to participate in the AFC Champions League proper.