Heading into this game, Buriram United and Samut Prakan City sit level on 35 points with just a third of the season left to play after this match. Just behind them, Bangkok United and Chiangrai are tied on 33 points, with early leaders Port now fifth place on 30 points.
Even though it seems like every single weekend is serving up a pivotal encounter, this one stands out more than most. Buriram’s clash at home against Bangkok United was the biggest game of the season yet, but tomorrow’s game may even top it if one team can emerge with all three points.
Samut Prakan City - Preview
It's frankly crazy that Samut Prakan City are genuinely in the conversation for winning the title, and for many fans, it may still be sinking in. The relocated club has had a stunning season so far, well beyond everyone's expectations.
Unfortunately, the Sea Fang will be without captain Peeradol Chamratsamee and first choice keeper Patiwat Khammai. Aris Zarifovic is a welcome return in the heart of defense in recent weeks, and there will be many eyes on attacker Teeraphol Yoryoei - the highest-scoring Thai player at this moment.
The home side has collected 13 out of possible 18 points since Tetsuya Murayama replaced Surapong Kongthep as head coach. They are certainly in a good run of form but the main question is: how will Murayama set up his side?
There is a massive dilemma for Murayama. Does he keep things as they are, with their high pressing and quick transitions, in the aim of beating Buriram? Or does he adopt a more conservative approach? Maybe swaps one of the attackers out for an extra midfielder, hope for a draw, thus keeping the side in the title race.
Samut Prakan City - Predicted Lineup
Buriram United - Preview
Buriram United have quite a small squad size for a side looking to win all domestic competition, hence rotation can be a bit tricky at times. Centre-back Chitipat Tanklang, forward Nacer Barazite and attacking midfield Supachok Sarachat didn't start in midweek's fixture and are likely to do so in this game.
Wingback Sasalak Haiprakhon has been outstanding in recent weeks. With Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri's decline in form of late, we might see Sasalak down the left-flank. His 1-v-1 dual with the pacey Jaroensak Wonggorn, another youngster putting in impressive performance lately, will be interesting to watch.
However, the visitors will have to worry about their back 3's ability to deal with Samut Prakan's lightning-quick transitions. Without regular starter Pansa Hemviboon, Buriram's defense could be a weakness for the hosts to exploit.
Buriram United - Predicted Lineup
Summary and Conclusions
It's hard to predict a winner in this pivotal match that neither can frankly afford to lose. Buriram are going through the worst run of Bandovic's tenure at the club, but they have consistently shown an ability to raise their level for the big games and outsmart their opposition.
On the other hand, Murayama's Samut Prakan City are arguably the only team among the top five than can claim to be playing at their best level at the moment, and have taken advantage of the failings of the nominally larger sides to mount a compelling challenge.
The result of this game could facilitate an immensely exciting sprint down the home stretch, in what could be the Thai League's most dramatic title race in years.
By Gian Chansrichawla and Obb Deewajin