PHUKET: Thailand’s two representatives in the AFC Champions League, Muang Thong United and Buriram United, are struggling to make it out of the competition’s group stages.
Muang Thong’s form in the Champions League is the polar opposite of their five-game unbeaten start to the 2013 Thai Premier League (TPL) season.
The current TPL champions are rooted to the bottom of Group F with one point from four games. In their last two games, both against Guangzhou Evergrande from China, who are managed by Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi, they lost 4-0 at home and 4-1 away.
To stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stages, Muang Thong must win their final two games away to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from Korea and then home against Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.
Buriram United find themselves in a better position than Muang Thong after they beat China’s Jiangsu Sainty 2-0 in their last game to pick up their first win of the competition.
Buriram joined Japan’s Vegalta Sendai in joint second, two points behind Group E leaders FC Seoul, but still only one point above bottom club Jiangsu Sainty.
Buriram’s next game is a must-win home match against Vegalta Sendai, and then their last fixture of the AFC Champions League group stage is away to table toppers FC Seoul.
The AFC Champions League is contested among the top thirty-five clubs from the top 10 Asian leagues. The winners of the tournament get the opportunity to play in the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year.
Last year, Brazilian team Corinthians beat Chelsea in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup.
The next round of matches in the AFC Champions League is on Wednesday April 24. Buriram United host Vegalta Sendai at 6pm and Muang Thong travel to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to play at 5pm.
— Andrew Scott