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 By Paul Murphy

Buriram prepare for Muang Thong clash with PLT win over Sukhothai

Buriram coach Alexandre Gama
Buriram United coach Alexandre Gama saw his team struggle to break down Sukhothai.

Buriram United head coach Alexandre Gama insists his side are ready for the challenge of Muang Thong United in midweek after they went top of the Premier League of Thailand (PLT) with a 1-0 victory over Sukhothai on Saturday.

The champions had to overcome a determined challenge from the PLT new boys before once again coming away with three points, despite another unconvincing performance. But Gama believes his team are close to getting back to their best and will rise to the occasion in front of a sellout home crowd when Muang Thong visit on Wednesday.

A thrilling weekend of action ended with just two points separating the top six teams, as former leaders Bangkok Glass blew a two-goal lead and lost 4-3 at Ratchaburi.

Here are five things we learned from PLT Match Day 7:

1. Buriram missing Diogo and Macena

The Thunder Castle's new strikers Kaio Felipe Conclaves and Weslley Feitosa are struggling to score goals, a stark contrast with the deadly duo of last season: the injured Diogo Luis Santo and the departed Gilberto Macena. On Saturday, it was wing-back Anawin Jujeen who netted the crucial strike against Sukhothai, while centre-back Andres Tunez has been the main scoring threat, with an incredible six goals in seven games.

In contrast, Brazilians Kaio and Weslley have just one PLT strike between them. Neither really looked like scoring on Saturday, until Kaio's late effort brought an excellent save from Sarawut Konglarp.

Neverthless, Gama maintains that progress is being made and is looking forward to the challenge posed by Buriram's deadly rivals. He told ESPN FC, "My team is always ready to play against Muang Thong. It's a big game and my players enjoy playing in this kind of match in front of our fans. My team is starting to play well again and we are creating more chances.

"I believe we can put in a good performance against Muang Thong. But first, we have to rest the players because we have had so many games recently and they are very tired."

Sukhothai's John Baggio
John Baggio was Sukhothai's best player in their 1-0 loss to Buriram.

2. Sukhothai target the top 10

Sukhothai scraped into the PLT following a controversial playoff victory over Nakhon Pathom and many expected them to go straight back to Division One after one season. But the Fire Bats look to be made of strong stuff. Saturday's defeat to Buriram was their first loss since Match Day One, ending a run of three straight wins.

The tireless running of striker John Baggio exemplified the spirit of the team as they battled gamely against the champions.

After the match, Madagascar's Baggio told ESPN FC, "We're happy with the way we played against a big team like Buriram but, in the end, we're disappointed to have lost."

Baggio is pleased that the team are proving people wrong and hopes they can stay at the top end of the table.

"It's not surprising that many people expected us to be relegated as we're just a small team." he said. "Other teams don't know us so well and I think that has helped allow us to play our game. The club president has set us a target of finishing in the top 10 and we'll do our best to be there."

Ratchaburi striker Heberty scored his 50th Thai league goal against Bangkok Glass.

3. Heberty reaches half-century in style

Ratchaburi striker Heberty Fernandes scored his 50th Thai league goal on Saturday and quickly followed it up with his 51st and 52nd as his hat trick helped the Dragons to a 4-3 home victory over Bangkok Glass.

The visitors made an incredible start to the game, going 2-0 up through Bordin Phala and Ariel Rodriguez after 12 minutes. Takuya Murayama pulled one back for the hosts and the stage was then set for Heberty to equalise in first-half injury time to bring up the 50. After a quick free-kick halfway inside the opponents' half, the Brazilian ran at the Bangkok Glass defence and held off a couple of challenges before firing low into the corner from 15 yards out.

Rodriguez struck again for the visitors at the start of the second period. But Heberty was a man on a mission and his two goals completed a 15-minute hat trick before the hour mark, the winner a sensational free-kick.

The Brazilian striker, Thai Premier League player of the year in 2014, looks set for another prolific season as the Dragons go level with Bangkok Glass, Muang Thong and Chiang Rai United, two points behind Buriram.

National team star Adisak Kraisorn has scored four goals for Muang Thong this season.

4. Adisak taking his big chance

Adisak Kraisorn has sometimes threatened to be Thailand's top striker but has never developed the consistency to be first choice for club and country. The former Buriram United and BEC Tero Sasana man is now 25 so it seems that the time is right to start fulfilling his potential.

On Saturday, Adisak scored twice in Muang Thong's 4-0 home win over Sisaket, taking him to four PLT goals for the season. He also netted Thailand's crucial second goal in the key World Cup qualifier against Iraq last month, demonstrating an appetite for the big occasion.

It will be interesting to see if Kirins' head coach Totchtawan Sripan sticks with Adisak for the trip to Buriram on Wednesday. For Adisak to be the best, he has to get his chance to prove himself against the best.

5. Fighting Beetles up with the big guns

Chiang Rai United have quietly moved just two points off the top of the PLT table after seven games. Little was expected of Teerasak Po-on's side at the start of the season after the young coach led the team to ninth place in 2014.

But the Fighting Beetles are unbeaten in the league this season and Saturday's 2-1 victory at Osotspa Samut Prakan was their third win on the trot.

Bangkok Glass will know that they are in for a tough game when they head north on Wednesday. Chiang Rai fans will be starting to hope that they can better their best ever finish of seventh place in 2014.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK


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