With Chelsea’s opening tour game just two days away, the official Chelsea website enlists our expert on Asian football for details on the opposition we will face and some background to the match.
Colin Pereira writes the regular View from the (Far) East Stand blog in chelseafc.com’s blog section and contributes to the Asian version of the club’s email newsletter.
Here he outlines Chelsea’s past matches in Bangkok, the venue for Wednesday’s game and key personnel for the Singha All-Stars, the team we will take on.
Chelsea in Thailand
While Chelsea are no strangers to Thailand, having visited the Land of Smiles on two previous occasions in May 1997 and July 2011, this is the first time that the team are kicking-off their pre-season preparations in the South-East Asian kingdom.
The Blues first played in Bangkok 16 years ago when the Thai capital was the final stop on a whirlwind post-season tour that also saw Ruud Gullit’s side visit Hong Kong and Brunei in the wake of the FA Cup victory over Middlesbrough. The match at the Supachalasai National Stadium took place just 10 days after that memorable Wembley triumph, as a Chelsea side that included Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Wise and Gianluca Vialli beat Thailand 1-0 with the winner scored by Dan Petrescu.
Chelsea returned to Thailand two years ago on the Here to Play, Here to Stay Tour and delighted a packed Rajamangala Stadium with a 4-0 victory over the Thai Premier League All-Stars thanks to goals by Frank Lampard, Jose Bosingwa, Branislav Ivanovic and Florent Malouda.
The Venue – Rajamangala National Stadium
Completed in 1998 (a year after Chelsea’s first visit to Thailand), the Rajamangala National Stadium first served as the main venue for the Asian Games that year and has since hosted a number of concerts and sporting events, including the opening match of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.
The stadium’s original capacity was 65,000 but the installation of new plastic seats for the 2007 Asian Cup saw the capacity lowered to 49,722.
The Coach – Piyapong Pue-On
A legend of Thai football, Piyapong Pue-on will be in charge of the Singha All-Stars when they take on Chelsea in the Singha 80th Anniversary Cup.
The 53-year-old was a prolific striker during his playing days and he fired his country to victory at several editions of the South-East Asia Games and King’s Cup. He also lifted league championships with clubs in Korea and Malaysia before he retired in 1997 after he had led Royal Thai Air Force to their domestic league title as player-coach.
As a manager, the attack-minded Piyapong led Royal Thai Air Force to two league championships and a Thai FA Cup title and was twice named the Thai league’s Coach of the Year. He was also in charge of the Singha All-Stars team which beat Manchester United 1-0 last Saturday.
Players to Watch
Chelsea are set to face a tough test on the opening leg of the Asian tour against the Singha All-Stars. It is a much improved team from the one that they faced in Bangkok two years ago with a selection of talented players from leading Thai Premier League clubs, including a number of experienced Thai internationals, the country’s most promising young stars and a few of the league’s best imported players. Here are some of the players that the Blues will have to keep a watchful eye on during the Singha 80th Anniversary Cup.
Phichitphong Choeichiu has been a mainstay in midfield for Thailand’s national team over the past decade, making over 70 appearances for his country and winning league titles with Krung Thai Bank and Muangthong United. The 30-year-old possesses a fine touch and has an eye for playing the killer through ball as well as testing opposition goalkeepers with his accurate shooting from distance.
Since he turned professional in 1999, Rangsan Viwatchaichok has established himself as one of his country’s best defensive midfielders, making nearly a half-century of appearances for his country and winning league titles at Krung Thai Bank and Buriram PEA. The 34-year-old is a fine leader on the pitch and currently captains Thai Premier League giants BEC Tero Sasana.
Thailand national captain Nataporn Phanrit (pictured top right) began his career as a left-back but the well-built 1.83m defender has been regularly deployed as a centre-back for club and country over the past decade. A rock in defence for Bangkok United, the 31-year-old also offers a big threat when he goes forward for his team’s set pieces.
Cleiton Silva has been one of the most prolific strikers in the Thai Premier League since the Brazilian first arrived in the kingdom to join Osotspa in 2010. The skilful 26-year-old, who has a deft touch and can shoot with either foot, joined BEC Tero Sasana last year and was the joint leading scorer in the league last year with 24 goals.
Nicknamed Messi J, teenage midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin is one of Thailand’s brightest young talents. Having already represented his country at U-20 and U-23 levels, the speedy and wily 19-year-old made his senior international debut last year after an impressive first season for BEC Tero Sasana in which he won the league’s Young Player of the Year award.
Another of Thailand’s emerging young talents, Thitipan Puangchan caught the eye last year when the teenager played a key role in Muangthong United’s Thai Premier League championship campaign. The versatile 19-year-old can play in defence and midfield but he is also a good finisher, netting twice for Thailand in a recent Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon.
– Click for ticket details for the game.
– Chelsea TV are showing all pre-season games live in the UK and Ireland.