MTUTD: THE ROAD TO ASIA
-------------------------------------------------- MATCH PREVIEW - Muangthong United at Kashima Antlers, Kashima Soccer Stadium, May 10th, 2017, 7PM (5PM Thailand)
Muangthong United will be looking to finish at the top of their group with either a win or a draw at Kashima Antlers on Wednesday. Muangthong United and Kashima Antlers head into the final match of the AFC Champions League group stage knowing they have both qualified to advance to the Round of 16. Either a win or a draw will see Muangthong United finish top of the table in Group E, while a loss would see the Kirin in second place. Kashima need a win to take top spot.
Should the Kirin hold firm, they will play second place finishers from Group G, Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), whereas a loss means a match against the group champs, Kawasaki Frontale (JPN). The first game of the elimination round set for May 23rd, (location TBD).
In the home leg match with Kashima, Muangthong United shocked the AFC and set history with a 2-1 victory, with the winning goal coming in the final seconds of the match, played at the Supachalasai Stadium in front of 13,000 fans.
The Kirin are undefeated in the group stage, with 3 wins and 2 draws, sitting at 11 points. Kashima also have 3 wins, but 2 losses, for 9 points.
Kashima Antlers, who are currently leading the J-League, will no doubt be looking to take 3 points in the home leg fixture. The Antlers haven't played since last Thursday, and being the host team will be well rested for Wednesday's game. The Kirin left for Japan Sunday, following their victory with Navy F.C. on Saturday.
After a slow start, the Antlers Champion's League form has improved, winning their last match 4-0, an away game victory over Ulsan Hyundai.
Kashima midfielder Mu Kanazaki netted twice in that match, the other goals coming from Pedro Junior and Hugo Leonardo. It was Kanazaki's third Champions League goal, while it was Pedro Junior who had scored in the match against Muangthong United. Kanazaki spent seasons in Germany’s Bundesliga, as well as Spain’s second division.
Kashima can also threaten with team captain Ryota Nagaki, or forward Suzuki Yuma.
Coach Totchtawan may well be looking for the draw, and expect the Kirin to play a defensive game with counter-attack. Naoaki Aoyama, at centre back, will be well liked by the home fans, and perhaps playing with less pressure. Yet Muangthong United will be without key players Tristan Do and Lee Ho (suspended), and central defender Celio Santos is doubtful with a bad flu. The depth of the Kirin squad will be called upon to shut down Kashima. The Kirin keeper, Kawin Thamsatchanan, of course, is considered to be one of Asia's best.
Also significant this match will be Chanathip Songkrasin, who will be joining J-League's Consadole Sapporo in early July. This will be the first chance for Japanese football fans to see the dynamic midfielder in action in their home turf.
The match will kick off at 7PM at the Kashima Soccer Stadium, 5PM Thai Time. The match will be broadcast on FoxSports HD in Thailand.