Saturday’s AFC Champions League qualifier opponent has been confirmed, with Thai powerhouse Muangthong United set to make the trip to Geelong’s Kardinia Park.
Saturday-s AFC Champions League qualifier opponent has been confirmed, with Thai powerhouse Muangthong United set to make the trip to Geelong-s Kardinia Park.
Muangthong defeated Hanoi T&T 2-0 last weekend and will now take on Melbourne Victory in a one-off qualifier which will see the winner progress to the Champions League group stages.
Muangthong United is one of the richest football clubs in Thailand.
The club has tasted Thai Premier League success three times since being promoted to the top flight in 2009, winning the title in their first appearance in the league.
Muangthong are no strangers to the AFC Champions League, having qualified for the group stage in 2013, where they took on China-s Guangzhou Evergrande, who went on to win the title, South Korea-s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Japan-s Urawa Red Diamonds. Interestingly, the winner of Saturday-s qualifier will face both Guangzhou and Jeonbuk in the group stage of this year’s competition.
Muangthong have a strong side with several key international players, as well as some homegrown talent.
Striker Jay Bothroyd will be a player some Victory fans may be familiar with from his time in the English Premier League.
The 31-year-old Englishman has represented his country at all age levels and has played with Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke, Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers to name just a few.
Mario Gjurovski is another standout player, with the 28-year-old Macedonian midfielder playing a key role in his side-s setup, as well as being a proven goalscorer. In his 72 appearances in the Thai Premier League, Mario has netted an impressive 32 goals.
Captain Datsakorn Thonglao is also a player to watch, with the homegrown hero having made 112 appearances for Muangthong in the Thai Premier League, leading them to three league titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Datsakorn, who stands at just under 170cm, has also made 96 appearances for the Thailand national side and is a constant threat as an attacking midfielder.
Muangthong United manager Scott Cooper only joined the club at the start of this year.
The English-born coach got his first taste of Thai Premier League football last year, leading Buriram United in 2013, a year in which Buriram claimed the Thai Premier League title.
Cooper has also spent two years with the English Under 15 side, as well as being an academy coach at Leicester City.
The path forward
The winner of Saturday-s match will automatically find themselves in Group G of the AFC Champions League, which also includes Guangzhou Evergrande (China), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (South Korea) and Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan).
Should Melbourne Victory win Saturday-s qualifier, the first match of the group stages will take place on Tuesday, February 26 in China against reigning Asian Champions League winners, Guangzhou.
Melbourne Victory v Muangthong United
Saturday, February 15
Kardinia Park, Geelong