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Thailand players hit the heights ahead of AFF Suzuki Cup

Thailand have only played one international friendly in the run-up to next month’s AFF Suzuki Cup but the players won't lack match sharpness thanks to a full schedule of club games.

Muang Thong United, who are expected to have at least seven players in the Thailand squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup, wrapped up the Thai Premier League (TPL) title on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Chainat FC.

Thailand coach Winfried Schafer will have been delighted by the identity of the scorer, national striker Teerasil Dangda claiming his 18th league goal with his head.

In-form Teerasil added four more to his total in Muang Thong United’s 8-1 thrashing of BBCU on Wednesday evening and shot back to the top of the goalscorers’ chart.

Schafer has been frustrated by the lack of warm-up matches, with Thailand beating a TPL All-Stars team 5-1 and Laos 2-1 in their only games, but the former coach of Cameroon has had the opportunity to watch many of his squad light up the local scene.

As well as Teerasil, midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao – rated as one of the best players in South-East Asia - played a huge part in Muang Thong United’s third TPL title in four years.

The spring-heeled Pipob On-mo, who is tipped to team up with Teersasil in attack for Thailand, has scored 15 league goals for Chonburi and has grabbed four more in The Sharks AFC Cup campaign.

Chonburi play the second leg of their AFC Cup semi-final against Iraq’s Arbil on Tuesday but have a mountain to climb after losing the first leg 4-1.

The relative form of goalkeepers Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (Chonburi) and Kawin Tammasatchanan (Muang Thong United) will be closely watched in the season-ending games as Schafer decides on his number one for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Last year’s treble winners Buriram United are still alive in the Thai FA Cup (semi-finals) and Thai League Cup (final) and Schafer will be tracking the performances of exciting full-back Theeraton Bunmathan and midfielders Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Suchai Nutnum, Jakrapan Kaewprom and Jirawat Makarom.

Thai-American Ampaipitakwong, who joined Buriram from San Jose Earthquakes, had been expected to make his international debut against Laos but had to pull out of the squad because of illness.

The Thai Premier League finishes on October 28 and with Muang Thong United no longer involved in either of the cup competitions, it’s likely their players will be heading to the national training camp in Chiang Mai on November 5.

But with Thai teams still active on four fronts, and the finals of the AFC Cup, Thai FA Cup and Thai League Cup not to be contested until early November, Schafer probably wont have a full squad present to midway through the two-week training stint.

Thailand will play three important matches in that period as they finalise their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup with 2010 champions Malaysia the opponents on November 7, three-time winners Singapore (November 14) and an as yet unnamed team from the Middle East (November 18).

Thailand’s first game in Group A is against 2010 semi-finalists Philippines at Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, on November 24.

Also, they take on qualifiers Myanmar on November 27 and Vietnam, the 2008 champions, three days later.