Thai coach opts for youth against Malaysia as semi-finals beckon

National football team coach Kiatisak Senamuang is preparing to turn to players he worked with at the recent Asian Games as Thailand eye a second straight win at the ASEAN Championship against Malaysia today.

Three-time champions Thailand made a winning start to their bid to reclaim a title they last won in 2012 with a nervy 2-1 win over titleholders Singapore in their opening match on Sunday to go top of Group B.

With Myanmar and 2010 winners Malaysia, the other two sides in the group, taking only a point each following their goalless stalemate, the Thai team are now well placed to secure a semi-final spot in the biennial tournament. In fact, a win over the Malaysians at the Jalan Besar Stadium could seal qualification if the other result goes Thailand's way.

Kiatisak, 41 and in his first tournament in charge since being officially appointed as German veteran Winfried Schaefer's successor, revealed he might rejig his side to address defensive problems exposed in the Singapore match.

The former national striker hinted that the spine of his team against Malaysia would be made up of the young players he led to fourth spot at the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea.

"Narubadin [Weerawatnodom] should return at right-back as the team needs to be more attacking. At the centre of defence, we need to check Praweenwat Boonyong's pink-eye symptoms but we could put Tanaboon Kesarat with Adisorn Promrak because they play together at club level. At left-back, Chayapat Kitpongsrithada will come in to replace the injured Perapat Notechaiya.

"Chanatip Songkrasin is now in better physical condition and will start on the left side of midfield in place of Prakit Deeprom while Sarawut Masuk will play on the opposite flank after Monkol Thosakrai suffered an injury. We may make too many changes but the foundation of the team is Asian Games players.

"Both sides want three points so we need to be careful and try to attack at pace. The artificial turf at the venue won't be a factor if we're really a strong team. If we play to our standard, we will take maximum points, which would send us through to the semi-finals," said Kiatisak.

Thai team manager Kasem Jariyawatwong said the squad were adjusting their training schedule as heavy rain is forecast throughout the week. He expressed concern that the weather might also become a factor in today's match.

"If it rains, the Malaysians would have an advantage because they have four or five players who play regularly at this venue. The game could also be disrupted by lightning. Nevertheless, we're well prepared. We need to claim three points so we can play with less pressure in our final group match," said Kasem.