Thais counting on Chanathip to break Azkals
He hasn't lit up the Suzuki Cup like he was tipped to do, but Chanathip Songkrasin could be handed a major role for Thailand in their semi-final second leg match against the Philippines.
With the tie finely poised following a goalless first leg in Manilla, head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang has been deploying the attacking midfielder - dubbed "Messi Jay" by Thai fans and media for his mesmerising dribbling skills - as a forward in training and is considering fielding him there for the return leg at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The War Elephants are without star striker Adisak Kraisorn following his red card at the Rizal Memorial Stadium and while he has a more conventional option in Sompong Soleb, Kiatisuk is giving talented youngster Chanathip the nod on their home ground.
Kiatisuk said: "I used Chanathip as a striker in training but I have not yet decided whether to use him for the position against the Philippines.
“We will stick to our tactics with fast attack.
"The condition of the pitch here (in Bangkok) is more to our liking than that in Manila."
While the three-time champions will be looking to reach the final and have a shot at equalling Singapore's record of four wins, the Philippines are hoping to pull off a famous upset to give their countrymen a boost after the nation was hit by Typhoon Hagupit.
Azkals midfielder Jerry Lucena said: "(The guys are giving) a lot of thought to the people back home in the Philippines and we hope we can get a good result here and give them some cheer.
"I am looking forward to the game. It is what football is all about playing in front of a lot of people and representing your country."
While the Thais are the clear favourites to advance, Philippines head coach Thomas Dooley is hoping the pressure will get to the hosts as his side try sneak in a crucial away goal.
The former United States captain said: "We were happy with the way we played in the first leg even though we did not win.
"If we can hold Thailand for the opening 15-20 minutes on Wednesday, I think we have a good chance (of going through).
"The 0-0 draw in Manila was the perfect result for us but obviously, we are still the underdogs here in front of 50,000 or 60,000 spectators.
"It will be very, very difficult but on the other hand we know they have to be careful - if we score a goal it will be very difficult for them."
Source: AFF Suzuki Cup official website