Welcome to matchday eight of twenty-six in Vietnam. After this weekend’s games, we can start taking the league table a bit more seriously. We’ll almost be a third of the way through the season. As you’ve probably guessed from the title, we begin in Vietnam’s ‘second city’ as Sai Gon host Sanna Khanh Hoa tomorrow. Before we get cracking, I want to let you know that all times listed will be BST. Got it? Good.

Something’s Got To Give In Sai Gon

Something is going to have to give when the game between Sai Gon & Sanna Khanh Hoa takes place at 12:00. Sai Gon are one of only four teams that have scored ten or more goals this season, so scoring isn’t really an issue for them. What is a slight hindrance is the fact that they’ve shipped more than they’ve scored. Eleven to be precise. So, on average they’re three goals per game when Sai Gon take to the field.

In complete contrast, Sanna Khanh Hoa have the joint best defensive record in the division as they’ve only let three goals in, in seven games. It’s a good job they’re so good at the back because they’ve only managed to score six goals themselves.

Away from home, Sanna Khanh Hoa are the definition of a mixed bag as they’ve won one, drawn one and lost one. Funnily enough that game they lost came in the very stadium they’re playing tomorrow when they played Ho Chi Minh City earlier in the season.

Sanna Khanh Hoa Didn’t Impress Me

Sanna Khanh Hoa didn’t look that impressive that day but have seemingly come on leaps and bounds since then. It’s tough one to call.

Prediction Sai Gon 1-1 Sanna Khanh Hoa.

For a change, there’s only the one game on Friday which means it’s now time to turn our attention to Saturday’s action and what better place to start than Da Nang? Da Nang host Ho Chi Minh City @ 11:00 in a match-up which will see the hosts leapfrog the visitors, should they win.

Da Nang, much like Sanna Khanh Hoa, were dumped out the cup in days gone by which means that their full focus is now on the league. They currently sit 11th on seven points and they seem to be on a torrid run if you don’t scratch beneath the surface. Once you start to scratch away, you find that despite a tanking off Ha Noi, they’re unbeaten at home and I fully expect that to carry on against Ho Chi Minh.

FIFTY MILLION Per Goal

It’s come out in the week that the Ho Chi Minh players will be paid 50,000,000 VND everytime they score a goal regardless of the result. In English money, that’s £1,625 per goal (at the time of writing). With nineteen games left, Tavares & Co could well end up with a nice little bonus come the end of the campaign. Saying that, you can’t imagine the board will be too thrilled if they lose every game 6-5 and get relegated. It’s been said now, though.

Prediction: Da Nang 2-1 Ho Chi Minh City.

Saturday’s two other games also kick-off at 11:00, these, however, take place in the south of Vietnam. HAGL travel to Can Tho for a game they’ll undoubtedly be using to banish a few demons after their cup heartbreak against Ha Noi on Tuesday. If HAGL do manage a win, which isn’t totally out of the question, they could jump from ninth to third. Not a bad evening’s work.

Can Tho will be no pushovers for HAGL and they’re daft if they think otherwise as they’ve only lost once this season. And that was to, yep, you’ve guessed it, Ha Noi. From HAGL’s perspective, it’s important they keep Patiyo Tambwe under wraps because if you give him a chance, the likelihood is, he’s going to take it.

Prediction: Can Tho 1-2 HAGL.

There is, of course, only one place to finish Saturday’s preview. Binh Duong have been nothing short of sensational over the past few weeks. Not only have they reached the semi-finals of the National Cup, they’re also on a four-game unbeaten run in the league. Hai Phong stand in their way when it comes to carrying on their run and for once, I’m stumped.

Forza Binh Duong

My gut is telling me Becamex will keep up their good form, which is especially prominent at home, nonetheless, my head is reminding me of Hai Phong’s performance away at Ho Chi Minh.

They both sit on the same amount of points and while Hai Phong may have a better defensive record than their opponents, Binh Duong are better in front of goal. It’s a tough one to call. Naturally, I’m sticking with Romario and the lads.

Prediction: Becamex Binh Duong 3-2 Hai Phong.

Onto Sunday now, we’ve got one early (11:00) game and two that kick-off at 12:00. As per, we’ll begin with the early one which is between Quang Nam & Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA). I’ve caught glimpses of Quang Nam training this week and while I wasn’t there long enough to decide what i thought about them one way or another, what I can tell you is that the pitch looks a right state. Grass up to the knees may be an understatement, but not by much.

It seems that SLNA are putting all their eggs in the cup basket once again. They progressed to the semi-finals on Tuesday after a convincing two-legged performance against Da Nang. in the league, they’re on a winless run of three games and they’ve only mustered a solitary win all season.  Considering the cup doesn’t continue until September, maybe SLNA will pull their finger out now. Maybe.

Cut The Bloody Grass!

Quang Nam looked poor last time out against Binh Duong and looked nothing like the team that won the league last year. All things considered, they’re unbeaten at home and a win on Sunday could perhaps kickstart their season before Ha Noi become out of reach.

Prediction: Quang Nam 0-0 SLNA.

Our penultimate game to look at is 2nd against 7th. FLC Thanh Hoa sit five points behind their hosts, Than Quang Ninh and really need a win to make sure they keep pace with them. Than Quang Ninh are following the ‘how to win a league’ handbook expertly at the moment as they’re winning their home games and drawing their away games.

It All Points To A Home Win

They’re currently averaging two points per game. Over the course of the season that’ll total fifty-two points which would have been enough to win the league last year.

Thanh Hoa are a funny side at the moment. After they got six points from their first three games, I was expecting them to push on and challenge at the top once again, but oh no. From the following four games, they’ve taken three points. Well played lads. Cup games aside, they’ve drawn their last three and in two of those they’ve chucked away the lead.

Prediction: FLC Thanh Hoa 3-0 Than Quang Ninh

We close with a mismatch to end all mismatches. Shit-hot Ha Noi travel to well, shit Nam Dinh in a game that is nailed on to be an away win. Surely? I know stranger things have happened.

MIs-match Alert!

This Ha Noi side are too good. Even if they haven’t broken Nam Dinh down in the first period, they will when their legs tire. Ha Noi are like a well-oiled machine. I mean, if Ho Chi Minh can stick three past Nam Dinh, then Ha Noi could quite possibly run up a cricket score.

Nam Dinh got their first win when they travelled to SLNA last time out which means they’re not cut adrift just yet. If, by some miracle they can get a result, it will give them great belief that they can stay up. They won’t though. Will they?

Prediction: Nam Dinh 0-5 Ha Noi.  

Tune in on Monday when I’ll run through all the fallout regarding this week’s action. In an ideal world, Becamex will be third and Nam Dinh will have beaten Ha Noi. Forza Binh Duong. Do I always get what I want? No. Will I ever stop believing? Not at all. 

Until the next time.