Most of “The Nine” are key players in their positions who are likely to be part of the first-team lineup, and will give Phuket FC an edge after playing together for a year.
One of the new faces is captain Wasan Natasan (#9), who honed his skills at Chiang Rai United with Coach Teco, and who will likely be paired upfront with Anusak Laosangthai (#29). The duo will definitely be a striking force to reckon for Phuket FC.
The Brazilian duo of Eber Henrique (#23) and Christian Alex (#10) will control the midfield. Alex, who last year became more of a tactical player, will still be able to dribble through the defense and cause damage in front of Pattaya United's goal on Sunday.
Eber, who is short in stature, will more than make up for it with his unrelenting ability to chase and tackle; like a bulldog that will never let go.
Manager Stefano “Teco” Cugurra seems to be favouring a strong pressing attack this season, as Phuket FC will look to pile on the pressure early on in matches, connect their short passing plays and convert opportunities into early scores.
Midfielder Watchara Kriaram (#21) is, for lack of a better word, fierce. Pattaya United will want to think twice when they have the ball in their possession when Watchara is nearby.
Another one of “The Nine,” Alef Pochi (#15), might also start this game if Teco wants to play a safe 4-4-2 formation against Pattaya’s “Dolphins”. But we might also see Arnon Yangkam (#25) start.
Arnon is an attacking midfielder who likes to tear-off on runs down the sidelines, using his speed to go past players and whip pinpoint crosses into the kill zone.
The back-line is an international affair with Japan's Yusuke Sato (#36) and Brazilian Tales dos Santos (#4) at centre, with Sakareya Kolae (#26) running right back.
With Tales' height (197 cm), the team hopes to prevent Pattaya from connecting in the air, while Watchara will help on the ground.
The new defender to watch will be Burmese international Pyne Soe (#16) who, after a few friendlies, showed confidence in defending his position and swinging out to help with attacks along the wings.
Pattaya United coach “Daeng" Songyot Klinsrisuk, the former Sri Racha Suzuki FC head coach, brought with him half of that team's footballers to Pattaya. His advantage over Phuket FC might just be that his players have been together for a long time and are already in-tune.
Keep your eyes on Sarawut Fuengdan (#14), a former Thailand U-19 striker who was given the nickname "Rooney" for his style. He joined Pattaya United during the off-season and is solid at scoring and setting-up goals.
Other wild cards include Brazilian striker Andre Aruajo (#10) and defensive midfielder Moussa Sylla (#15), whose brutal and relentless tackles might cause problems for the Ronins as we saw him dominate in midfield last year with his former club BBCU.
Pattaya might play a safe 4-4-2 formation and hope to hold off Phuket FC as much as possible, with Coach Daeng likely to rely on his solid defense.
The Dolphins, despite going through turmoil during the off-season, are still a good team that can't be underestimated. Their counter-attack can be deadly with the speed and skills of footballers like Chatchai, Sarawut and Andre.
If Phuket FC want to win this game and bag their first three points of the season, they will have to both keep it tight at the back and also take the game to their opponents.
Prediction: Phuket FC 2-0 Pattaya United.