Polking to unleash Thailand stars Chanathip, Theerathon at AFF Suzuki Cup

Given their status as the AFF Suzuki Cup's record five-time champions, Thailand were always going to be contenders for the 2020 edition of Southeast Asia's premier international tournament.

And as the War Elephants look to make it two wins from two in Saturday's Group A clash against Myanmar, things are about to get more frightful for the opposition as they are set to unleashed Japan-based stars Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan.

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Thailand's two key men, who play for Consadole Sapporo and Yokohama F. Marinos in the J1 League respectively, were late arrivals due to their club commitments and missed the opening 2-0 win over Timor-Leste.

With the Thais having been on the receiving end of some criticism given the unconvincing nature of that victory against the lowest-ranked side in the group, coach Alexandre Polking is ready to turn things up a notch on Saturday.

"It's clear that they are two good players. So it's not a big surprise or secret that they will start," said Polking, when asked by ESPN on the potential selection of the duo.

"They just arrived and didn't play the first game, and we're also trying to find some balance with resting some of the other players.

"Aum (Theerathon) has been playing all season long with Marinos, while Jay (Chanathip) just came back (from a layoff) but has already played five, six games with Sapporo.

"Their presence will also allow us to try different formations and I'm happy with what I'm seeing with the competition among the players. It's very important to keep pushing each other and it also makes it very difficult for me to decide on my team."

Although Thailand were expected to top Group A, the strong early form of hosts Singapore -- who currently lead the standings on six points with the Thais having sat out the previous round of matches -- has added intrigue in the race for the two semifinal berths.

The two teams meet in the final round of Group A matches on Dec. 18 in what could be an outright duel for qualification, although Polking is focused on the tasks that lie before that -- which could at least leave his side with more breathing room.

"Of course, we are watching what Singapore are doing. They have the crowd on their side and, even though the stadium is not at full capacity, you can see how much noise 10,000 people can make. I believe this is pushing them a lot," added Polking.

"We are aware (of their threat) but the focus remains our next game and what we're going to do. We want to also be on six points and then after that we have Philippines, who they just beat.

"If we both manage to get the wins before the final game, then the two teams will more or less know we'll be in the semifinals. So the focus is still game-by-game and, as we said before the start of the championship, our first two games are very important."