Bahrain will be looking to further consolidate their position at the top of the group if not cement a place in the next round when they take on Thailand in an Asian 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying match on Saturday.

With nine points from three matches, the Bahrainis are at the top of Group 2, three points ahead of Japan and six in front of Oman. Thailand are virtually out of the running having lost all three of their matches.

Bahrain, in fact, are faring best among all Gulf countries involved in this protracted battle for a slot at South Africa 2010.

But Bahrain will be without suspended captain and key defender Mohammed Hussain, who received a yellow card during their 3-2 victory over Thailand in Bangkok last week.

No worries
Bahrain's Czech coach Milan Macala, however, did not seem too worried as he supervised his players during a training session at the National Stadium on Thursday night.

"We have good options on the bench with a lot of young Olympic players in the ranks. With such a flexible team I can also change the position of a few players without sacrificing anything," said Macala.

In all probability, Macala may field Rashid Al Allan in place of Hussain or push one of his midfielders down the line and strengthen the attack to maintain the momentum.

The team also looks very determined to fulfil a long dream this time around after having come agonisingly close to qualifying for the 2006 finals in Germany.

Tough Thais
But the coach is not taking anything lightly, least of all the Thai team which he considers 'unpredictable but always dangerous'.

"They have a few talented players who can turn things around in a matter of minutes," said the 63-year-old veteran. "We cannot afford to be complacent, even if the Thais prefer to play with a second-string team."

Thailand arrived in Bahrain on Wednesday with a full strength team, including regulars like Surayuth Chaikamdee and Teeratep Winothai, but they are expected to try out new faces, since their chances of qualifying for the fourth round are almost nil.

"We have not decided on the team but we are here to win," said an official, while coach Charnwit Polcheewin remained tight-lipped.

Standard formation
Macala is also expected to stick to the 4-4-2 combination he used in Bangkok with talismanic striker A'ala Hubail, who scored the decisive goals in victories against Oman and Japan, and young Ismail Abdullatif upfront.

The pressure will definitely be on Bahrain with three crucial points at stake - points which can open the door for the fourth round. But Macala feels football without pressure is not football at all.

"We know what we have to do and will do it, pressure or no pressure," vowed Macala.