The international break gave several teams a much-needed rest after three hectic weeks. Most, if not all, clubs played for three weeks approximately every fourth day. With rather small squads, the fatigue was very much visible towards the end of the sprint.
HIFK v SJK
Helsingfors IFK has gone six games without a win, which is starting to get on them since even JJK got their first full three points. Defensively they are still doing well, however, it seems to come at a great cost; you can’t win without scoring.
SJK’s belly flop start to the season including the managerial switch before the season started has turned into a complete farce. Sixten Boström was sacked the day after the humiliating 6-0 defeat at HJK. Under Boström SJK impressed only for a total of three matches, however, it wasn’t a team he had built.
The new choice to lead the team towards owner Raimo Sarajärvi’s high expectations is Manuel Roca. The Spaniard’s comments from press conferences have been philosophical, although there’s been some kind of a language barrier.
Albeit the poetic talk about football tactics with an exotic Spanish accent, Roca didn’t turn SJK’s course directly. Neither do I think he’ll do the job, as the problems lie way deeper than the choice of coach. Helsinki has always been a nightmare for SJK to visit, and HIFK’s defense is a tough wall to break.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK +0.5 at 1.666
KuPS v VPS
As SJK’s season has started off even worse than many dared to expect, KuPS have taken their chance to strengthen their position in the top three. The club made a big decision to invest seriously on this season by signing former HIFK coach Jani Honkavaara very early on and setting up contracts earlier than the rest of the league.
In other words, there are no excuses for Honkavaara. It’s been discussed how good of a job he did with HIFK. Obviously, winning a promotion against all odds was a huge merit, however, in Veikkausliiga he couldn’t prove himself. It started well off in Kuopio, but it seems like the troubles have just started.
Star striker Gbolahan Salami has clearly been bothered by personal issues – which is completely understandable, by the way – but that’s not all. Since the 4-1 at Kemi, the game’s been a bit soggy, far from convincing.
VPS past few games haven’t either been too promising. However, they were clearly running out of juice and men towards the start of the break. Fresh legs and, perhaps even more importantly, fresh ideas ought to do good for VPS.
KuPS are lacking Gbolahan Salami and Solomon Duah due to suspensions. Offensive midfield talent Urho Nissilä will be sidelined until the end of the season. VPS are missing Ebrima Sohna and possibly also Sebastian Strandvall, but they’ve done fine without them so far. After a good rest, I see VPS having a good chance to grab at least a point against a weakened KuPS
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.25 at 2.000
PS Kemi v IFK Mariehamn
The home side were the obvious favorites to finish second to last above JJK, but three wins against a lot more glamorous teams made HIFK bite their dust, at least so far. However, I’m still not convinced of this Kemi, and honestly, it’d be a travesty if they survived another season.
Kemi have lost five times this season. What stands out from those five losses, are the two 1-0 defeats against possession favoring clubs HJK and VPS. Both defeats on home turf were close calls, but the three other losses were crystal clear. Guess whom they faced? KuPS, RoPS, and IFK Mariehamn.
In other words, physical opponents relying on direct football are superior to their only strength. And as long as they can’t prove me being wrong, I can’t see them standing a chance against those three sides.
Ironically, IFK Mariehamn is suffering from the same diagnosis, albeit a milder one thanks to the amount of quality in their squad. During the first third of the season, they couldn’t beat any of SJK, Inter, VPS, HJK or Ilves. There’s a lot of variation in the style between those five, but I consider them to be rather far from direct and brute football.
The big question is how far these two teams can go with their rather restricted philosophy? Undoubtedly, IFK can get the more out of it due to a far better squad, but Kemi might just be a whole lot happier in the end of October. Nevertheless, on Wednesday it should be Mariehamn who celebrate.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: IFK Mariehamn -0.25 at 1.830
Prices correct at time of writing.
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