The season is finally truly on for all the teams after Inter and RoPS got their premiere played on Wednesday. There’s not too much to be said after one or two fixtures per team, however, Inter and HJK have made the biggest impression so far. Some teams still have a few things to improve, others a lot, while a couple need to fix basically everything. 33 fixtures is a long road to go so no one should panic yet.
SJK v Ilves
Home side SJK started their campaign with a mediocre draw against a mediocre Lahti but took a great win in the derby against VPS. Those two opponents, however, are completely different. At home SJK were expected to dominate against Lahti, whereas at VPS they could allow their hosts to keep the possession and counter fiercely.
Not to say it’s an easy task to do, nevertheless, it requires a whole lot less planning and execution than a home game where you are to control the tempo. That’s what we are yet to see from Sixten Boström’s SJK – a convincing 90 minutes of possession football.
Quite ironically, Ilves ran into the same wall in their premiere as SJK and drew 1-1 at home against Lahti. To Ilves’ defense, goalkeeper Mika Hilander got easily agitated (not exactly any breaking news) by Loorents Hertsi, whom he hit in the head with his shoulder. Unnecessary move, which eventually cost Ilves two points and Hilander a two games long suspension.
The result wasn’t completely due to Hilander’s red card, though. While Ilves had 11 men on the field all they created during those 37 minutes was one chance, which they capitalized. Only the fact that it required Lahti’s Hendrik Helmke to be sent off, thus making it an even 10 vs. 10, for Lahti to actually start playing. Sounds perhaps illogical, but it makes perfect sense in Lahti.
Missing Hilander wouldn’t have been a big problem if they were facing, say, Kemi or JJK. Instead, they are in a dire need of a solid goalie who can steer his frontline. SJK will still have to improve their game as favorites, but considering how hot Billy Ions was against VPS, scoring shouldn’t be an obstacle.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK -0.5
HIFK v JJK
Ask and ye shall receive. As we’re enjoying some Veikkausliiga during Easter a biblical reference suits well on HIFK gaffer Antti Muurinen’s state of mind right before the transfer window shut. The experienced coach has complained all winter long on HIFK’s modest resources and was looking to sign an old friend to the top. Birmingham City favorite Mikael Forssell signed a contract with the Helsinki side, as the rather poor team finally found external funding for his contract.
Will signing Forssell solve HIFK’s problems? Absolutely not. Muurinen had already three solid strikers in Juho Mäkelä, Pekka Sihvola and Ville Salmikivi, whose contract Muurinen chose not to extend. What HIFK are missing is something far greater than a soon-to-be retired striker. Muurinen might be happy, but the fans most certainly are not.
In other words, HIFK’s situation sounds quite the awful. Fortunately for them, there’s JJK and PS Kemi. At least that’s what the consensus has been and presumably still is. Well, to start off HIFK could not beat Kemi in their season opener. A team that’s been shocked by a rather nasty mess which ended in a contract termination with Ryan Gillighan.
JJK must be worse though, right? In almost every sense, yes, they should be, but after taking a 0-2 lead at IFK Mariehamn in their premiere, I’m not so sure. Although they eventually lost it 4-2, mostly due to a grandiose difference in quality, they showed all capability to survive and even conquer against weaker opponents.
HIFK are still a bunch of ingredients that haven’t been cooked together. In fact, they’re missing the recipe, too. I’m convinced that Antti Muurinen is not the right man to lead this HIFK, and a bigger win is far from reality even against JJK.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: JJK +1
IFK Mariehamn v HJK
As I shortly mentioned in the preview for HIFK – JJK, IFK Mariehamn had the most embarrassing start to the season against newcomers JJK. Some shocking starting 10 minutes included two conceded goals and it looked like the titleholders weren’t aware of the fact that the season had just started.
Coach Peter Lundberg reacted fast and made an extremely early substitution after only a half an hour, which evidently was an efficient wake-up call for his lads. In the end, it was men against boys and IFK took a comfortable 5-2 win. Nonetheless, it does require professionality and winner mentality to bounce back from two conceded goals during the first 10 minutes.
However, what is disturbing in Mariehamn, is the fact that they haven’t made a single solid performance this year versus tougher opponents. It’s been a rough ride so far, which puts them in an awkward situation against HJK, who roll like a train.
Which leads us to the question; can anyone stop HJK this year? VPS got trashed 5-0 and KuPS, a less vulnerable side, were beaten “only” by 2-0. Then again, HJK did receive a very questionable penalty, but honestly there was no question of the better side.
The offensive duo in Atomu Tanaka and Alfredo Morelos is pleasure to watch. The latter was scouted by several Champions League and Europa League teams on Monday, that’s how good he is.
A team that’s truly prepared for the season would not concede twice during the opening ten minutes against a newcomer. HJK, on the other hand, have been ready since forever and are, in my opinion, the clear favorites here. In the last 10 fixtures (including cup-ties) at Mariehamn, HJK has won 7, drawn once and lost twice. Sounds firm enough.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HJK -0.5
Цены правильные на момент написания.
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