Veikkausliiga is back from the international break to the final 9 rounds, and there’s plenty of destinies to be sealed. A 14 point gap has practically secured HJK a title after two seasons dry spell, but the remaining European spots and relegation battle is still up for grabs.
JJK v FC Lahti
12 vs. 15. That’s how long respective sides’ longest streaks were. Although for JJK that would be a winless streak and for Lahti unbeaten. Peculiarly, around the same time when JJK grabbed two wins from three games, Lahti started losing again.
Now, streaks, of course, like everything else, are meant to end. However, in the case of JJK, it might have been just a few games too late, and for Lahti some games too early. The difference being JJK having nothing to lose, while FC Lahti, or more like coach Korkeakunnas, has everything to lose.
I’m not sure how much credit should go to the Summer recruits Hindrek Ojamaa and Sasa Jovovic for JJK’s abrupt rise in form, but something has clearly happened, especially on the mental side. Naturally, Jovovic deserves a tap on the shoulder for his offensive efforts, but he’s no rainmaker in Veikkausliiga.
I’m skeptic to FC Lahti’s end of season. Their run was admirable, although a characteristic one in modern Veikkausliiga. It was based on one rather simple strength; a semi-high blocking defense. VPS had their run with their own strength and a similarly modest squad, but it took a frontal collision 200 km/h.
I’m not keeping high hopes for JJK surpassing HIFK in the table, but the light at the end of the tunnel will keep them fighting. FC Lahti, and Korkeakunnas particularly, I have perhaps even less confidence for, thus I consider JJK undervalued here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: JJK +1 at 1.920
KuPS v SJK
I hold these two sides as favorites to finish second and third, and each of them would be a sad story for Finnish footy. Why do I see them as favorites? Squads full of quality. Sounds simple and fair, but it’s tragic considering how much better each side should have done.
Starting with KuPS, their new coach for the season Jani Honkavaara got basically a historically good starting point to his task, with owner Ari Lahti spending even more and very early in the offseason on flashy signings. Jani Honkavaara, it was really up to you to make KuPS that glorious club it was decades ago. And you failed. KuPS should’ve done a lot better, and even if they’d finish top 3, it’s far from good enough.
SJK’s farcical experiment with Sixten Boström as coach and gambling with late signings was unsurprisingly a failure. His replacement, Spaniard Jose Manuel Roca, is according to reports leaving the club only to be replaced by Finland Under 21’s coach Tommi Kautonen. It’s like signing Steve McClaren.
Imagine then if these two sides are to represent Finland in Europa League qualifiers? Nevertheless, at this point, I consider Roca as a better coach and SJK as a stronger squad. Additionally, SJK has a solid record against KuPS: they haven’t lost a single game against KuPS in Veikkausliiga, winning six and tying five.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK +0.5 at 1.990
VPS v HJK
There are times when teams think to themselves ‘this international break couldn’t have come at a better time.’ And there are times when it should’ve come earlier. For VPS it’s the latter, and hopefully, it’s just enough to turn their nightmarish form to a European finish. They’ve gone seven games winless in Veikkausliiga, which initiated from the 2-1 win against Brøndby in Europa League qualifiers.
I’ve told that story before, and I’m sure everyone else is growing as tired of it as I have. However, I have confidence in VPS coaching staff, and if they are worth it, they should’ve used the international break well.
The remainder of HJK’s season is just so dull. They’d really have to put an effort to screw up the title, there’s barely any exciting players to follow, so the cup final is virtually the only thing keeping excitement in HJK’s camp.
Although Ville Koskimaa’s ridiculously referred suspension was rightfully canceled by the FA, and captain Veli Lampi is back, I’m not sure VPS are back to keeping their defensive end safe. Especially against HJK.
However, I don’t expect HJK to feast on goals, but VPS offense should get their sass back. Joonas Vahtera and Steven Morrissey foremost have been in the shadows during the winless streak, it’s time for them to give at least one goal.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Over 2.5 at 2.250
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