The first snow has fallen in the entire soon-to-be centennial Finland, which sets up a perfect breezy atmosphere for the final round of Veikkausliiga on a crispy Saturday. Let’s wrap up the situation in the table: KuPS and Ilves are on equal points and fighting over the second position, FC Lahti have a slight hope of surpassing reigning champions IFK Mariehamn for the fourth position that entitles Europa League qualifications, and finally HIFK are reaching for the Great Escape from relegation qualification, which is three points away at Kemi.
JJK v VPS
As fully expected, JJK were sent straight down to Ykkönen where they surprisingly gained their promotion from last Fall. Although their straight relegation was secured quite a bit later than assumed, it’s been an informal fact for quite a while. However, this doesn’t mean they’ve given up playing football. Quite the contrary, they’ve messed it up for clubs that strive for Europe during the last third of the season.
One of the teams that got bamboozled by JJK was VPS, although a fair time ago. JJK was the club VPS faced after their European campaign and stirred the pot readily by pulling off a shocking 1-1 draw. This caused a horrid spiral for VPS leading to another 13 matches without a win.
The drought ended last weekend at home against FC Lahti with a visibly relieving injury time 2-1 goal by Sebastian Strandvall. That was also the last home game for two club icons Ville Koskimaa and Veli Lampi, who got a well-deserved swansong at Hietalahti.
Although there’s absolutely no material worth in this match, I see the setup very clear for this one. JJK are missing former prodigy Benno Hanslian and VPS their midfielder Jerry Voutilainen, which are not at this point any significant losses. With basically fully fit squads and a relaxed atmosphere VPS gets on the top in this matchup.
By ending their winless streak VPS are solid favorites in my books. It seemed as coach Vuorinen had loosened the ties against Lahti, allowing more crosses and longer passes in general, which was very much welcomed. It wouldn’t either surprise me if VPS now found their old form back and took a huge away victory, now that it doesn’t matter anymore.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS -0.5 at 1.91
FC Lahti v HIFK
Ever since Lahti completely annihilated Inter away in Turku by 6-1 Lahti and Toni Korkeakunnas have found themselves in a goal scoring pickle. They’ve found the back of the net only thrice in the five previous games, which has given only a single point. Side note: if you read my last preview, you’ll notice a similarity in this paragraph.
And oh, boy has Korkeakunnas’ lost his sheep. Such a beautiful shepherding throughout most of the season turned to chaos without a wolf in sight. Five winless games have dropped Lahti outside a European finish, with a theoretical, and a rather marginal, chance to reclaim it.
Despite that chance, the hope has been squeezed out of the Lahti squad. Their strive for a winning goal at VPS last weekend was a toothless one, and even though VPS winning goal was not exactly suitable for the narrative of the game per se, it most certainly was served with a hint of justice. Prior to the game, the Lahti camp was already filled with discourage and after that late loss, I cannot imagine that feeling improved at all.
On the other side of the pitch, HIFK is mathematically in an equally challenging situation. However, there’s a fairly higher chance that Kemi loses, which would mean that a win against Lahti saves the red side of Helsinki.
There’s a significantly stronger spirit in the away camp, and at this point of the season, it means more than a lot. However, placing a bet on an away win would be slightly too confident on HIFK, who hasn’t shown a single trace of stability this season. FC Lahti not winning, virtually against any opponent, is, however, a solid pick in my books.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK +0.5 at 1.91
PS Kemi v KuPS
Now, for those of you who live closer to the equator than yours truly, this is probably something you’ll fancy and find quite romantic: PS Kemi’s coach Jari Åhman was clearing the snow off from Kemi’s home turf on Wednesday to ensure that the pitch can host Saturday’s grand finale.
Never mind the modesty and heart it takes to do the work Åhman did, it does not take away the fact that his pockets and lunchbox have been empty for a disturbingly long time. It’s been nearly two months since Kemi’s last victory, which has dragged them dangerously close to the relegation qualification spot, possessed by HIFK for nearly the entirety of the season.
And they better hope HIFK can’t beat a demoralized Lahti since KuPS are in an amazing form and hungry to claim their first silver since 2010. Well, fine, an amazing form is probably too sweetly described considering a crucial 1-0 defeat at rivals Ilves. However, KuPS have lost 14 of their 15 encounters with Ilves since 2015, soooo… I’m going to let that slip one through.
Speaking of streaks, KuPS have beaten Kemi in all five earlier encounters in Veikkausliiga. It’s no surprise considering how similar-ish philosophies the two exercise, and the major difference then being KuPS superior quality. Kemi have also managed to break KuPS defense only once, which says a lot about how pathetic Kemi is when facing the Savonians.
Although Kemi has higher stakes at play in this matchup, concerning their status as a league club or a potential down spiral to bankruptcy via relegation, nothing comes to my mind that speaks against KuPS. I think this has one of the best values of the season, an away win is an absolute favorite in my opinion.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.5 at 1.84
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