The title race was about to get even tighter, but in the name of justice, SJK’s appeal for 3 points from their win in the season opener, which they got by using unregistered players, was turned down. Nevertheless, the title is up for grabs, and anyone from the top 4 can claim it. The biggest surprise of the season is easily Ilves, who once again were expected to fight against relegation, but instead are challenging HJK, IFK Mariehamn, and SJK for the championship.
PS Kemi v SJK
The fact that the FA turned down SJK’s appeal was fortunate, not only for the other top 3 sides, but also for PS Kemi. It was against Kemi, whom SJK took their season opening win against, but due to some sloppy office work the result was ruled to be a 3-0 home win. Had the appeal gone through, PS Kemi would find themsleves uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.
That would have been tough break for the northerners, who have struggled more than HIFK and Inter lately. Kemi’s defense is something painful to witness, and honestly the remaining season is simply Erik Törnos’ personal show. They’ve lost five in a row, scoring only thrice and conceding 12 times.
Meanwhile, SJK have risen from the mid-table through 6 wins and one draw in their 8 previous games. The August transfer window worked its magic for SJK, who revamped their fumbling defense and added even more offensive power. Their last performance against KuPS at OmaSP was a good reason why they are to be taken seriously. It wasn’t a too dominant match by the home side, but they still managed to grab a win. And in the end, that’s how you win titles.
The already weak Kemi defense is lacking a suspended hothead Ryan Gillighan and centre back Kalle Taimi. Add to that the return of Billy Ions to his former home field, yikes, Kemi. The visitors, on the other hand, are almost fully fit.
SJK are in really good form and got a valuable extra morale boost – if such was ever needed – by beating HJK in the cup final. Kemi’s game has grown disoriented from the start of the season and they are also missing key players. An easy away win for SJK and they’re getting closer to a renewed title.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: SJK -0.75 at 1.94
VPS v RoPS
The Palloseura comrades find themselves in a negative trend curve, which practically has cost them a shot for Europe. The home side has run into a wall with their strategy, which has become too one-dimensional after their triumphant summer. The visitors, on the other hand, lost half of their spirit with Kokko, and after blowing their chances for a top 4 finish, they’ve lost almost all of the remaining morale.
Somewhat oddly, VPS has not only been stripped in offense from their weapons, but they’ve partially returned to hazardous passing on their on third of the pitch. The game’s been especially poor without Juho Lähde, who’s been out for several games now due to an illness. He’s clearly been the soul of Petri Vuorinen’s football, and the statistics speak for themselves. Still, somehow they’ve found the net once per game in their latest games, but as the defensive end has started leaking, it hasn’t given them the full pot.
RoPS are to some extent in a similar kind of a pickle. The defense has made cheap mistakes, and especially centre back Jammeh has gone absolutely mental in almost every recent match. In the offense, it’s still the same tune since Kokko left; give Robert Taylor the ball and hope for the best. Yet, just as VPS, they somehow score that one goal, but it rarely nowadays is enough.
VPS had a difficult injury situation in September, when Pyry Soiri, Juho Lähde and Mikko Viitikko were missing. That’s two key players from their offense, which resulted in a lackluster fantasy. They might be fit now, but considering how much Vuorinen fancies rotation, the most optimal starting eleven is unlikely to be seen. Which would include both Steven Morrissey and Andre Clennon on the field.
Both teams suffer from similar symptoms, although from different causes. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get an even result, which won’t please either side at all.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Both Team To Score at 2.05
KuPS v Inter
KuPS unstable season has been a hot topic in Kuopio. Is it because of too many foreign players, or Rajamäki’s incapability to get the maximal effort from them, or is it plainly a tactical problem? Not an easy question to answer, but the trust in Rajamäki is extremely low. A contract extension seems highly unlikely, and not the least deserved, but considering the alternatives of a replacer, it’s not completely impossible.
KuPS, just like its fellow Palloseura-clubs, VPS and RoPS, wasted their chances for top 4 position by a weak last third of the season. The frustration is easy to see on the pitch. For example Gbolahan Salami took two stupid bookings two games ago by flopping, and Tuomas Rannankari is heavily rumored to be leaving after the season. Speaking of Salami, he’s a player Rajamäki should’ve gotten a lot more goals from.
While KuPS have only a 6th position to play for, and the extra home game it gives for next season, Inter have a lot more to motivate them. However, it’s another question how much the players, especially the new recruits, care about avoiding the relegation qualifiers. But, we can easily state that Njazi Kuqi, whether he cares or not, is doing everything he can to win the games.
While Inter certainly have their in-form players in Kuqi, Kennedy and Kanakoudis, there are some lads who balance the situation. Club icon and captain Henri Lehtonen is probably simply too old nowadays, August signing Erfan Zeneli has been worthless in almost every single game, and Ari Nyman shouldn’t have been on a Veikkausliiga pitch for years.
KuPS get back their offensive powerhouse, Gbolahan Salami, from suspension, which will ease their task. However, first goalie Johannes Kreidl is injured, and 2nd goalie Craig Hill isn’t convincing.
As Inter have some crucial players in form, they have the struggling ones, too. KuPS probably wouldn’t score against too many of the other Veikkausliiga sides, but Inter offers the chance. Their last game against VPS was a good example of how and why.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Both Teams To Score at 1.95
Prices correct at time of writing.
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