4 teams, theoretically 5, are within 4 points in the top of the table with 3 rounds left of the Finnish Veikkausliiga season 2016. It’s a nerve-wrecking sprint to the finishing line. Which will end in a huge disappointment for at least two of the top sides. Unfortunately, competition doesn’t always stand for quality, as we will see a champion with the lowest ppg in years.
PK-35 Vantaa v VPS
PK-35’s story in Veikkausliiga saw its end a long while ago. Whether it was when Kuqi left the sinking ship or when even the mathematical chances for a survival were blown is up to you. But they haven’t won in 18 games! Only 4 times have they managed to fight a draw since their last win June 6th against HIFK.
However, it’s not always been a walk in the park for the opponent. In their last game prior to the international break they even had a 1-2 away lead against pole positioned IFK Mariehamn. But, as expected, PK-35’s nearly all-amateur team couldn’t hold on and eventually lost 4-2.
Visitors VPS are that fifth team with a shot for the title. However, it would require all the other top 4 teams to fail miserably in their remaining games. So, what VPS is really looking for is a finish above Ilves, whom they have a 4-point gap to. It would give them a spot in the Europa League qualifiers. Which has been offered to them, just like all the other 7 top teams, on a silver plate.
VPS beat table rivals RoPS on home turf by 1-0 with a solid performance. Although RoPS are a top-half team. It is an opponent who’s lost a lot of its firepower at both ends of the field. RoPS had only half a chance inside the box, while VPS had a few good chances to increase their lead. I’m doubtful that VPS would have beaten any of the teams above them in the table with that game, though.
Although PK-35 Vantaa is a lost case and consists of players that’d barely survive in the second tier. They have proven to be a bit tough bite to chew on in Vantaa. As VPS still haven’t found their offensive efficiency. A two goal handicap on the home team is an investment worth a shot.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: PK-35 +2 at 1.90
RoPS v KuPS
Rovaniemen Palloseura enters another battle against a fellow Palloseura, this time from Kuopio. Against Vaasan Palloseura, RoPS blew its chances for a realistic top 4 finish. However, considering how their game has looked since mid-August, those chances were already gone. A loss in Vaasa only made it more or less official for the fans that it’s time to focus on the next season.
Which is exactly what the fans of KuPS have started to do. Head coach Marko Rajamäki is reportedly being replaced after this season. Although the rumors are as reliable as NBA reporter Chris Broussard’s ‘multiple sources.’ Nevertheless, valid report or not, it would be a logical move by owner Ari Lahti, who must’ve realized that this formula including Rajamäki simply doesn’t work. In addition, the reports of players’ frustration grown too big with Rajamäki and intending to leave KuPS as soon as possible, Lahti needs to pull a card, which could convince key players to stay.
According to that, one could imagine that it’s KuPS who are playing worse at the moment, but they’re not. RoPS are happy with Malinen thanks to a runner-up finish last year and a solid job this season, except the last third of it. RoPS really can’t find a way to break through to the opponents penalty area, thus its scoring chances come from far out. Their defense is also sloppy game after game, which however, has been a problem for the majority of the season.
Home team RoPS are missing midfielder Michel Mravec and right midfielder Aapo Heikkilä. KuPS get back their first goalie Johannes Kreidl and forward Sasa Jovovic from suspension. Finnish international, fullback/midfielder, Janne Saksela has agreed to a transfer with Dutch club Sparta Rotterdam, but will complete the season in Rovaniemi.
KuPS wouldn’t have too much to say against teams that have something to play for, because they are not only a lot more motivated but also in a better form. However, the sloppy defense of RoPS against mean machine Gbolahan Salami, and the trash called RoPS offense gives KuPS a fair chance for a positive result.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: KuPS +0.5 at 1.79
Ilves v HIFK
There’s no discussion of the biggest surprise of Veikkauslliga 2016. Even though few expected to see VPS in the top 5 at the end of the season, it is Ilves who shook the Finnish football people big time. Several bookies regarded Ilves as the least probable champion at the start of the season. Now they trail only by 3 points.
However, despite facing both HJK & IFK Mariehamn, and thus being nearly the master of their own faith (SJK are still one point ahead), I don’t believe we’ll have our own Leicester-story in Veikkausliiga. And this game might just be the one, which proves why.
Ilves are undefeated in their last 8 games, but their schedule has been fairly easy. Young guns Mikael Soisalo and Lauri Ala-Myllymäki have been brilliant, as Emile Paul Tendeng has cooled down from his summer heat. Unfortunate for Ilves, Soisalo and Ala-Myllymäki played heavy minutes for respective youth national side during the break, and considering such young age, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the exhaustion is too much for Friday.
HIFK, who battle against relegation play-offs with Inter, are on a sweet undefeated run of 5 games. As the cherry on the top, they beat their eternal rivals, HJK, for the first time in over 40 years. Most certainly a morale-boosting win. Former HJK-midfielder and Finnish international Mika Väyrynen has been a crucial addition to the HIFK squad.
Ilves has taken some severe hits during the crucial moments of the season, with (the inefficient) striker Mika Lahtinen, captain Antti Hynynen, and all-round player Eero Korte being sidelined for the remaining matches due to injuries. HIFK, on the other hand, has gotten away from their worst injury woes.
Ilves have some lads sidelined and two key offensive players unlikely to be 100% match fit. Despite the immense home form of Ilves, with only one loss throughout the whole season, I like the chances for HIFK to upset Ilves.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: HIFK +0.5 at 1.81
Prices correct at time of writing.
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