With no wins by the top 4 teams last round, and table number 5, VPS, winning remains the status quo. All 5 have still a chance of gold, however, VPS only a purely mathematical one, as it would require SJK losing home to PK-35. Anyhow, it’s super exciting with 2 rounds left and so many possibilities.
HIFK v KuPS
Now it’s at least official, Marko Rajamäki will not continue as KuPS head coach after the two games that remain of Veikkausliiga 2016. A collective exhale of relief could be heard from Kuopio. The replacement is rumored to come from their next opponent, HIFK. Jani Honkavaara, who was fired earlier this season, is the one according to the same reports that informed first about Rajamäki’s end in Kuopio.
So what does that mean for the rest of KuPS season? Tough to say how it impacts the players, but they certainly won’t be playing to impress Rajamäki anymore. And unless the new coach isn’t known yet, I’m certain that the lads have taken holiday already. KuPS have a marginal shot to a 6th position, which would give them an extra home game next year, but I can’t imagine the players valuing that either.
Whereas KuPS are on a sweet roll of 4 losses, HIFK are escaping the relegation play-offs with only one defeat in the 8 previous games. They played very well away at Ilves, whom they put really in a tight spot. Only a slightly questionable penalty during the final 10 minutes saved Ilves from their first home loss since April.
As the injury list has shortened for HIFK, Antti Muurinen has a lot to choose from. On the other side, KuPS have to settle with Jamaican Craig Hill between the posts, who hasn’t impressed.
There’s barely anything that speaks for KuPS in this game. Perhaps a more relaxed atmosphere now that they know Rajamäki is leaving? You get the point, it feels forced, while for HIFK there’s plenty of pros. KuPS defense has dropped their finest form, and it shouldn’t be a too difficult task to break through it.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HIFK -0.5 at 1.84
Ilves v HJK
Home team Ilves were the big favorites in their last home game against HIFK. With only one loss this year at Tammela, they were expected to narrow the gap to the pole position. However, what we saw was a rather dull performance by the home side, while HIFK stood for the majority of the scoring chances.
It may be partly explained by Mikael Soisalo’s and Lauri Ala-Myllymäki’s huge minutes for the youth national teams under the international break, since they both are so vital for Ilves offense. Overall, though, the defensive team performance was a bit more insecure than in earlier games. HIFK broke into Ilves’ box a few times, but couldn’t capitalize more than once.
Meanwhile in Helsinki, HJK hosted the top match against IFK Mariehamn. And what a game it was. Chances on both ends throughout the whole game, and even though it was IFK Mariehamn who hit the post once and got the ball twice to the goal-line, HJK had perhaps even more good scoring opportunities. It was an adrenaline-filled game of transition football, highly-paced but slightly clumsily operated. For example, IFK Mariehamn equalized from another HJK howler, when captain Ville Jalasto headed past the ball.
League leading scorer Alfredo Morelos (16) gave HJK the lead but later took a booking, which will keep him suspended from this game. Morelos has been the soul of HJK offense. Homecomer and late recruit Akseli Pelvas has apparently brought with him the scoring troubles he had in Sweden. Ousman Jallow and Atomu Tanaka are also injured, so the HJK offense is far from full strength.
HJK’s last game was by no means a step forwards. They still defend badly and the offense isn’t as sharp as it should be. Ilves might not be in their absolute best form anymore, but I see value in them keeping their defeatless streak at Tammela.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves +0.5 at 1.64
PS Kemi v VPS
With 7 winless games in a row, PS Kemi are lucky they had a 5 game period with 4 wins before that. Nonetheless, they are still not safe from the relegation playoff, although a draw against Inter on Friday made it quite a bit more unlikely once again. The scoreless draw wasn’t by any means thanks to a disciplined performance by PS Kemi or anything other positive one could say about them. Inter were just lacking fantasy in offense, while Kemi had absolutely nothing to come with against Inter’s goal.
With that said, PS Kemi are likely the next to worst team in Veikkausliiga right now, revealing their true level. After a high-flying start the 33 games long season forces each side to uncover their identity, which now would mean adios for Kemi. They truly are a horrible team, but as the long season has it downsides, it surely does give teams like Kemi the opportunity for scoreless draws.
I’m not really sure whether the length of the season has positioned VPS where it really belongs or not, because they haven’t been even close to the level of play they reached in July, but also because, well, let’s face it, all the top 4 teams suck. Everyone’s been avoiding the chance to take a gap in the pole position, so maybe VPS deserves to be there. Nevertheless, they still aren’t playing that well.
Against PK-35 VPS created the chances, scored a bit late, scored soon once again, and then started the sequence of confusing panic by VPS. Seems like every time they take the lead, the squad pulls itself back and tries to keep it safe, way too safe. Which is risky, but has been somewhat rewarding this season. However, against PK-35 it was a barely decent result.
As VPS gaffer Petri Vuorinen is so fond of rotation and Loorents Hertsi is suspended due to yellow card limit, I’m expecting a starting eleven, that isn’t offensively strong enough in Rovaniemi (Kemi finish their season in exile). Pyry Soiri, who scored his 10th league goal against PK-35, is most likely too tired to start or if he does, just too tired to give another game winning performance.
Last time the two met, Kemi ended VPS’ winning streak. Kemi played in such way that seemed so obvious to do against a possession-obsessed VPS, and it gave them a scoreless draw. Wouldn’t surprise me if we see a repeat of that, as VPS still hasn’t found how to break through highly aggressive defensive pressure.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: PS Kemi +0.5 at 1.81
Prices correct at time of writing.
Join Eastbridge Soccer Betting Broker today for all your Veikkausliiga betting, now UK licensed!