The final round of the Veikkausliiga season 2016 is full of excitement, so much that other leagues should be jealous! Three sides are in with a chance of winning the title and two additional sides are fighting for a Europa League qualifying spot. It’s been a turbulent season, which now and then has been very hard to predict and I’m sure that no one would have predicted the final table correctly, before the season kicked off. Finally, I want to thank you all for this season and Eastbridge, for relying on my expertise on Veikkausliiga and the Asian Handicap Market.
VPS v FC Lahti
The 4th placed VPS are not far from securing a Europa League qualifying finish. Besides Ilves, and the most likely title-winners IFK Mariehamn, they are among the biggest positive surprises of the season. The revolution of Petri Vuorinen and his coaching staff in VPS is an ongoing process, which has given a good result faster than expected. Keep an eye on them for Veikkausliiga 2017.
FC Lahti, on the other hand, are one of the major disappointments of the year. There’s been little to celebrate in “Finland’s Chicago”, or better said, no feelings at all throughout the season. The season ends with an emotional farewell to club icon Rafael, a Brazilian striker who’s netted well over 100 times in Veikkausliiga. The new Russian loanees, who were brought in in August, added some much-needed energy and inspiration to Toni Korkeakunnas’ squad, but in the end, there wasn’t really a point with it.
In the last fixture, VPS travelled to Rovaniemi to face the next-to-worst club at the moment, PS Kemi. I was astonished by their 1-4 win, especially considering the fact that they started without a single striker. Rarely has reenactments of del Bosque’s Spanish tactics with a false nine given a favourable result, but Vuorinen did it. I think it speaks a lot of his knowledge of football; he really is aware of what he’s doing.
Neither side have any remarkable absentees, which turns into the home team’s favour, considering how they’ve played with their optimal eleven, contrary to FC Lahti’s record under usual circumstances.
VPS are better almost in every aspect, and on home soil they have a significant advantage. Add to that the fact that Lahti play on grass, whereas Elisa Stadion has a turf. Lahti’s defense hasn’t held well, and as VPS are on a roll, I like the chances for a bigger home win.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS -0.75 at 1.86
KuPS v PS Kemi
KuPS have finally got themselves a new head coach for next season, as Jani Honkavaara, whom I mentioned in the previous preview, signed a contract starting immediately after this season is over. Unfortunately I had favoured HIFK in KuPS’ previous match, but the players received the news of a new head coach before the game and his presence at the stadium had an impact; a huge morale boost for a team that otherwise had nothing to play for.
Kemi, on the other hand, oh boy, where should I even start? I was skeptic on VPS in the away match at Kemi, although I knew Kemi hadn’t played well for ages. VPS are a team you can stop winning, simply by running like mad dogs after the ball and the opponents. However, it turned out to be the same old song, that is, Erik Törnros scores but Kemi still lose. This time they got beaten badly, by a 4-1 scoreline, which could’ve ended even worse.
KuPS, as I’ve earlier praised, are dangerous in corners, and now there’s numbers to prove that. Twitter analyst @Minor_LS collected data on corners, which proved that KuPS are by far the most efficient team what it comes to corners. Hence, you might ask ‘what about PS Kemi’s defense?’ Well, it turns out that there barely is a difference in defending corners between the Veikkausliiga teams (for the exception of PK-35). In other words, it doesn’t matter whom KuPS meet, they’re still as sharp in corners.
However, KuPS corner efficiency is extremely dependent on their Nigerian fullback Azubuike Egwuekwe. As he is expected to be fit alongside his fellow national Gbolahan Salami, who’s assisted a record amount of goals in one season for KuPS (13), Kemi really have to cross their fingers that Törnros scores a hat-trick and saves a few KuPS shots from the goal-line.
The announcement of Jani Honkavaara as the next KuPS’ coach, a fair home record and PS Kemi’s absolutely horrendous Autumn form gives fine value for a home win and at least a slightly happier finish to KuPS otherwise disappointing season.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.5 at 2.00
HJK v SJK
Although IFK Mariehamn (IFK Mariehamn hold pole position by a one point margin to HJK and are two points ahead of SJK) host Ilves in Åland and are huge favourites to take the title, the big game of the final round is played in Helsinki. SJK beat HJK in Tampere to win the national cup, which left the blue and white giants from Helsinki bitter.
HJK had a slow start away at Tammela against Ilves, but turned the result to their favour during the final 15 minutes of the game. The extreme force forwards to get the game winning goal and the additional win-securing goals is what has been missing for the most part of Mika Lehkosuo’s HJK, since their stint in Europa League 2014/15.
Meanwhile, SJK had a simple task on home field to beat PK-35 Vantaa, but there was a significant side goal besides the win; winning by big numbers. The 5-0 win secured that with a win over HJK, IFK Mariehamn would have to also win their match.
Although HJK are still most likely missing – you never know with HJK, who are always so full of mysteries – their Japanese star Atomu Tanaka, they do get back Veikkausliiga’s next best scorer, Alfredo Morelos, from suspension. Brazilian Rafinha also made a great game as a right winger against Ilves, although he mostly has played as a fullback, and at times even as a centre back.
SJK have had the best last third of the season, winning 7 games, drawing twice and losing only once. However, that loss came against HIFK at Sonera Stadion, where they are yet to win. HJK’s win over Ilves was great mentally and they seem to have their hunger for victory back. The central defence is a bit shaky though, which is the reason why I want to keep my pick a bit safer.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: HJK +/-0 (DNB) at 1.69
Prices correct at time of writing.
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