SJK v PK-35 Vantaa – Friday at 16:30
As many predicted, SJK have improved their offense from last year, but taken a step or two backwards in defense. Roope Riski tops the league in terms of goals scored alongside IFK Mariehamn’s Jamaican international Dever Orgill with 7 goals. A solid goal scorer was what they lacked last year, but losing all their central defenders has made a strong challenge difficult. Thus, a modest position in the league table, and a loss at Ilves last time out.
Due to the postponement of the away match at VPS, PK-35’s last league game was almost a month ago. No one really knows what’s been going on there. Has the storm calmed? Does Shefki Kuqi have new plans? Is he leaving for Oldham?
Their previous game was in the cup against SJK, when they lost home in Myyrmäki 1-3. I have a few points about that. Most importantly, it was a good 3 weeks ago, and Veikkausliiga is a league where weekly, or even daily, form makes a significant difference. Secondly, SJK are starting to look like a cup team. They have a lot of pressure due to a new stadium, last year’s league title, and an extremely ambitious owner to make a good run in Europe. Not an easy task when you were drawn against BATE Borisov. Also, they’ve made it to the cup final against HJK, where I believe they will try to get their European spot renewed.
So, the league starts to be an awful lot for SJK, and there’s too much to climb up in the table, considering all the pressure from Europe and the cup. PK-35 have a good chance to surprise their opponents here.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: PK-35 Vantaa +0.75 at 1.98
VPS v FC Lahti – Friday at 17:30
It’s finally time for le grand premier – or actually neither le nor grand – but a premier anyhow for VPS’ newly renovated Hietalahti, which will go by the name of Elisa stadium. The big fiesta will be in a month when all the facilities are done, but in the end, returning to the home stadium from Kaarlen kenttä, will be a big relief both for the players and fans.
It feels like there’s always something negative to say about FC Lahti. But, as a matter of fact, they’re not doing that bad, being the fifth strongest team in the last five fixtures. Ok, that’s all the good I have to say about them, because there’s five other teams that have played exactly as well – or bad, have it like you want – and it’s a ludicrously even league table.
In their previous fixture VPS comfortably beat a poor Inter by 0-2, and it could’ve been by even more. Lahti, on the other hand, hosted KuPS in a scoreless draw, a game they should win if they want to be at least on the top half of the table.
VPS top the table of five previous fixtures and have clear momentum here. Shaky Tomi Maanoja is still likely to start in goal, as Mujunen’s knee injury hasn’t been diagnosed yet. Fullback Veli Lampi is possibly returning and homecomer Sebastian Strandvall has already made his highly anticipated return to the VPS midfield. FC Lahti are yet to win an away game, so high value on a home result.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS -0.25 at 2.00
KuPS v HIFK – Sunday at 15:00
Earlier in the season I couldn’t have trusted KuPS less. Now as the season has matured they’ve proven to be a somewhat reliable side, especially at home. KuPS are comparable to Lahti, with a few contrasts. They’re not god-awful away and they did have that winning stint during spring.
Jani Honkavaara is enjoying both the fans’ and the board’s full trust, the latter’s mostly due to the long full-time contract he signed last winter. All this despite what has been a depressing season so far. Prior to their last game, they had only 2 wins from 14 games, which kept them bottom of the league. An away win at PS Kemi gave a glimmer of hope. However, I see it more as a hint of PS Kemi’s true value.
HIFK still jave some injuries, but the list has shortened a lot. KuPS, by some miracle, have basically suffered only from Hamid Coulibaly’s and second goalie Joonas Pöntinen’s long-term injuries this season.
I favor the home team here not only for their stronger season, but what their strength is built upon. Set pieces are KuPS speciality, something HIFK have struggled badly with.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS -0.5 at 2.0
Prices correct at time of writing.
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