Champions and Europa League qualifiers are here, which means it’s time for a turning point in Veikkausliiga. In July about half of the season is behind us, and the early birds on points start to lose altitude. Teams such as Ilves and PS Kemi, who had a stunning run, are likely to drop down the table. Meanwhile, disappointments such as SJK, and either FC Lahti or RoPS, or both, will climb up to fight for medals.
Ilves v SJK
With a game in hand, Ilves share the third spot in the table with KuPS, and neither of them should be there. I won’t go any more into detail why KuPS shouldn’t, but I’ll tell you why Ilves don’t deserve that position.
Just like last year, Ilves were relegation favorites, but proved early on that they had nothing to do there. I’ve given them compliments like knowing their limits and maximizing their resources, but that doesn’t mean they should be up in the table this late in July. In fact, I think the collective Ilves was a more compact machine last year. A lot of their success is down to one man, Paul Emile Tendeng. While last year’s goals were very evenly spread through the team, except for clumsy striker Mika Lahtinen, this year the Ilves offense relies too heavily on Tendeng. Their run can’t last much longer.
Which is sort of sad to see, as it means that teams like SJK can climb up the table relatively easily, so late in the season. Teams should suffer more from a bad start, but that’s one of the huge downsides of a 33 fixtures season.
SJK continued their good form by beating Inter in Turku (1-3). They haven’t lost in a long time except against the top two teams HJK and IFK Mariehamn, but they did give away an awful lot of chances to Inter. Meanwhile, Ilves went without a chance in Vaasa, losing 2-0 and fullback Antti Hynynen to an injury. SJK should continue their rise, while Ilves should prepare themselves for a whirlpool. Y’all going down.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: SJK -0.25 at 2.01
FC Lahti v KuPS
So I mentioned Lahti as a potential table climber for the remaining season. I did it mostly because the table is very even between positions 3 and 9, and just because it’s Lahti, who often find themselves at least in the top 5. However, there are some valid questions concerning their offensive quality, especially now that Russian loanee Ivan Solovyev returned to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Compared to last year, when they finished 5th, they have approximately the same amount of points on home soil, but contrary to being the second strongest away team in 2015, they are by far the worst this year. FC Lahti are a difficult team to get work out.
So are KuPS, an eerily late-composed squad that after struggling at the start now find themselves in third spot. Building your team just a week or two before the season starts naturally causes strategic problems, thus, Rajamäki has lived on set pieces and a tight defense. Both, especially the former, start to be tricks too familiar to opponents.
However, I see KuPS stronger in this weak match-up. Lahti are weakened by Solovyev’s departure and Miikka Mujunen’s unfortunate knee injury. Mujunen had just taken the starting goalie’s position from the insanely insecure Tomi Maanoja, who will now get his place back, much to the fans’ distaste. At the moment, not much speaks in favor of the home team.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: KuPS +0.5 at 1.82
FC Inter v VPS
In the previous round, which was actually a postponed season opener, SJK gave Inter there 9th defeat in 11 games. Nothing shocking in it considering SJK’s good form, but the result (1-3) is a bit harsh on the Turku team.
It’s been speculated whether Jami Wallenius, a long-time second man to the resigned Job Dragtsma, could bring any new aspects to the low-flying, uninspired Inter. There certainly was some improvement in the last game, which they probably could’ve even won, hadn’t both Jukka Lehtovaara and Henrik Moisander been unable to stand between the posts. Inter created several close chances, and hit the woodwork a few times. A loss mostly due to bad luck, I suppose.
Meanwhile in Vaasa, VPS grabbed a win against Ilves in an impressive manner. An early goal by Jamaican Andre Clennon put the home team in a comfy situation, where they can calmly control the game through possession. Ilves never really threatened Evgeny Kobozev, but when they tried, the Russian stopped everything.
Both of Inter’s goalies are likely to miss this game, and the young own product Marttinen had a horrible game against SJK. VPS’ played with such routine against Ilves, that I don’t see them returning home empty handed.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: VPS +0.25 at 1.83
Prices correct at time of writing.
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