RoPS v HIFK
RoPS from Rovaniemi, the Arctic Circle, had a bit of tough luck in the Europa League qualifications. After a slightly disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Croatian Lokomotiva Zagreb, Juha Malinen’s troops were forced into a bit more of an offensive strategy in the second leg than perhaps preferred. An early second yellow by fullback Juha Pirinen made the task too difficult, and last year’s silver team were out.
Speaking of tough luck, HIFK lost to an 89th minute goal at home against VPS. They’ve suffered quite a few late defeats, which has made an impact to an already low morale. Against VPS, the reasons why HIFK is found at the bottom of the table became quite clear. They strive to play a lot as Petri Vuorinen’s VPS, but are hindered by two major factors; a lower quality of players and a looser strategy, giving not-so-talented players too much room for creativity and own decisions.
To add to their list of everything that’s wrong, HIFK are still suffering more than any other team in Veikkausliiga from injuries. Although there barely are any long-term injuries, there’s too many missing a few games here and there all the time. For example striker Juho Mäkelä, who hasn’t really lived up to expectations whatsoever but delivered more than his colleague Pekka Sihvola, is expected to be out.
Thanks to some wonder, or perhaps a great physical team, RoPS are tactically one of the toughest teams in Veikkausliiga to face. Despite a tight match schedule packed with European games, they’ve managed to stick to their energetic style, running over their opponents. HIFK are in a deep valley of sorrow, while RoPS have been stunningly consistent.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: RoPS -0.5 at 1.78
Ilves v PS Kemi
Once again could Ilves from Tampere shock HJK on home soil in Tammela. Obviously, the goal scorer was Paul Emile Tendeng, and as obviously Lum Rexhepi caused the penalty that he scored from. Despite an immense difference in quality between the two teams, Ilves never showed the difference. They were barely shaken by HJK, who desperately tried to get an equalizer for the whole second half.
Some might say it’s thanks to HJK gaffer Mika Lehkosuo’s poor ability to lead his team through a stable season, which I might agree on, but this win was a lot more proof for Ilves’ collective competence. Sort of like VPS, however with a lot fewer true scoring chances, they manage to win their games even on a bad day. Well, at least at home.
On the other side we have PS Kemi who rumbled into Veikkausliiga with a lot of noise. Now the honeymoon is over, and Kemi are slipping down where everyone expected them to be. A 6 game long streak of defeats hasn’t pulled them all the way down, thanks to the critical state of the three worst teams, but the alarm has sounded.
Ilves’ home record is impressive, to say the least. 6 wins out of 7, which all have come in a row, makes the lynxes an even stronger home team than last year. PS Kemi’s away record is almost the mirror image of that, as they are on a losing streak of 4 now.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Ilves -0.5 at 1.77
VPS v KuPS
Home team VPS are on a stunning wining streak of 5 games, which has made them a serious contender for a European spot. What has made them a really frightening team is their ability to both rise from defeat to a win, and winning despite playing badly.
KuPS are also one of the candidates for the third spot, but aren’t in an as strong form as their opponents. The group of competitors for bronze starts to be really packed, and I believe KuPS will be one of the first ones to drop out of it.
KuPS coach Marko Rajamäki is the biggest reason why. He’s admitted that building up the squad so late took its toll, but that they’ve finally found a harmony in defense. Sure, they are defensively solid, but in offense they depend hugely on set pieces and Nigerian international Gbolahan Salami’s magic. Rotating goalkeepers smells very fishy to me, which can’t be too good for communication in defense, right?
Both teams are very, very good in defense. VPS have conceded only twice in their last 7 games, and KuPS three times. KuPS will have a tough time trying to score against VPS, who have lately conceded only due to an awkward mistake. VPS on the other hand have a bit hard to find the net too, except for set pieces.
Asian Hamdicap Betting Recommendation: Under 1.5 at 2.54
Prices correct at time of writing.
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